Pay attention and read this. Assuming you can focus, of course.
By Tara Higgins
Hey, you’re bored, aren’t you? On a scale of 1 to 10, how distracted are you right now? Like, are you reading this on your phone? Because if you are, chances are your personal enjoyment of my writing will be interrupted by a friendly text in approximately five seconds. I’ll admit I’ve texted three people, scrolled through a list of senior quotes, and been distracted by five different side conversations in the time it took me to write this one paragraph. And that’s with moral support from one Jonathan Pacheco.
Anyway, with the advent of new technologies over the past decade, today’s teenagers are facing an increasingly infinite number of distractions. With that, our attention spans are suffering from a sharp decline. We can’t focus, yet alone get anything done. In fact, I’m quite surprised at my progress on this story so far.
But back to my topic. Which I forgot what that was.
In all seriousness, our inability to concentrate represents a huge problem in today’s society, and especially in the daily classroom setting. When the average high schooler is supposed to be taking notes on a PowerPoint presentation, or collaborating (go 4 Cs!) with his or her tablemates to complete some colorful poster for a gallery walk, or even just completing the most random assignment in class, they’re probably not. In reality, they are most likely Snapchatting friends or tweeting the latest updates. Which is all fine and dandy, of course. Except that it’s taking over our lives.
Technological interaction (I totally just made that phrase up) is an integral part of the teenager’s life. Texting back your plans for lunch is just something you do five minutes before class ends, out of necessity. Emailing that teacher you just remembered needs to answer one of your more burning questions within the next ten minutes is completely normal. Interrupting your side conversation to answer a phone call, or vice versa, is just what we do. The human brain might not be built to multitask, but we try. High schoolers lead busy lives, and although we can manage to sneak in an I-absolutely-must-text-my-BFF-back-this-second-or-else-they’ll-never-speak-to-me-again in the middle of a biology lecture, we shouldn’t let it run our lives.
There’s a difference between “necessity” and “rudeness.” Rude is sitting across from your friend at lunch when they just drove you to Noodles and Snapchatting the entire time. Necessity is taking advantage of transitions between activities in class to plan out your lunch with a friend. That’s the difference. What teenagers don’t understand is this line between normal and ridiculous. Texting one person “OK” when you’re finally finished reading an article on medieval literature is more acceptable than attempting to carry on an entire conversation and failing to finish the article in the first place. Again, our ability to focus is forever in jeopardy.
I’m guilty. I cannot for the life of me get anything done during those coveted “work days,” because, let’s face it, school is the social hub of my life. Nowhere else am I surrounded by 30 other students who are perfectly capable of sweeping me up into a truly engaging side conversation. Nowhere else can I hand my paper to my shoulder partner and ask them what the heck does this even mean? I learn when I need to, I focus when I have to, I pay attention when I want to, and I can tune voices out if need be. But give kids a day of complete freedom and what do you think they’re going to do? Work?
Now, if you know me you’d know that I’m able to figure things out for myself. When I get home I can zone into my homework and crank it out like no other. It’s all in the perspective, and it’s all in the way you respond to your environment.
The reality is, we don’t have attention spans. And if we do, they’re super, super short. We’re not dimwits or peabrains. We’re just teenagers who like to find a little fun in school sometimes. That’s worth a little understanding. Goodness knows that’s the only way we’re going to get anywhere.
I know this was a really long story, so I’ll let you finish texting your mom and telling her what time you’ll be home after practice. I mean, that’s assuming you haven’t done so already. And speaking of distractions, I should probably get back to my poetry assignment. I got frustrated trying to understand the wise words of John Keats and decided I’d do better to finish this weekly story for newspaper. Oh, shoot. I forgot to tell John that we don’t have to do all of the problems on the calc review. I guess Mr. Keats will have to wait. Until after I submit this story.