How Facebook Changed My Attention Span... What Did You Say?
By Super Sarah Gee on February 28, 2013
There are a plethora of topics I’d like to address in my writing, and I find myself thinking about them in these kinds of terms:
"As I was scrubbing the toilet today, M asked if he could help. I told him no, that it was a Mommy job. I immediately regretted it. Daddys can scrub toilets, too, damnit!"
"I need help designing a website. Does anyone know anyone who (knows anyone who knows anyone who) can help me?"
"I am ironing a button-down shirt for a job interview and what the HELL. If it’s not already, I vote that ironing should become a lost art."
"What is with men and cooking meat? I suck at it and my husband rocks. It’s just true."
"Just found a heap of old photos from high school and college, and all I can say is I'M SORRY to everybody who had to endure me then. Really. Very. Sorry."
Because these are the ways in which I am now sharing my life -- in these punchlines, these sound bytes -- I find myself narrating to myself the Facebook post that will most wittily describe my actions AS I’M DOING the action.
So not only has Facebook become the thing that I feel compelled to check every hour or so throughout the day, even as my children demonstrate that they need my immediate attention, even as I excuse those needs by explaining to them and to myself that I have needs too, not only has Facebook drawn me into its folds like street drugs draw junkies, it has also changed the way in which I actually experience my life.
This feels like a big deal, and not in the best of ways.
What is to be done about this inevitable deterioration of my attention span? I’ve already asked for a subscription to the New Yorker for my birthday. Reading a full-length article, as opposed to the Us Weekly pretty-girl photos I’ve been indulging in since my birthday last year feels like a good first step.
But is it enough to solve this problem on a personal level?
To adopt the position that if I’m okay, it’s okay? I feel somehow disturbed by the realization that we are becoming a nation (nay! a globe!) of people who cannot keep our brains in one place for more than the brief rising and falling of a Facebook post.
Perhaps I should mention that this theory is (a) probably not original and (b) possibly not supported by any data. If there are other people saying the same thing and/ or if there is data to support my theory, I have not done the necessary legwork to find them/ it. This is probably because as soon as I sat down to research the topic, I checked out Postsecret instead. Which reminds me, it’s Monday and I haven’t read Sunday Secrets. Be back in a few minutes.
I was talking with a friend recently who had more or less joined the world of Facebook so that he and his wife could share the link to their open-adoption blog. They were eager to find an expectant mother who was creating an adoption plan and knew that it truly was a waiting game. When an expectant mother found their site (through the agency or through their separate blog), it was up to her to choose them as parents for her child and to contact them first. So every day they would check their inbox to see if maybe, just maybe, a pregnant woman had left a note. I can only imagine the emotional cycles of hope and disappointment, expectation and surrender that they must have endured in those months.
I remember when my husband and I agreed that having a child would be okay with both of us; the first month after the agreement we didn’t conceive. It was devastating in a childish way. I knew it was unlikely, but I considered the possibility that I was infertile and proceeded to indulge in a bitter, imaginary, childless future. Then I took a breath and knew that we could try again next month.
Sure it would be a few weeks before I was fertile again, and another few weeks before I would find out if I was pregnant, but I had a monthly timeline that distracted me from my day-to-day longing for a child. My friends didn’t have this as comfort, and their timeline became one day at a time. They would share their open-adoption link on Facebook and would ask their friends to share it, too, because who knows where or how a birth mother would find them? If all their friends, and all their friends’ friends mentioned their site in a post, well, it seemed that their odds increased exponentially.
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