How's your attention span?
Most of you are probably used to reading short, decisive posts that provide instant gratification--I know I am. Websites like (but not limited to) Facebook, Reddit and Twitter have a focus on making content easily consumable so that they don't lose your attention. A consequence of this is that we sacrifice a lot of details to compress a bigger picture; it's easy to lose the plot when you only see half the story.
Personally, I've recently noticed that I have serious trouble internalizing more involved articles or textbooks and I'm hoping to get out of this academic funk. Reading was a huge passion of mine for years, but after I hit a rough spot in my life medically I stopped entirely. Now I have to make a conscious effort to remember key details. Bought the hard cover of Persepolis and its sequel and I've burned through the first pretty quickly, but picking it back up every day can be a struggle when YouTube is also an option.
Do you have a poor attention span? Do you know why, or have any ideas for fighting it?
Well I have ADHD, so... Not good. "Bad" one might even say.
Its a double edged sword for me. On one hand, the things I really like, I REALLY like. I can focus very attentive to these tasks, also having autism enhances this as well. Yet this does not necessarily translate into me not paying attention in say school about math, for example. I am able to focus albeit with the helping of medication.
Point is that while I am inattentive at times, its not bad.. but its not great either imo.
edit: also ironically I never read OP's post lol
I'm unmedicated so I'm practically useless in anything other than my specific field (audio). Everything else is very hard to do for me. I love reading but am unable to do it as when I get to the bottom of a page I will realize that nothing has sunken in and I have to go back and reread it.... Multiple times on every page. It gets so frustrating that I just give up. Doing assignments/housework is a similar challenge. Hopefully I will be medicated soon though! I'm also interested in trying CBT.
oh yes that reading feeling is definitely relatable, lol, I even enjoy reading yet often times I will have to go back and reread the page 2 or three or even four times to understand what i just read. I can only imagine how much harder its for people who don't love reading like I do D:.
I've noticed this a lot more recently. I'll find a long-form article that I'm interested in and when I try to read it, my eyes just jump straight down the page. It seems like my brain is expecting the paragraphs to be absorbed far more quickly that is actually possible, to the point where I'll have scrolled the page farther than where I left off reading.
I've been a habitual reddit-reader for something like 7 years now and I suspect it has something to do with that. Not that reddit itself is inherently bad, but I think I may have "trained my brain" to read much shorter, broken up text rather than long works. I still read books and articles, but it doesn't come as naturally as perhaps it once did.
One of my goals with being on Tildes is to try and change that to some extent. I appreciate the focus on quality, longer form discussion where ideas have the opportunity for growth and development instead of being crowded out by predictable jokes and identical pun-threads.
Ugh, I notice myself doing that with everything except text – any maths or code, I'll just automatically skip over.
"Ugh" is right. Every time I catch myself I just kind of get disappointed that I couldn't hold my attention for 1 paragraph (or whatever). If I could complete my education just fine, why not this? I wonder if this phenomenon is more widespread, and if it affects schools in any way.
I've found that it depends on why I'm reading. For a lot of the things I find on Reddit, I'm reading with the same goal as when I Google something: I need information. And I want it the quickest and most concise way possible. Obviously, skimming through some clifnotes on some topics just isn't viable, which is when I find myself disengaging with an article that actually is interesting to me but hasn't answered my question after a dozen paragraphs.
On the flip side, I can lose myself in a sci-fi novel for hours and not really notice. But the objective there is never to get to the end as quickly as possible, it's too enjoy the process of the journey. My wife listens to audio books on 1.3x speed and it just boggles my mind for this and other reasons.
It depends on the topic. If it's something I'm interested in or passionate about, focusing on it is second nature and comes effortlessly. If it's busywork or something mundane and uninteresting to me, I turn into the world's worst procrastinator. The only thing that snaps me out of that is deadlines and pressure, which I even enjoy sometimes.
That's how I felt too, but then I realized I could procrastinate even when it comes to things I really enjoy. When I started watching My Hero Academia, it checked off all the boxes for me and I loved it; but after the first season, I left it alone for a month. Or I would create a project in Java, spend hours on it for days and then just forget it.
Do you manage your time properly knowing the deadline? Or do you consider how long it should take you and cram with the absolute minimum amount of time to spare. I'm pretty nasty for the latter unless I really light a fire under my ass.
I usually start grinding on things a couple days before the deadlines, unless it's something huge. I'll happily do nothing for half of the allotted time, though. I rarely start early, and if I do, I'm easily distracted by tangents. It does tend to make me good at research since I'll look something up and spiral down a rabbit hole reading rather than working.
