Can I Have Your Attention, Please?

“Can I have your attention, please?”

I’m old enough to remember a time before cell phones were popular, before computers were common in the home, and when the Internet first began to be used by the general public.  I remember our first home computer we bought in 1995. It had a whopping 8MB of storage and the latest 14.4K modem.  I remember waiting a few minutes for the dial-up Internet to connect and then having to wait a few minutes for each webpage to fully load.

Fast-forward to today. We can get 1GB Internet speeds, which is almost 70,000 times faster than that old 14.4K modem.  The latest iPhone with up to 512GB of memory has 64,000 times more memory that our first desktop computer.

It’s amazing how far technology has come in the past 20+ years. The smartphone has now replaced still-image cameras, video recorders, computers, CD players, DVD players, GPS products (remember Tom-Tom and Garmin). It’s incredible.  But it has come with a price.

This rapid increase in technology and the speed and variety of means through which we can access media and information has made us more susceptible to distraction than any other time in history. 

The latest study from market-research group Nielsen shows that American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to, or simply interacting with media.  This is up from 9 hours and 32 minutes just four years ago.  We spend this time on apps or the web through our smartphones, tablets, or computers, streaming or watching live TV, or listening to the radio.

This rapid increase in media consumption is due to how crafty the art of grabbing our attention and distracting us has become.  Have you ever tried to do a basic search for something and find yourself bombarded with distracting images or ads that are designed to grab your attention? The next thing you know you’re reading some stupid article about all 10 of Eddie Murphy’s children from his various wives or women (Yes – that just happened to me) or some other random article. Or you go to your Facebook or Instagram app to take a quick peak at what’s happening and end up spending the next hour or two going down that rabbit hole. And the TV show writers have mastered the art of the cliffhanger that practically FORCES you to watch the next episode on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or your preferred streaming source – thus triggering the binge.

It’s never been so easy to go down a rabbit hole of distraction. It’s never been so easy to get sucked into a meaningless or even destructive binge of our choice.  All the while, we are trading our most precious resource – TIME. Time that we could be spending being fully present with our spouse, kids, friends, or other loved ones. Time that we could be spending enjoying the beauty and wonder of God’s creation in nature. Time that we could be investing in the progression of a worthy goal or cause. Time that we could be investing in solitude, silence, study, or prayer.  Time to carefully consider what really matters to us, what direction our lives are headed, and whether that direction is in alignment with our goals, dreams, beliefs, values, and what we really want out of life.

There are so many precious, valuable, meaningful things in this life that we could be giving our time and attention. What are those things for you? 

I don’t act as judge here, but as a fellow sufferer. I’m not proud of how many Netflix shows I’ve consumed. What’s your poison?

I am acknowledging the countless hours that I’ve wasted and how technology is making it harder than ever to escape this World Wide Web… the name does have a hint of irony, doesn’t it?

What we allow into our minds from any source of media directly effects our thoughts, opinions, perspectives, attitude, emotions, and even decisions and actions – at some kind of level – whether we are aware of it or not.

Now more than any time in history, we must carefully consider our choices of media consumption. Time waits for none of us and we all have a C.O.D (Crap Out Date).  And when that time approaches, we won’t be thinking about the final season of Game of Thrones.  But we might be thinking of what we could have done with that time we spent watching it.