Our world is fast-paced and flashy. We get antsy if we see the spinning dial as an image loads. We get irritated if our data drops from 4G to 3G. Or we may buffer the time wait by flipping to another window or opening another ‘app’ to occupy our buzzing brains. We have been conditioned to have shorter and shorter attention spans. Three years ago, the experts estimated that we could hold our attention for 2-3 minutes. Today, they estimate 8 seconds – the same as a goldfish.
What are we getting for this lack of attention?
For one, lack of quality relationships. Being distracted with our phones while physically being near our loved ones may send the message that our phone is more important to us than our loved ones. Babies in particular need to feel important in order to feel safe. Checking email or sending a text message while playing with our babies may trigger “acting out” in order to win back the attention. We may see this act as fussiness or as naughtiness — the fault of the baby — instead of the instinctual desire to be protected when we are preoccupied — the fault of the adult.
This issue may carry past babyhood and into childhood, and may even be affecting our adult relationships, such as marriage and friendships. If we feel insecure with those we should feel most loved, we search for a connection elsewhere. This connection may be on our phone or tablets, which only perpetuates the problem.
Try this 10-minute exercise: put your handphone in another room; dial down the ringer; or turn off the tablet all together. Be present with your spouse, with your child, with yourself. You may be surprised at what all you notice and learn and appreciate. Next time, try extending the exercise to 20 minutes.
Photo credit: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1130386