I have been through a difficult time. Every of those days, I woke up with anxiety. I did not want to get out of bed. I did not want to come to school. I did not want to talk. I was always with my own anxiety, days after days.
For a while, I did not see how the sky was beautiful during spring days. I did not notice that my best friend had just had a new haircut. I did not pay attention to the boy I saw on the street that said ‘Hi’ to me. And I did not see an elder woman who was on the ground collecting stuff thrown out of her shopping bag as she had missed the final step of the stair, and was needing my help.
I lost my connection to the world. I could not pay a full attention to anything.
I was reading and a new Instagram notification came up, I stopped and checked. I went back to the book and forgot how I read it.
I was typing my assignment and a friend called, I stopped and talked to her. Once I put the phone down, I forgot the good idea I had intended to write down twenty minutes ago.
I was having a Facetime call back home with my parents and Facebook said someone had just commented on my post, I picked up the phone and replied. I missed the moment when Mom wanted to show me her new dish for a special dinner with Dad. And I saw her holding the dish and looking at me while I checked on the phone, but did not say a word.
I was losing my connection to the world around me as I did not pay enough attention.
Because I was busy on my phone.
Because too much media use caused me anxiety.
Sadly, I am not the only one in my generation that suffers the situation. We are not paying attention to things happening around us in physical spaces. We are so busy checking on the ‘unreal’ life that we miss real moments, and also people.
I did an attention test to my parents and friends. I told them that I was going to participate in a small concert and needed them to listen to me playing a piano piece as a rehearsal. I invited three of my friends, person by person, to come and hear me play. My test was that every time my friend was distracted by their phones, I would change a new song. The original song would pop up whenever their attention came back. At the end of the test, I asked the participants how many songs they had heard during the performance. To avoid failures in recognising the songs, I used their favourite music to catch and maintain attention.
The result is surprising (and a bit sad), as two out of the three mentioned that they had not noticed me changing any songs and thought I was playing a single piece all the time. The other friend did notice that there were changes in the melody, but could not tell how many songs he had listened to. During the time they sometimes look up at me to make sure that ‘Yes, I’m paying attention’ but in fact, they are not at all. I had changed at most 10 songs and at least 7 songs during the test, which means during the four-minute-period of the performance, these three people lost their attention for averagely 8.5 times.
However, the results of my parents are quite the opposite. I changed the song once while taking the test with my Mom when she had a message from work. She did lose her attention within seconds but after having a glance at the phone, she flipped it over and continued to listen to me. She later on informing she noticed me changing the melody and asked why I did that, which means although she looked at the phone, her ears still caught what I am playing at the time. And my Dad is the one that pays all of her attention on me. He had put his phone away from his reach before I started playing and was not being distracted by anything during the time. Obviously, I did not change any song while I played for Dad and completely concentrate on my current music piece.
Attention is now becoming an issue. People are talking about how media and phone use has affected the effectiveness of a conversation/task. People are being distracted during tasks every time their phones or social media platforms send out notifications. They do not pay full attention to a particular activity at a time. Losing attention to what is happening around also means that we are losing our connection to the real world. Again, we may miss special things and moments, or people. We might feel anxiety living with the media for long. This leads to the feeling of being abandoned as we are not paying attention to others and how they care for us.
But these things can be changed and attention skill can be practiced again. The only thing that matters is whether we are ready to change our media use and get the attention back or not.