Focus. It’s an ability I used to take for granted. But not anymore. For whatever reason—age, information overload, pandemic-induced anxiety—I’m just not able to concentrate the way I once did.
Is the inability to do so a warning sign of cognitive decline?
After coming across conflicting opinions online, that’s a question I plan to ask at my next physical. In the meantime, I did what I usually do when seeking answers, I found a book to read: Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again byJohann Hari.
What I learned—that our attention is being stolen—was disturbing enough but the fact that Facebook and other social media companies have intentionally designed their sites to keep us online and coming back so they can maximize their revenue has prompted me to shy away from logging on.
Despite this, Amazon knows what I’m reading, and Alexa often knows what I’m having for dinner. Google Nest knows if I’m home, and Google Maps knows where I’m at when I’m not.
While there are some positives to this—for instance, I no longer have to look up and then print directions—I don’t like feeling that I’m being surveilled.
So I unplugged Alexa and put her in the basement, and I closed out 60+ accounts I rarely use. I also unsubscribed from dozens of e-letters.
And, after a University of Oregon study found that if we are focusing on something and get interrupted, it takes 23 minutes on average for us to get back to the same state of focus, I’ve turned off the ringer on my phone and no longer leave email open all day.
The goal: to return my focus to what I really want to be paying attention to: my family and friends and the causes I care about.