Can you FIGHT the LOSS of FOCUS in this DIGITAL AGE?
Imagine a bright 17 year old student, highly vast in the use of NEW MEDIA and smart device TECHNOLOGY. He has a reading assignment to turn in after the summer. In 2 months, only 43 pages of the book has been read. Hours of video games, endless streaming of videos on Youtube, constant updates on Facebook and Twitter till 2am, even on school days, ensures his assignment takes the back seat. The consequence of this, being a decline in grades.
This bright young mind epitomizes the unfortunate distractions of the DIGITAL NATIVES – those born into the pervasive digital technology age. Roman Philosopher, Seneca describes their problem aptly-“TO BE EVERYWHERE IS TO BE NOWHERE.”
The digital natives are a generation, in the words of a poet “that found what they are looking for on GOOGLE” and will confront the problems of their times in distinctively different ways. The bane however is their WANING power of INFORMATION RETENTION, IMAGINATION, PROBLEM SOLVING and CONCENTRATION (MIND FRAGMENTATION).
The CONSTANT INTERACTION with the INTERNET among digital natives has been found to IMPAIR their COGNITIVE ABILITY. A recent research at Columbia University has shown that people are LESS LIKELY to RETAIN random FACTS if they believe the information would be accessible to them in the FUTURE (obviously the internet). This has caused people to prioritize WHERE an information can be found OVER the information ITSELF. It’s easier now to think “WHY cram my brain with information I can go back to retrieve on Google or Youtube whenever I need to”.
Another study shows that people who read TEXTS studded with LINKS COMPREHEND LESS than those who read WORDS PRINTED on pages. People who watch busy MULTIMEDIA PRESENTATIONS REMEMBER LESS than those who take in information in a more sedate and FOCUSED MANNER. Likewise,people who are continually DISTRACTED by EMAILS, UPDATES and other MESSAGES understand less than those who are able to concentrate. MULTITASKERS are often LESS CREATIVE and productive than those who DO ONE THING AT A TIME.
The problem here is that RICHNESS and DEPTH of THOUGHT, MEMORIES and PERSONALITY is COMPROMISED by the INABILITY to FOCUS the MIND and SUSTAIN CONCENTRATION. NOBEL PRIZE winning Neuroscientist, Henry Kandel observed that “Only when we pay close attention to a new piece of information are we able to associate it meaningfully and systematically with knowledge already well established in the memory”.
Our THOUGHTS often become DISJOINTED and our MEMORIES WEAK because they LACK single-minded FOCUS. The internet’s SWAMP OF INFORMATION has given rise to CURSORY READING, HURRIED and DISTRACTED THINKING and SUPERFICIAL LEARNING. We RARELY think for ourselves and it seems most have outsourced their minds to VIRTUAL EXPERTS available at a CLICK.
While it is foolhardy to ignore the internet and its important role in this age, wisdom must be exercised to approach its usage with caution, careful thought and discipline. We must learn to shut down the distractions of new media and its associated smart devices. We must dedicate a large chunk of time to reading and thinking through on one thing at a time.
SURFING and searching MUST NOT REPLACE the QUIETER and more ATTENTIVE mode of THOUGHT that underscore CONTEMPLATION, REFLECTION and INTROSPECTION. SKIMMING must NOT become the DOMINANT MODE of learning and analysis but rather a MEANS, one of the many steps on the pathway to depth.
THIS IS IT! Our CAPACITY FOR QUALITY EXISTENCE and CONTRIBUTION is PREDICATED on our ability to MARSHALL our MENTAL ENERGIES WISELY, READ DEEPLY and THINK CONSTRUCTIVELY WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS. Discipline is the bridge. This is the life!