Broken Attention Spans in a World of Information Overload


Living in the moment, it is hard to see where we are in the information age. Many GenXers will happily relate how they had to do research in college or how Saturday morning was the only time you could catch cartoons. We would hope to catch a glimpse of the fuzzed out Playboy channel or revel in a porno mag with still pictures.

Today we have instant gratification, instant info, instant entertainment, instant pornography. It’s all just a click away.

But we are bored and we can’t focus. We drift from point to point, whatever catches our eye. We can’t read long articles, hell we can’t read long emails.

We went from writing letters to pen pals, to sending emails, to texting & tweeting. Now we snapchat, vine and periscope. Thousands of letters to a paragraph to 140 characters to a picture we doodle on.

Yet, the information continues to build and get put to use by ‘someone’. Computers now review cancer diagnosis and provide better prognosis than the top physicians in the field. Politicians fight over policy & leaked emails, every 10 minutes a poll is submitted that shows what people are really thinking of their candidate and they adjust their next bite size policy statement.

What would happen if someone from the 40s or 50s was dropped into today? How would they receive this overload of information with their attention span which surely must dwarf those of today. Would they be an instant success or would they curl up into a ball, unable to process the massive influx of celebrity dating information coupled with the latest meme?

WTF Ted?

So you have a rep for being an asshole and sticking to your guns no matter what. Smart guy, stick rigidly to the constitution. You run for president and get steamrolled by a guy that calls your wife a pig and asserts that your Dad had something to do with the JFK assassination. You go to his party coronation and smile, wave your hand and tell people to vote their conscience. You specifically DON’T endorse the guy.
Then months later, just a bit before the election, you endorse? WTF Ted? Somebody explain to me how this works for him in any way please?

Basic Math

There are 100 people in a classroom. In order to become class president you need 51 votes from classmates. Team A and Team B look for candidates to represent them. A survey shows that 40 students identify with team A, 40 identify with team B with 20 people wavering back and forth between the two.

After the selection process is complete it turns out that the Candidate for team A never managed to gather more than 40% of his team’s votes (16 people). The Candidate for team B gathered roughly 75% of his team’s votes (30 people).

With the candidates established the general election begins. Candidate A continues to push and appeal to his base voters, ignoring the 20 wavering people and the 24 members of his own team that didn’t vote for him.

Polling shows that Candidate B is slowly picking up wavering people (6 of the 20) by appealing not only to their base of thirty but to the wavering group as well.  They are now at 36 votes. Meanwhile, Candidate A remains at 16 votes by making no effort to appeal to anyone beyond their ‘base’ whatsoever.

Candidate A becomes frustrated with these polling reports and hires new managers that ‘double down’ and increase the number of statements that appeal to those 16 votes and only manage to alienate the other 84 votes.

Who would be surprised when Candidate A then loses the election in a landslide? Not me.

Working for the Butterfly

The GOP nominee for president is making me think a lot about a short period in my employment past…

In the early 90s I worked for one of the major home construction contractors in Montgomery County PA. It was an entry level job and I was glad to have it as I had just escaped a stint in retail management. I quickly found out that I had jumped from one brand of insanity to another.

This family owned business was managed by two men who were brothers. One brother was an actual business man, someone you could have a conversation with. The other brother was a certifiable idiot. The only person that didn’t seem to know he was an idiot was him. Unfortunately because he owned half the company no one was in the capacity to put this guy in his place.

He was extraordinarily wealthy. Had money beyond what any average person could imagine. Despite this, he was a moron. I watched him make incredibly poor business decisions. I watched him bully subcontractors and employees. I watched him lie to customers. I sat in meetings with him and listened to him rant about how he wanted all of his competition to die and for their families to go hungry. He was a horrible human being.

One early Saturday morning I went into the office to get caught up on paperwork and to put in some time on a computer program I was writing. Eventually that program would be used as billing software for my employer. Commercial software that performed the same task would have cost upwards of $10,000 but I wrote this over a weekend or two, saving my employer a considerable sum of money. Mr. Crazy caught me working that morning and drug me into his office. He then proceeded to lecture me for two and a half hours, telling me about a friend of his that made so little money it was laughable ‘Around $150k a year’ – I made about 20% of that and worked 55+ hours a week including weekends as a salaried employee. Clearly he had no idea how much I was being paid, or maybe he did and he just wanted to insult me further. The impromptu meeting ended with him yelling at me and demanding a series of reports on his desk Monday morning. I worked the rest of the day after he left and placed the reports on his desk for Monday morning. I followed up with him Monday afternoon and his response? ‘What reports? What are you talking about?’ and he walked away to go yell at someone else.

Eventually I came up with a nickname for him – The Butterfly – he never knew where he was going to land, he just went where the wind blew his ass.

I see so many similarities between him and Trump, it’s spooky. If you told me my former employer was one election away from the presidency I would fear for the future of the country. I don’t need to have worked for Trump to know the same thing holds true here. No matter how much you dislike the Clinton family, for the veritable future of the species, please don’t vote Trump. We can’t handle a Butterfly in the White House.


Important Response Perspective

Maybe it’s just me, but this one made me laugh.

Think of three of the great feelings in your life. Things like the feeling you get when you step on the scale and the number is lower than any number you’ve seen for a long time. Picking up a brand new car and taking a deep breath of that plastic never been touched smell. Watching your child kick a soccer ball with abandon, racing across the field as fast as their little legs can carry them.

Now think of three feelings you have when you complete a chore you hate. That report you complete at work every week that no one reads.  Cleaning up dog shit or emptying the cat litter. Folding laundry, separating socks.

Take that high. Grab that feeling. Now go do that low.

Take that low. Really roll it around in your head. Now go do that high.

Does the high fix the low? Does the low break the high?

What happens when your high is someone else’s low? Your fun is their chore? Don’t you think they would notice if you did their high as if it was your low? Is your high transferable? Is your low observable or even worse, contagious?

My kids love to play board games. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather be doing and when they finally force me into playing one they can tell based on my attitude. Makes me wonder, how often does this happen, doing something others enjoy out of obligation and how great of an actor do you have to be to convince them it’s fun for you too.



Compromise & Absolutes

Posted by braglio on

Parents know that one of the harder concepts for children to grasp is compromise. Giving up anything to get less than what you originally wanted seems counter intuitive to a brain without theory of mind and limited ability to see the advantages of long term emotional investment in others. Eventually we all learn and compromise daily in all of our relationship interactions, work, marriage, family. We accept that sometimes things just don’t go our way. We accept ‘the suck’, we hold on to the fact that things will break our way at some point. In the end it works, we make our lives happen.

If compromise works so well on a daily basis for, well everyone, then why have our views on compromise in government vanished? Everyone that has a social media account can quickly tally 30-40% of their contacts that post absolute right wing statements, all regurgitated pap that was written by some stranger they don’t know. Conversely they will have 30-40% of their friends and family posting the 180° polar opposite sputum. They each express outrage when someone expresses that the story may have two sides. They each fear for their future should the other side win. It is all or nothing, winner takes all.

With all of these people so absolutely sure that the other side is 100% wrong, how can there ever be a chance for the seeds of compromise to germinate? Anyone with an eighth grade education learned that the entire basis of the constitution we currently have was not just one compromise but a whole slew, a series of give and take.

What removed that ability from our government? What would bring it back?