A Brand-New Kind of Attention Deficit

When we talk about our attention deficit problems , we’re often referring to our inability to focus on a task.

But there is another attention deficit that is a result of the changing world around us.

Our smartphones are direct links to the people we know, the people we don’t know, and the information we need. With each new app, we create the possibility for more connections and more notifications.

As we are exposed to new people, we become part of a bigger network or networks.

Naturally we assume these additional people and communication channels will make us feel more included and more connected…and it does, but it comes at a cost.

Addicted to attention

Addiction is characterized by frequent and consistent usage, a need for greater doses to achieve the same effect, and withdrawal symptoms.

The more channels we have for people to pay attention to us, the more attention we expect. More attention we get, the more attention we need. When we don’t get the attention, we feel something as a result, often sadness or loneliness.

So we sit there, by ourselves, and sometimes with other people, and check for notifications. We fill the quiet time obsessively looking for attention.

The growing attention deficit problem exists in the difference between the attention we’re getting, versus the amount we need to feed the addiction.

Related: Is Social Media Making Us Less Social?

This is a burden that the selfie generation will carry, but it’s not limited to “those young kids.” The desire to be acknowledged is a universal human trait.

Since acknowledgement can now be as simple as clicking a like button, it’s no wonder why we’d end up here, counting likes and seeing marketers clamor for engagement.

As the number of channels grows, so too will this deficit.

This is only an observation.

I have no solution.

But I am fascinated by the irony that we created social channels to be more connected, and instead wound up with FOMO, curated versions of our lives, and an attention deficit that ultimately leaves many people feeling less connected .