Monday, August 23, 2010
Attention Span, Interrupted
People underestimate the importance of discussions with other humans. These tons of meetings you go to everyday involve discussions about things that matter. A lot of decisions, some life-altering decisions like marriage, jobs, and which football team to root for come after lengthy and useful discussions with people who matter.
The reason these discussions are important, is that they bring in new ideas, and your ideas and beliefs may be challenged. Your knowledge is expanded, and your wisdom keeps growing.
As a very old man himself (30 years of age is like 88 in internet life), I have noticed the progressive disappearance of useful discussions on the internet.
I started using the (very slow) internet in Jordan in the mid-1990s. I remember exchanging a few emails with other people from other areas in the world, often debating different opinions and ideas, like politics and religion. These were good discussions, and I remember a few of them.
Message boards (the ones I used were arabia.com and mahjoob) were popular, and these discussions were actually very interesting at times. Then came blogs and everything else followed to allow any person with a keyboard to type in his own opinion.
Blogs often allow for some degree of civilized discussions depending on the blog itself. However most blogs are shallow. Worse, any comments can be deleted for whatever reason, thus making your voice unheard.
Facebook is worse, because you have very limited space to express anything. You may argue that facebook was made for people to stay in touch, but with every political activity or news coming around you'll find some discussions going around.
Twitter, Youtube, CNN, Huffington Post, Ammon News or any political/news website come on top of the worst of the worst because they almost entirely eliminated normal discussions. Comments need to be read first by the moderator, then edited if necessary, or deleted, then posted on the websites. They rarely allow for 2 people to interact and reply to each other immediately. Even if someone wants to express an idea like, "American movies are terrible" you don't have enough space to expand on your idea, or give reasons for it in a similar way you'll have while talking to normal human being on the street or in a cafe.
This might seem as a trivial problem in this day and age. But look around you and see how much time people (including Jordanians) are spending on these websites everyday and you'll realize that our attention spans are increasingly getting shorter. A lot of the knowledge that I have, a lot of the opinion I have formed in my life and a lot of skills in defending any action I have taken came as a result of thousands of discussions and debates I had with other human beings. It's a skill. Discussions reveal personality traits, passions, beliefs and intentions, and we seem to be losing focus in having them.
If you disagree, comment below in no more than 140 characters.
(in the picture above Anna Kendrick b4 shooting Twilight OMG she's so pretty, and the picture below fireworks at Khalifah tower OMG they're so awesome)