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    Does anyone pay attention anymore?

    by Mark Glaser
    February 1, 2007

    The TV is on. You’re surfing the web. Chatting with someone on instant messaging. Your cell phone rings. The stereo is playing in the background. Our world is increasingly cluttered with media, and the Internet and technology have played key roles in making us more scattered than ever. Some people call it multi-tasking; others call it a severe case of attention deficit disorder (ADD). There’s an entire school of thought devoted to the Attention Economy, the idea that marketers will have to nail and claw to get our attention. So I ask you: Does anyone pay attention anymore, or is our world becoming dangerously ADD? Do you feel like we are naturally evolving and this is just part of technology becoming more enmeshed in our lives, or that we’re heading for an emotional meltdown? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll share the best ones in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: attention span modern life
    • There is so much content and so many people that want our attention that…

      …hold on. Someone is ringing my Skype line…

      …OK, where was I? Oh yeah, so there is so much going on out there with *everyone* in the content generation business and frickin’ ads everywhere! No barriers to entry and a constant cacophony…

      (Skype again)

      ….”who is it? I’m typing a comment on a guy’s blog. No…I *am* listening to you. I am NOT distracted (asshole). I’ll ring you later and pleez…SkypeIM me first before calling next time so I can be sure I’m available for you.”

      (Ping on iChat)

      “r u in your office?”
      “i’m super busy but i’ll brb”

      So I was at Seth Godin’s site the other day….why did I bring THAT up? Geez….oh…I remember.

      My real point in this comment is this: give me what *I* want and/or am interested in and I’ll listen. Don’t show me Cadillac ads because I am *never* buying one. Same with Mr. Clean or Tampax. An iPhone? I’m all ears and eyeballs.

      My stomach is upset (Tums?) and I’ve got a bit of a headache (Advil?). I’m also wondering about that online Web 2.0 project management site I need to tell my client about but….I guess….I’ll have to go find it (’cause nothing comes to mind though I know that there are a TON of them out there since I’ve seen a directory with a bunch of them and ARGHH!!!)

      OMG! 764 feeds in Newsgator that I gotta read before I leave the office. Gotta go….b.

    • gz

      No question this is the ADD age. The interesting question you raise is how it evolves from here. Of course none of us know, but it is interesting to think about. On one hand, short-form, collaborative content is addictive and creates a feedback loop. Feedback loop in the sense that if I blog a quick post, pitch in some comments elsewhere, share content somewhere else, etc. then suddenly I don’t have time for long-form content (creation or consumption) – I only have time to contribute more to the ADD age – so a self-sustaining feedback loop, and, to your point, that can be dangerous. On the other hand, long-form content creation and consumption therefore becomes more rare over time. Which will likely make it stand out more (so easier to find in this world of infinite content), more cherished, more prone to be a “hit” (using the Long Tail definition). And the “hits” still do appear to be getting bigger, so a rare hit could be that much more in demand in the future. Add some huge, rare long-form content hits to the general tendency for the pendulum to shift back and forth over time, and maybe we get a powerful force away from the ADD culture, or a “meltdown” in your words. Interesting to think about. Will be more intersting to be a part of it. Either way.

    • I actually decided to write about this very same phenomena last week in two blog posts at my personal blog. I decided to give it a name. Internet Multitasking Syndrome. The main post actually looks at how we read the news in an age of Internet distractions.

      “Hello, my name is David and I suffer from IMS”

      “Hi David.”

      “It all began when….err…. gotta go, someone is IMing me.

    • hmm…

      ADD is definitely a bad thing (said with great sarcasm). Could there be another way to word it?

    • Hell, first we whine and complain that product information and other data are hard to find, then we gripe about sensory overload.

      Humans are ridiculous. We love to bitch.

      I understand excessive messaging, but the dark ages of human history, I mean Pre Internet Age, had a dearth of information.

    • I was googling “Red Tail Hawks” because there is a huge nest outside my home office window. Somehow I ended up here. Oh, wait, my Yahoo home page…there was an RSS feed of this blog.
      ADD…hmmmmm…. glad to see someone else with the internet age affliction.

      Good points.

    •  
      It’s no surprise that Zen Buddhism, a religion that offers its members a completely blank wall to stare at, is among the religions increasing in members in the U.S.

