Who moved my attention span?

Nov 24, 2013, 07:20 IST | Rahul da Cunha

Rahul da CunhaMy attention span lies in tatters at the altar of the iPhone 4S. This is a classic chicken and egg situation. Did the mobile phone and its multitude of apps create my distracted mind? Or merely buy into what already existed? In the pre-cellular era, apples and blackberrys were eaten.

And galaxies were explored at the Nehru Planetarium. But Bill opened the gates. And Steve finished the job. I’m now perennially in an Android atmosphere. I’m caught in a web of Applemania. I won’t go into a sepia-toned soliloquy, that old fashioned argument: “Arre yaar, what did we do before mobile phones, we managed fine.”

And the justifying counter argument: “No ya, life is much more tension-filled today, we need to be connected 24/7.” But there was a time we walked the streets, our hands free. We were lured by blue sky. Not blue screens. The fact is tech has replaced talk. Chat has taken the place of conversation. An extra ‘e’ now prefixes experience. Our minds are focused on a mini screen, our vision is essentially virtual.

Human touch is passé. A touch pad is how we dialogue. So here’s a familiar scenario -- three friends reunite for an evening of revelry. We hug, say hello and before we sit, all phones are put on the table -- like cowboys in the Wild West placed their guns -- establishing our alpha mobilehood. And while we nostalgically delve into our past, our present and future lie in that handset -- one eye on each other and the other keenly watching the screen.

A warm collective, “So what’s been happening, guys?” descends into an individual WhatsApp experience with unseen associates. And I’m shouting to myself, ‘Stay in the moment, focus!’”, but in essence Apple has killed my attention span. And Samsung has slaughtered theirs. At the next table are three PYTs, texting and tweeting in their independent worlds.

They could well have been in three separate locations. I’m in a multiplex, the movie has my rapt attention, and then suddenly my mind drifts to Twitter. I need to send out minute-by-minute tweets to my followers. For good measure I check what Ricky Gervais and Barack Obama are thinking. I’m not alone, the auditorium is a sea of mini screens. Everyone watching their private films.

Every waking moment needs a multi-experience. And I am ‘maha’ kicked as I multi-task. I find myself trapped in the vines of the viral. Being online seems as addictive as ‘mainlining’. I’m upgrading technically while I downgrade mentally. I sense that the cerebral is losing out to the cellular. The smartphone is making us truly unsmart. Not to mention inattentive.

Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 

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