This is an article I wrote several years ago for a website called helium which collects people's articles and pays them just a few cents for those articles. Not a good deal. This morning I got an e-mail several years after I wrote this article that my article was deleted from the database for some odd reason, so I'll gladly share it with you here.
In the internet age, everyone's attention spans are getting shorter and a
lot is being left out. My sophomore year in college, for example, I had
a roommate who had a few habits that got on my nerves. He would cycle
through his mp3s and never be able to play a single song all the way
through. He would never be able to watch a half hour TV show, instead
perferring highlights on ESPN, clips from Saturday Night Live reruns
(back when they aired on Comedy Central), and MTV videos.
frustrated me that he could never sit all the way through a program
without changing the channel. I would listen to entire CDs from start to
finish, watch entire movies, and plays. I would go to class and listen
throughout the entire lecture. How awful it must be to have that small
an attention span, that my poor roomate, has, I thought?
forward five years later and after discovering the joys of youtube and other
forms of internet video for the past year and a half or so I've turned
into him. This is the tragic thing that youtube has done to me.
so many forms of entertainment being available to me every time I log
into a computer, I want to experience them all and can't sit still too
long at any one thing before something else grabs my attention. Why
watch an entire episode of the Conan O'Brien show where you can just see
the clips of the skits since it's on MTV's site? Why listen to the
radio when you can get any song you want on demand? I started taking
those shortcuts toward instant gratification and I'm having trouble
finding my way out. My primary form of entertainment has gone from
two-hour long movies to a one-hour long drama like Heroes to half-hour
shows to clips of Monty Python, Conan O'Brien or Mad TV on youtube and
it's affecting everything I do.
I can't sat still through
lectures and often through work I find myself channeling through
youtube, a TV show on demand, or some other video or radio station site.
I can't watch TV through the commercial breaks and I'm often
alternating between two or more shows. I'm an instant gratification
junkie, in short, and I'm fully aware that's a more chaotic and less
peaceful place that both society and myself have fallen privy to.
is this a problem? Well, aside from the obvious answers of all the ways
a shortened attention span makes it more difficult to focus on anything
and get anything done, I feel like we can't fully appreciate anything
at all as well. Remember Beethoven's 5th symphony? Oh, silly me, I
forgot that you folks in generation X won't dare listen to anything
unless it has words being sung/screamed loudly accompanied to a
keyboard, guitar, drums and bass, and you folks in Generation Y, live in
a world where only rappers are considered true musicians, so that's
pretty much synthesizer, drums and bass (see we've already shortened our
attention span from 4 instruments to 3).
Anyway, Beethoven's 5th
symphony is that one that goes Dum-Dum-Dum-Duuuuum,
Dum-Dum-Dum-Duuuuum. It's a very dramatic piece that even my 5-second
attention span college roommate had downloaded on his computer but that
well-known part of Beethoven's 5th Symphony is only the 1st movement of
four parts. If you listen to the 2nd part of the symphony, it's very
boring and insipid on its own, the third is kind of iffy, but the 4th is
where it all comes together. When you get to the fourth, you realize
that the second and third movements were put there for a reason: to
provide contrast to the 2nd and 3rd movements. The symphony takes over
30 minutes to listen to (or maybe it's 20 or 40, I really am just
guessing here, but it's at least 4 times longer than your average song
on the radio, put it that way. I couldn't find on wikipedia, google,
amazon, my desk encyclopedia or this old music textbook how long the
symphony was) which very few people in Generation Y has the patience to
but it is that much more rewarding to get to movement 4 . And
that's exactly what we're missing when our attention spans get reduced
to wax: The metaphorical second and third movements of the movie, TV
show, album and quite possibly life itself.