I confess. I hate pop-ups. Those annoying graphic invaders that appear every time you land on a website.
Especially the ones that cover the whole screen, and you can’t figure out how to get them to go away without accidentally opting out of the whole site.
What I hate about them is I feel like some invisible force has decided that I should be more interested in the ad or message on the pop-up rather than the site I have sought to read. Or has decided that after 2.5 seconds, I must already be bored and now need to read something else or take advantage of some offer that will only last a few seconds so I better hurry.
Excuse me, but when did I give up control over what content I want to see?
I’m guessing this is all a result of today’s disappearing attention span syndrome.
Ten years ago, the average attention span was 12 minutes. Now it is 5 minutes. And yes, fellow boomers and beyond, younger people really do have the shortest attention span.
Seems social media really is affecting all our brains. Our brains grow and adjust according to our experiences. And we all are getting information too quickly. Our brains are getting lazy. And we are getting anxious when we’re not being stimulated.
Thus, the pop-ups.
Many say we have created a culture of distraction. We sit in a group of friends and stare at our phones. We can’t think for long periods of a time. In fact, studies are showing that because we are now finding it so hard to just sit and let our minds settle, we are becoming worse at creative thinking.
That’s scary. Because quiet, let-your-mind-wander moments are often when our great ideas appear. Answers to questions we’ve been pondering suddenly seem clear. Concepts for paintings, melodies for songs, equations for formulas…they have to have space and air to rise to the top of our minds.
But these days, it seems no one can just “be”. Standing in line means reading an article online. Waiting for a friend to arrive means sending an email. Sitting in traffic gives us time to check the market’s performance.
Instead of letting our mind wander, we reach for a gadget.
It’s a wonder anyone gets any real serious thinking done at work. The average office worker is said to check his or her mail 30 to 40 times an hour. That’s a lot of distraction. And of course we don’t unhook from our electronic addictions at lunch, or even after work, or, God forbid, on vacation—it’s a constant attack on our weary brains.
I know some people who can’t sit through a movie unless it’s less than two hours or it’s on television so they can be checking their phone the whole time. I really wonder how many people under 50 enjoy, or even attempt, reading a long article, much less a book, without being interrupted many times. Or without first tweeting or posting to Facebook what they’re doing.
Deep thinking isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. We’ve got to fight back. Put down our phones. Turn off the computer for a few hours. Go on a vacation that allows our brain to put on sunglasses, feel the breeze, and vegetate.
It’s great to have so much information at our fingertips 24 hours a day. But it’s also up to us to remember we can decide when we access it.
And when we’d rather let our brain send us its own amazing “pop-up”.
“Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity.”