    • JO BURFORD

      A TIMELY TOPIC FOR OUR WIRED WORLD. I MYSELF AM JUST A BASIC LOW-TECH LADY,I THINK ABOUT HOW IT’S LIKE THE FLOODGATES OPENED AND IT’S STILL GUSHING MORE INFO AND CLUTTER AND LET ME FINISH BY MENTIONING GOLDFISH IF YOU HAVE EVER WAITED IN A WAITING ROOM OF A DOCTOR’S OFFICE WITH THE USUAL MAGAZINES TO THUMB THROUGH HOPEFULLY YOU MIGHT BE LUCKY AND FEEL RELAXED THE DOCTOR PUT A FISH AQUARIUM IN THERE. PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE LITTLE FISHIES.

    • Joe Taylor

      Four years ago I noticed I was feeling depressed, muddled and numb. I watched local and national news casts and various dramas on the tv. One night when I turned on the set I noticed a subtle change in my nervous system and the dead feeling I had while I watched.
      It took me a few months to give up television and when I finally did, it took me two weeks to stop twitching in it’s absence. I would find myself absent mindedly move to turn on a set that had been stored away.

      Two years later I allowed myself to watch PBS
      and nothing else.
      I’ve also given up all magazines but the Economist (we all have some weakness)
      I don’t get too involved with the internet unless it’s for research (love google)
      I read books constantly now and I’m calm and clear.

      Yes I agree. Too much media is bad for us. I can tell you I feel like a new man without it.

    • B.Smyser

      The thing I don’t understand is why some people seem to feel that this media saturation is somehow inevitable, or inescapable. I limit my children’s and my own exposure to media. No cable, no commercial TV, no Blackberry, no cell phone. I use the internet (obviously) but mostly to see if there is a PBS show worth watching (sadly, not the case much lately) or as I used to use an encyclopedia – to look up info to answer a child’s question. I have control over my media exposure – and anyone who wants that control can sieze it. And to me, it’s easier than multitasking.

    • Dennis W.

      The local newspaper begins to look just as generic as every other paper (local or national). The print and pages get smaller, even though the customers are all getting older.

      The local TV station (with a large spinning, transparent? logo in the corner of the screen) has now gone the way of all the others – 20 minutes spent on “if the teams quarterback, shortstop, forward, etc. (fill in the highest paid local sports person)” has signed for next year; 10 minutes checking if the newest gadget is actually worth the $19.99 internet price.

      The local radio station keeps changing it’s programming according to what the ratings tell them is the “hotest and most profitable” listening group. Leaving behind their latest group of “loyal listeners”.

      The internet just keeps getting new ideas for placing “spam and ads” onto every possible page. Is that why they keep promoting larger screens?

      Add to this cell phones in the cars – does anybody pay attention anymore, and for what reasons?

    • Laura

      So many people find themselves not knowing what to do without the television or interenet. My husband places himself in front of some sort of media during any free moment he has. I challenged him to find other things to occupy his mind. He often gets distracted by the media when we are talking or doing something. I feel that people should limit the amount of attention grabbing media they allow in their lives. There is a lot of good from the media, but too much hinders our ability to think for ourselves and pay attention to those around us.

    • trey

      It is ashamed that the author–and our culture in general–uses ADHD, a neurodevelopmental disorder to grab our attention. It’s wrong to exploit ADHD just to make a “cool” comparison with our culture and economy.

      The cable music-video channel Fuse had a segment called “ADD mix-up”–or something to that effect. It was a period of 30 second clips played back to back, jumping between genres like Rap, then to Alternative, then 80’s, then R&B, etc. They were using Attention Deficit Hyperactivity DISORDER as a “cool” theme to sell their product–i.e., people with ADHD can’t stay on task, they’re constantly jumping around, multitasking, hyper, etc.

      Multitasking, having hundreds of advertisements thrown at us daily, and keeping up with the Joneses does not equal ADHD. It equals a culture of multitasking, having hundreds of advertisements thrown at us daily, and keeping up with the Joneses. Call it like it is; don’t exploit people with ADHD just to make a comparison.

    • trey

      It is ashamed that the author–and our culture in general–uses ADHD, a neurodevelopmental disorder to grab our attention. It’s wrong to exploit ADHD just to make a “cool” comparison with our culture and economy.

      The cable music-video channel Fuse had a segment called “ADD mix-up”–or something to that effect. It was a period of 30 second clips played back to back, jumping between genres like Rap, then to Alternative, then 80’s, then R&B, etc. They were using Attention Deficit Hyperactivity DISORDER as a “cool” theme to sell their product–i.e., people with ADHD can’t stay on task, they’re constantly jumping around, multitasking, hyper, etc.

      Multitasking, having hundreds of advertisements thrown at us daily, and keeping up with the Joneses does not equal ADHD. It equals a culture of multitasking, having hundreds of advertisements thrown at us daily, and keeping up with the Joneses. Call it like it is; don’t exploit people with ADHD just to make a comparison.

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