I have the same problem with YouTube. Honestly what helped was binging through everything and then getting tired of it. Now I have a lot more time and desire to read books.
Pretty bad but not as bad as a lot of people's. I try hard to combat what I like to call "microbrowsing", where you click to reddit or tildes or whatever just to distract yourself, you're not even interested in the content and just navigate away after a few seconds. I use a browser plugin to limit my time on distracting sites during the day, and I try to work offline as much as possible, working on paper or with physical books, etc.
Attention is also definitely something you have to exercise to keep, if I don't read for a week I find it really hard to concentrate through ten pages. Fortunately it's pretty easy to regain.
I'm actually somewhat worried about how people who are growing up with smartphones now are going to deal with low-attention spans, it seems a lot of the sites / apps / etc that are popular with younger people are designed for even more rapid content consumption than the ones I use. I also lived basically totally offline until I was twelve or so, is that something people born after say, 2005 could even understand?
If I can muster any enthusiasm for a topic, my focus is limitless. Mustering that enthusiasm, however...
I've become convinced that attention is a skill in this day and age. There are a lot of things working against us: this is an age of instant gratification, where the very culture is telling us that indulging our desires is the way to lead a fulfilling life. There is very little value nowadays being put in long-term goals and enduring happiness.
Social media force us into a very short and intense feedback loop. We're gratified with headlines that reinforce our points of view and tidbits of other people's lives that feel like interactions.
All this eats at our attention spans when it comes to reading. As an avid reader from the day I learned to read, reading novels or complex essays has always been part of my daily information diet... Yet two years ago, I found myself completed exhausted by the prospect of reading a full novel.
I had to rebuild that attention span, and it totally felt like a training regimen. I started with comicbooks, because they were better at holding my attention over long periods of time. I finally bought myself a Kindle so I could read without the temptation of that nagging Facebook notification in the notification bar.
Really happy I built back up to this. But it's a cautionary tale, for sure. Keep exercising that attention muscle! Take time to unplug from social media and read long form. Think of social media as junk food: indulge from time to time, but make sure you consume a balanced diet.
I was a voracious reader in my youth, consuming dozens of books per year. Then I pretty much stopped reading altogether. On a whim (and because I didn't really want anything else), I asked for a Kindle Paperwhite (very basic model) for Christmas. I loaded it up with a bunch of classics I'd never read, and a bunch of new books that looked interesting. That was several years ago, and I think I've read at least 35 books in that time.
There's something about the fact that you can't get email alerts (I tend to silence my phone when I read), or can't go to youtube, or reddit, or tildes, or wherever that keeps my attention on the book I'm reading. Of course, it has to be material that compels me to read it. As an example, I loaded The Sun Also Rises, widely considered important American literature and a classic, and found it incredibly boring. I read the whole thing, but it just goes nowhere. That's how good the e-reader (seems like an archaic term at this point, but it's the only generic I know of) is at holding my attention.
My attention span depends entirely on how something is structured. I need distinct cut-off points in order to pay attention, otherwise it feels like I'm trying to follow a giant run-on sentence and I end up spacing out as a result. I need to be able to compartmentalize the information I'm taking in, otherwise I can't effectively keep track of it. This problem is compounded by an excess of unnecessary filler, where my already-strained mental capacity is being strained further by the additional load that isn't actually adding anything of value.
Worse still is if I'm not engaged with whatever content I'm consuming, whether it's a book, article, show, or even an in-person conversation, because then I'm contending with a lack of capacity and a lack of motivation.
Probably the best example of both of these issues combined is talking to someone who, after making a point, continues to drone on and on about it or gradually shifts the conversation in an entirely different direction while providing you with no real opportunity whatsoever to respond.
This has always been a problem for me, even when I was a kid.
On a screen? Quite low if it's passive activity (reading/watching).
On paper? i could forget to have dinner.
The problem is managing to get off the screen and open a book again unfortunately.
Depends on the topic/work. If I get really into a programming project that I enjoy and am interested in, it might get to the point where I skip out on meals without realizing to power through a multihour programming session.
If I need to fix the same fucking team's jenkins for the fourth time this month, my eyes are glazing over and I'm spending just as much time browsing Reddit as I am debugging.
My attention span has gotten markedly worse in the past few years and I think it's due to reddit use. You kind of get used to glazing over the useless comments trying to find the good ones, and then that just ends up transferring and when you're trying to read a book and you just can't, that sort of hits home. I'm hoping the high quality posts here will help but I've also decided to try and stay offline and try not to deal with things that have lots of filler. Online recipes are notorious for filler so I just don't do them. I find a place that has exactly what I need and don't deal with stories that I don't need.