The Scarcest Commodity

Your attention.

Advertisers have fought for it since the inception of mass media. With the advent of technology-driven social media, the fight is getting more intense by the minute. To me, it already seems overwhelming, but I suspect we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Contrary to what you might think,¬†you should be increasingly careful when dispensing this precious commodity because – your ‘supply’ of it might not be limitless.

Increasingly, there’s evidence to suggest that bouncing about frenetically from one task to another impairs the brain’s ability to exert sustained focus on individual tasks, for example, the typical forms of “book learning” practiced in school and various other ‘training’ environments.

It appears that, over relatively short periods of time, measured in weeks, not years, the ‘plasticity’ of the brain operates to re-wire neural circuits to operate efficiently in an environment that we now routinely describe as “multi-tasking”. Many business types proudly advertise their ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t such a thing – the brain can only handle one task at at time – which results in a a series of rapid task-switching activities, with attendant lag between them. The ‘lag’ itself is a period of non-activity, hence inefficiency.

If it was only that you became “good” at task-switching by doing it a lot, there would be no downside. Unfortunately, since your sustained focus faculties are not being used, they atrophy, making a lot of useful activities difficult to maintain, as but one example, the reading of books. Small wonder that young people these days express little interest in reading anything longer that a sentence or two; they’re too busy bouncing around social media sites like proverbial pinballs.

(IF you’ve made it this far in the post without nodding off, there may be hope that your ability to concentrate on ONE thing isn’t totally fried. Count yourself lucky not to be permanently wired-out of certain activities.)

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