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Around The Bluhmin’ Town

Judy Bluhm~ 6/3/2015

What do you have in common with a goldfish? Evidently more than you could ever imagine. Scientists now claim that average adult’s attention span is eight seconds. A goldfish? Nine seconds. Which has me thinking that some researchers (nuts) are having a swimmingly fine time getting grants to do research that is so preposterous that only a goldfish would believe it! Well, I am not taking the bait! Yes, Dear Readers, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, humans cannot seem to pay attention.

Okay, so we multi-task, and then there is the fact that we have more content available to us on the internet than ever thought to be humanly possible. Just going back to the year 2000, we did not have Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, Twitter, Pininterest, Snapchat, or iPhones! The amount of “external stimulation” seems to make us focus less and less and become distracted more easily. Well, when the average adult checks their phones for calls (old-fashioned), emails, Facebook, and texts 150 times a day – no wonder a goldfish has a longer attention span! Yikes, it is a wonder we get anything done!

I thought I would conduct my own experiment. I decided to go outside and prune my roses for ten minutes. Certainly, I can do this. So I start clipping away. Then I notice that a birdfeeder is low on seed so I pause to fill that up. In doing so, I found a pair of hedge clippers on the ground and picked them up to place on my husband Doug’s workbench. There in the midst of his clutter I find my good butcher knife and a pair of tongs that belong in the kitchen! I rescue my items and take them inside to the kitchen sink and realize I have a coffee cup to rinse out. Then while doing that, I heard the phone buzz and got a text that a colleague emailed me a contract. Then I checked my email. And so it goes.

I happen to know first-hand about goldfish since I keep them in my horse troughs because they eat the algae. And I do not think it is fair to compare a human (with our superior intelligence) to a fish that doesn’t have much brain power! The scientists who conducted this research define “attention span” as the amount of concentrated time on one task without being distracted. I did hold a piece of bread in the horse bucket and noticed that the goldfish would focus on it (and nothing else) until it was all gone. Okay, but who is calling, texting, or tweeting a fish? Of course they can concentrate! What else do they have to do?

It does seem that we humans have a problem with “information overload.” The average office worker checks their email over thirty times an hour! Content on the internet has tripled since 2010. Twenty-five percent of teenagers “forget” details about friends, family, studies, and homework because they are too distracted. Worse, the American worker seems to have a hard time finishing projects. And it is becoming a “way of life” to do many things at once.

When is the last time you sat down and watched a television program? And did nothing else? There is a load of wash to put in, dinner to prepare, email to look at, mail to open! And one of the reasons that folks give for not going out to the movies? Too boring just to sit in a theater and watch a movie with nothing else to do.

Is multi-tasking so bad? I mean, maybe this our “path of evolution,” as Einstein used to say. Keep moving forward, embracing new ideas and technologies, or become extinct! Ouch, those are harsh words. But maybe all the worry about multi-tasking is over-blown and the human race was always destined to do many things at once. Will we ever go back to a day when families don’t text at the dinner table? When teenagers actually talk in person or on the phone? When people don’t feel compelled to share the most mundane of daily routines on Facebook?

Imagine a world with no social media. Enjoying quiet time and simple pleasures. Going to dinner or movies with no particular rush to check iPhones or emails. Stopping to smell the roses (wow, now I really sound old). Living in the moment! No Instagram! Guess we better not hold our breath. As one scientist claims, “Once the Technology Genie is out of the bottle, there is no going back.”

Oh, and about those goldfish. Some people may fall hook, line, and sinker for that “research” about a nine second attention span. I have bigger fish to fry! Like working on my own attention span! Until next week…happy concentrating.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and local realtor. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.