The War on Attention
One night I awoke to a bright flash. As had happened many times before, I rolled over and groggily eyed my phone - even face-down it still rudely illuminated the room. With the full intention to turn it off and roll back to sleep, I checked what had set it off. Just to be sure, of course.
As I glanced at the screen a wave of anxiety washed over me. Eight unread emails about sales, stocks, and startups. A few push notifications from Twitter and other assorted apps. Two text messages from an important business associate. Ugh. As I scanned through the noise, I came on an singular important email, by this time wide awake. I was selected for an important pitch competition!
This was great news that could help the success of my startup. My anxiety abated and excitement took over as I reveled in this moment. Unfortunately it was still the middle of the night, and excitement and sleep don’t mix. Drawn out of my cozy hibernation, I tossed and turned for much of the night. Peace was out of reach until the first pink and orange hues of the morning peaked over the horizon.
After a number of nights like these I’ve long since discovered the critical “do not disturb” function on my iPhone. Setting it to my sleeping hours can necessarily prevent these kind of night-time interruptions, (praise the heavens, life force renewed!), but while my sleep is now distraction-free, my days are not. Unfortunately, most of us are interrupted daily by email, texts, and content notifications. These interruptions and distractions are fueled by evolutions in software user-experiences that vie to exert control over our watching, reading, money, and time. In fact my nighttime frustrations were just a singular battle in an ever increasing daily war with technologic interruptions. Most troublesome is that whether we know it or not, we’re fighting against software and technology that is willfully distracting — software consciously designed to manipulate our focus.
This is the War on Attention, and according to the latest research, we’re losing.