Focus, Mr. Mackin.
Please pay attention.
“Having a nice daydream, fella?”
“Hey. Over here. We’re talking to you.”
Throughout my life, I’ve heard these messages. But I have not paid much attention to them, of course. Too many distractions.
If “Daydreaming 101” would have been a core subject, I would have added an easy “A” to my report card.
Growing up, I was one of many boys in our classrooms not encouraged to sit near the window because we were “easily distracted.”
Sorry. I would have rather looked out the window and watched a pack of neighborhood dogs mess with a new mailman than watch Sister Loretta diagram another sentence at the chalkboard.
Truth is, I was one of the most focused boys in our class. We were boys.
Boys would be boys, right? We’d grow out of it.
Today, if I would start my own rock band, I think “Easily Distracted” would be a good name. I won’t be starting a rock band, of course. I’ve never been focused enough to learn a musical instrument.
As an adult, I’ve learned to live with my limited attention span. I have learned to focus when I must. It’s hard work. Given a choice, I still prefer staring out the window.
Focus, Mr. Mackin.
I’m not alone. According to a new study, the average human's attention span is ... oh look, a bird!
Checking out Facebook and texts on our phones is an equal opportunity diversion.
According to a new study reported by Associated Press last month, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span that even a goldfish can hold a thought longer.
Some very focused researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others. The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today. Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds.
I feel sorry for the scientists who had to monitor the attention span of a goldfish. Whew. I’m not quite sure how you measure the attention span of a goldfish. I would have daydreamed about recess in fourth grade.
Quick. Look around. Check your phone. Our world has changed. Lack of attention is the new norm.
According to the same national research cited above, 7 percent of people forget their own birthdays occasionally.
Daily, I may forget where I parked my car, and where I set my keys, wallet and sunglasses. But I’ve never forgotten my birthday. Sometimes, I forget how old I am, though. Fiftysomething.
Some days, I wonder if my attention span has decreased with age, or if I’ve just lost patience for non-productive time. It’s increasingly hard to relax when my mind is spinning on so many subjects. I can hardly sit and watch an entire baseball game, live or on TV. I have dozens of books that I’ve started and not completed. I can hardly watch a full TV commercial.
Out of 18 holes in golf, there are always three or four unfocused holes that I absolutely don’t remember playing.
How about them Rams?
It’s never a good idea for me to sit at a window seat.
Writing this column is another example of my gnat-sized attention span.
When I sat down to write this column on a recent weekday night, my first intention was to write about examples of when readers send me nice notes or emails. Something I wrote in a column made them laugh, cry, think, reminisce. They sent me a note. It means a lot. I wanted to publicly say, “Thanks.”
But I ended up writing a column about attention spans, or lack thereof.
So goes my life.
Now focus, Mr. Mackin … oh look, there goes another bird.
In closing — before I get distracted and change subjects again — I’m grateful to those readers who pass along kind notes to me. Thanks.
One last thing: If you have read this far into today’s column, I’m impressed. Your focus is something to be proud of. You have been reading for more than nine seconds. Congrats — your attention span is larger than a goldfish’s. I’m betting you always remember your own birthday, too.