Ooooh, squeal like a stuck piggie, Johann Hari is back!

I realised then that I needed to understand what was really happening to him and to so many of us. That moment turned out to be the start of a journey that transformed how I think about attention. I travelled all over the world in the next three years, from Miami to Moscow to Melbourne, interviewing the leading experts in the world about focus. What I learned persuaded me that we are not now facing simply a normal anxiety about attention, of the kind every generation goes through as it ages. We are living in a serious attention crisis – one with huge implications for how we live. I learned there are twelve factors that have been proven to reduce people’s ability to pay attention and that many of these factors have been rising in the past few decades – sometimes dramatically.

I wonder whether it’s going to turn out to be capitalism to blame?

Your focus didn’t collapse. It was stolen.

Looks promising, doesn’t it?

Today, about 35% of workers feel they can never switch off their phones because their boss might email them at any time of day or night. In France, ordinary workers decided this was intolerable and pressured their government for change – so now, they have a legal “right to disconnect”. It’s simple. You have a right to defined work hours, and you have a right to not be contacted by your employer outside those hours. Companies that break the rules get huge fines. There are lots of potential collective changes like this that can restore part of our focus. We could, for example, force social media companies to abandon their current business model, which is specifically designed to invade our attention in order to keep us scrolling. There are alternative ways these sites could work – ones that would heal our attention instead of hacking it.

Ooooh, yes!

I think that given this uncertainty, we can’t wait for perfect evidence.

We might in fact get there, yes.

We need to stop blaming ourselves, or making only demands for tiny tweaks from our employers and from tech companies.

Yes, bless the little cotton socks on Minnie Mouse. It is tear power from the corporations, abolish capitalism, and the world will be a better place. Who the hell could see that conclusion coming from Hari?

12 thoughts on “Ooooh, squeal like a stuck piggie, Johann Hari is back!”

  1. Looking at his wikipedia page, he doesn’t seem to have worked since being sacked by the Independent in 2011, other than writing a couple of books. I wonder who has been funding him.

  2. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    “Always on” is more often something insecure millennial employees bring with them to do corporate virtue signaling with, rather than something weevil capitalist bosses impose.

    OK, might be different (understandably so) in investment banks where you buy a Ferrari with your sign-on bonus straight out of college, but I don’t need Americans I send a team chat to to be woken by their pinging phone at 3AM on their Sunday night and respond immediately*. If they can’t turn their phone off (or, as they are free to, choose not to even install work software on their own phone) that is their business.

    *: Yes, it’s first day back at work today so the anecdotes are fresh.

  3. “”Always on” is more often something insecure millennial employees bring with them to do corporate virtue signaling with, rather than something weevil capitalist bosses impose.”

    I’ve heard of a few assholes who get into this, but in general, this isn’t a demand from clients. Which doesn’t mean I don’t get the occasional out-of-hours call and in general, it’s a reasonable request like the servers have gone down, or “sorry about the short notice, but can you get to London first thing tomorrow for a meeting about a situation”?

    We’re all competing for the dollars. The more useful you are to a client, the more they hire you for work. And useful in the modern sense is often about being flexible. If you really want to not get disturbed for a call, or never work on the Sabbath, fine. But don’t be surprised if when the next round of redundancies come, the atheists keep their jobs because they can come in on Sunday and you can’t.

  4. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    My trick is to give my old fashioned landline phone with instructions to call that in an emergency. Enough people are now stuck in the routine of having to do the timewasting “hello, how are you, are you free for a call” foreplay that few seemingly know how to dial a number on a telephone.

  5. “never work on the Sabbath” – Funny, this reminded me this xmas I walked past The Entertainer toy shop, which closes every Sunday. Somehow they’ve made it work. Years ago I was pretty amazed they seemed to compete all right despite this, but in the online world its even more crazy.

  6. “Your focus didn’t collapse. It was stolen.”

    No it wasn’t. I still have mine. You gave yours away.

    “My trick is to give my old fashioned landline phone with instructions to call that in an emergency.”

    I always give my landline number unless asked specifically for my mobile. I have no desire to be interrupted at the checkout in Tesco’s, thank-you very much. Oh, sure I could let it ring out and call back… or – here’s a radical idea – I could go home and check my messages. As a bonus, in over 20 years of owning a cellphone, I’ve had precisely two spam text messages and no cold calls.

  7. “When he was nine years old, my godson Adam developed a brief but freakishly intense obsession with Elvis Presley. He took to singing Jailhouse Rock at the top of his voice with all the low crooning and pelvis-jiggling of the King himself. One day, as I tucked him in…”

    To be fair, that ended better than I thought it would…

  8. “In France, ordinary workers decided this was intolerable and pressured their government for change”

    WTF pressure government? Pressure yourself, you moron. You’re the one with the agency here, your phone is in your hand, *YOU* turn it off.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *