Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

Colonized by the hookup universe

Stolen focus
INTERNET / Johann Hari points out in the book that the 'focus crisis' is directly dangerous for democracy and can contribute to forming totalitarian regimes.


It is this sensation of not being oneself. Of losing focus. The sadness of not being present. This feeling that something or someone has power over you. That someone decides over your impulses. That you just have to. Just have to click on. Just open that link. Just keep scrolling. There is the shame of not being able to finish, the nausea of ​​surrendering to infinity surfing. Are you and I that weak, or has someone knowingly and willfully stolen our focus? The answer is the latter, according to Johann Hari in the book Stolen focus. Someone is behind it, and leaders like King Musk and Emperor Zuckenberg do not have our best interest at heart. The business is to make money. A lot of money.

An extreme digital detox

Journalist Hari felt the same way as me. He thought he was weak. That he was lazy and unfocused. That he just had to create frames for himself in order not to be so caught up in the web. That it was his responsibility alone not to click on. It's just a matter of being disciplined and putting down the mobile phone, but he couldn't do it. In desperation, Hari therefore made a decision to go through an extreme digital detox. For three months he lived by the beach in Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod in the United States. He would disconnect the virtual life and connect the real life. With him he only took a phone that could only be used to make calls, and a broken computer that had lost the ability to connect to the internet. The three months and what he experienced then are the framework for his latest book Stolen focus, which is now available in Norwegian translation.

The ability to concentrate

While he talks about his offline existence by the sea in little drops, we follow the author on his epic journey around the world in the years that followed the detox. He interviewed over 200 scientists to investigate why we have lost the ability to concentrate.

Among other things, we meet the ideas of the Norwegian social anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen, who in the book elaborates on the thesis of Danish Sune Lehmans, a researcher who concludes that we actually has lost concentrationthe seven. It's not just something we imagine. The world is speeding up, everything has to go faster, and this acceleration is shrinking attention spans. Social media are the main drivers, but the process has been going on since the 1880s. The reason why this can be timed like this, believes Hylland Eriksen, is the idea of ​​economic growth. Since the Industrial Revolution, the principle of uninterrupted growth has been a pillar of our economies. A company must grow, year by year. One of the ways it can do that now, according to Hylland Eriksen, is to get us to do more within the same time frame. If we both watch TV and are on our mobile at the same time, we see twice as many adverts. The notion of eternal economic growth may therefore be an underlying force behind the reasons why we lose concentration.

Most possible time online

Hari also talks to scientists who point to other reasons such as environmental toxins, interrupted mental flight (we don't have time to let our minds wander), physical and mental exhaustion, stress, but also reasons such as surveillance capitalism, collection of data and manipulating technology.

Manipulative technology characterized by that Social Media designed to create the greatest possible 'engagement', i.e. get the user to spend as much time as possible online. The more time you spend in a place, the more money the companies make. Continuous scrolling, for example – which was invented by one of Firefox's designers, Aza Raskin, makes us spend at least 50 percent more of our time on social media. Before this invention, the internet worked so that you got down to a page and it "stopped"; you had to choose to click on. For a few seconds, you had an active choice as to whether you wanted to read on. Continuous scrolling changed this radically. Ethical reflections on such manipulation are almost completely absent.

The conclusion is that we have actually lost our ability to concentrate.

Hari's main message is that the stolen focus is rooted in structural problems, which cannot be solved by individuals alone. Few of us will be able to take time off from the online community. Folk mustn't work, they mustn't online to organize their lives. But: We can create solutions that make it possible to take time off.

«Attention rebellions»

According to Hari, it is not just a problem at the individual level that we have become more absent. He believes that the crisis of focus is directly dangerous for democracy and can contribute to forming totalitarian systems of government. Among other things, he writes: "Democracy requires a population that is attentive long enough to identify real problems, separate them from fantasy, find solutions, and hold their leaders accountable if they fail to fulfill their promises." The author also believes that one of the reasons why we are unable to do our best together to minimize climate and environmental breakdown is precisely that we have lost the ability to concentrate. It is serious.

We must organize ourselves, become «attention rebellions». Attendance training on a personal level is not enough.

Stolen focus is an important, vital and wise book. It goes straight into one of the most important conversations we have in our society today. It also gets opponents to ban , bil#s at school to appear like pure idiots.

Nina Ossavy
Nina Ossavy
Ossavy is a stage artist and writer.

You may also like