Have you ever wondered about the human mind?
Mine is so distracted all the time; it’s a wonder I get anything done at all.
For example, just today I saw my son asleep and decided to blog. I raced over to the couch with my laptop, settled in by nestling myself between fluffy pillows and warm blankets, and pulled up my internet browser. I even made it as far as my blog dashboard before my plans were thwarted by my meddlesome fingers. In deciding to blog about The Hobbit which I viewed yesterday I remembered that I had planned on pinning the music site to my pinterest board “Listening To” and traversed to the Howard Shore website. Long story short, a few pins and many websites later I ended up playing MASH on P!NK’S page until I heard the lusty, hungry cry of my baby, all thoughts of blogging behind me.
How does that happen? Is everyone like that or just me? During my behavioral psychology class in college we did an experiment like this to examine how associations are formed in our mind and how it is exhibited in our internet use. Called the “Wikipedia Project,” our instructions were to look up a topic on Wikipedia, the first thing that came to mind, and scan the article, not necessarily reading too deeply. When a link on that page piqued our interest we were to click on that link and read the following article in the same fashion. This was to be done as many times as it took to conduct a 10 minute presentation to the class.
How awesome was this project and how fascinating!
Everyone ended up miles away from the topic in which they started. You could start with something as mundane as an article on the pencil and end up on an article on skydiving off the coast of Fiji depending on what links you followed. (I highly recommend you try this project as it was quite a bit of fun.) During the presentations we heard facts about England, horses, aspirin, furries, medieval torture devices, rock n’ roll etc… It was amazing being able to catalog the chain of events as we flitted from one subject to another. The sharper edge to this double edged sword is that the internet makes it incredible simple for the easily distracted to continue in a downward trajectory of unfocused chaos.
Is it right to blame the internet for our short attention spans? I’ve heard some make that claim. Many in former generations comment that our generation cannot wait patiently for things anymore, that we are so accustomed to instant gratification and micro bites of information that we are creating new attention deficit problems for ourselves.
I don’t believe that is true on an individual level. Sure, I may get distracted by facebook page or a new project or my baby’s winning smile or a shiny object and put off bills or cleaning or blogs… what was I saying?? *only kidding*
The point is, I don’t blame the internet for my short attention span. I can still wait patiently for things that interest me. I can wait patiently for the next two Hobbit movies by stalking all fan related websites to talk about how wonderful and thrilling I found it and watching my extended edition Lord of the Ring Trilogy over and over. I can play peek a boo hundreds of times in a row. I can stand out in the freezing cold and throw the ball to my dog until I’m numb. My mind may get distracted sometimes, however it is also perfectly capable of extraordinary feats.
That is, when I put my mind to it.