by Mad Dog
We have scan
buttons on our radios, TV newscasters who have never met a headline they
think deserves to be followed by a second sentence, and a host of
condensed print media like Readerís Digest, Utne Reader,
and USA Today.
||Our attention spans are
definitely getting shorter. I donít have any scientific
evidence.....hey, pay attention, Iím not finished yet!
As I was saying, I donít have any
scientific evidence to back this up, though Iím sure I could if I
searched online. The problem is that whenever I do I get sidetracked by
web sites that spit out your prison nickname after you enter your real
one, show photographs of the worldís best dental floss sculptures
ranked by length of floss, mint or regular, and used or virgin, and of
course the site I spend the most time visiting ó 404 Error. I never
tire of that one.
Admit it, weíre impatient. We watch
TV with the remote in our hand so at the first sign of a commercial,
station promo, or celebrity reality show featuring washed up so-called
stars weíve never heard of, we instantly start clicking our way
through the other 122 channels. If a web page takes more than five
seconds to appear, our itchy finger clicks the mouse and off we go. We
have scan buttons on our radios, TV newscasters who have never met a
headline they think deserves to be followed by a second sentence, and a
host of condensed print media like Readerís Digest, Utne
Reader, and USA Today. Depth is out, highlights are in.
proved that she has a short attention span, so short that it took her
less than 24 hours to tire of her marriage and have it annulled.
Hopefully sheíll work on that attention span before she has a baby.
Like dandruff, this problem starts at the top. President Bush
admits he doesnít read a newspaper but would rather be briefed by his
staff because ďitís easier to digest.Ē So are worms when a mother
bird feeds them to her young, but that doesnít mean I want my dinner
prepared that way. Bushís attention span is so short he couldnít
focus on Osama bin Laden long enough to capture him so he turned his
sights on Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately he forgot that heís not the
only one with a short attention span. When he joined Diane Sawyer for an
interview a mere two days after the dictatorís capture, more of us
tuned in to The Simple Life to see Paris invade Arkansas than
watched Bush evade Sawyer. Of course he can console himself with the
knowledge that he was more popular than a Whoopi rerun, but
thatís like being told youíre not as obnoxious as Gilbert Gottfried.
Faint praise may be praise, but donít forget itís also faint.
Britney Spears proved that she has a
short attention span, so short that it took her less than 24 hours to
tire of her marriage and have it annulled. Hopefully sheíll work on
that attention span before she has a baby. This proves that our
attention span is getting shorter. In the good old days of stardom ó
defined as the years when you had to be over 20 years old but didnít
have to bare your stomach to be considered a star ó celebrities stuck
it out when they got married. Sure Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney
got married, divorced, married, and divorced again, but at least they
gave it some time. Weeks, at least.
The media donít help. They really
donít help by being plural and making sentences like that sound wrong.
If the mediaís attention span were any shorter they wouldnít be able
to finish a sentence. One week itís All Kobe Bryant All the Time, then
before you can say mitochondrial DNA heís old news and Scott
Petersonís the rage. Or was it Michael Jackson? Oh, I remember now,
itís Child Abduction Week. No, that was last month ó this week
itís earthquakes. I suspect newsrooms have a blackboard on the wall
which lists the famous person, natural catastrophe, and trial of the
week so reporters know what to cover at the exclusion of other news.
Face it, itís not easy holding peopleís attention for
long. Thatís why anyone whoís in the news for more than 14 minutes
has a publicist.
Itís possible, though, that events actually happen in clusters.
One train derails and within days we a slew of others are doing the same
thing. One person dies while stowing away in an airplane wheel well and
a week later someone else does it. Itís been lord knows how many years
since weíve heard of that happening and it will be at least the same
number until the next one. Yet they cluster. Either thereís an
Anti-Chaos Theory at work or misery truly does love company. And will
spare no expense to find it. Or we can blame the media. I know which I
Our short attention spans have
created a generation of dilettantes. How else do you explain Jennifer
Lopez shifting from singing to dancing to acting to singing to clothing
designer? Not to mention her on-again off-again on-again wedding with
Ben Affleck? How else would you explain Jerry Springer going from mayor
to talk show host and now to casino country singer? Okay, other than the
fluoride in the drinking water in Cincinnati. Yes, heís actually
recorded an album. Youíd think heíd have heard William Shatnerís
campy-but-not-meant-to-be album from 30 years ago and learned something
from it. Or at least heard the laughter. Come to think of it, youíd
expect Shatner himself learned something from having done it, but no,
heís actually recording a follow-up. And lest you think Iím casting
dilettante stones, if a cop followed you going down my career path
heíd pull you over and give you a field sobriety test for weaving all
over the place.
Itís hard to tell whether itís
our short attention span that causes dilettantes or theirs. Face it,
itís not easy holding peopleís attention for long. Thatís why
anyone whoís in the news for more than 14 minutes has a publicist,
Madonna spends sleepless nights dreaming up plans like kissing women on
an awards show so weíll hopefully forget about her movies, and reality
TV shows like Mad, Mad House in which people are subjected to
Wiccan, voodoo, and vampire rituals end up on the nightly schedule.
Thatís also why itís a safe bet that if youíre reading this you
skipped to the bottom. Hah! And you thought I wasnít paying attention.
©2004 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Try to read the whole thing.