The short attention span and other stories – II

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29/09/2014 by Siddiqui Fayesal

We all do our share of online reading. We all do it far too many times to accept the fact that reading a paperback is running out of fashion. Excuses are many. Some say one can carry so many more books if one’s got an e-reader instead of just one or two in the case of paperbacks. Some say that they can’t carry bulky books around to read. Some say it’s more convenient to read on a device.

While every reason has it’s backing in practicality and usage I would still vote for paperbacks. I know friends who carry HUGE bags and HEAVY laptop and other stuff so I can actually understand the issues that are raised. Also, I have had a relatively easy life when it came to travelling for school or college or work etc. Dad used to drop us to school in his car, I took a bus to college for the first two years and then I had a bike for my graduation. My college was only 6 to 7 km away anyway so, even if I had a heavy bag, it wasn’t an issue. Apart from the internship that I did 4 km away from home I have been working with dad since the past 3 and a half years. My firm is at a 13 minute walk from home.

So, yes, I actually don’t know about the issues that plague folks who have to travel for an hour, sometimes two, to reach their workplace. I obviously understand it and respect it.

My point was, when I started typing this out, to showcase with abundant clarity that our attention span has shrunk a lot since the advent of television and the internet. The arrival of social media has made it worse. Of course, there are those who believe that such things cannot be controlled and it will run its course. To some extent I believe in it too; but I would rather know what’s ruining me and be ruined rather than be surprised.

Coming back to reading online articles, books, essays and what not, when I’m reading stuff on the internet I face a lot of issues. I’m spoilt for choice. I know that there is this particular thing that I want to read but every now and then my mind is diverted to something else. I am reading Hamlet online these days because there is Hindi movie to be released in October. Vishal Bharadwaj is an amazing director and has remade Othello and Macbeth previously and I cannot miss it. I want to read it before I see it; and see it I will!

Yeah, so I’m reading Hamlet and every now and then I feel this intense urge to read Dilbert. So I promptly toggle to another tab on Chrome (Curse you, Google for making distractions so much easier to manage) and read that days strip. It starts from there and then I jump from Dilbert to Pearls before Swine. From there I go Doonesbury and Luann and Calvin and Hobbes.

Hamlet is forgotten.

Sometimes, it strikes me when I’m shutting down my tabs… it’s too late by then.

This is just the tip of the huge assed ice-berg that we’re ignoring. The television was invented to disperse news and other trivia. It has mutated into an extension to out psyche. If Roald Dahl were alive he’d have a hemorrhage just seeing the damage what social media is causing. My nephew is in the 6th grade (or, 5th I don’t remember) and it’s a task to get him to sit still for an hour and study. His mind is always wandering.

Why blame the poor kid, I’m a basket case when it comes to concentration. It is one of these reasons that a try to read paperbacks as frequently as possible. Because reading those online articles and stories only make things worse for me.

Siddiqui F.


PS: I read an article in The Week (read it here)  recently that scared the living daylights out of me. It was about the changes in behavior and social gatherings of youngsters which is a direct result of social media addiction. Although, my point is on the lack of a coherent and an acceptable attention span this isn’t very different.

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