Google, Sesame Street and the Laws of the Diminishing Attention Span


Phew that’s a mouthful. But if I was doing my phD, that would be the title of my dissertation (no one go stealing that!).

The diminishing attention span is one of the staples of the wax-nostalgic set of those believing there was once some form of true stability in this world. Ah, when I was young, “x” was so much better.

Let’s be at least a little realistic here.

Prices have always seemed high to us mere mortals. Children always seem to be getting more spoiled, more cheeky and more self-entitled.  And when exactly was there affordable housing in a major city center?

Now we’re getting to my point here, the “evils” of the world have always existed, in some relative form.  In other words, as far back as memory goes (and that’s not far if we believe the very question) haven’t attention spans always been shrinking or drifting?

Whether or not Sesame Street has had a (negative) effect on children’s attention span and their ability to learn (rather than be entertained), has been debated by parents, educators and the self-diagnosed ADD for years. Instead of simply learning the alphabet, seated straight spined at desk, children now learned their ABC’s from singing and dancing Muppets. How children, and therefore adults learned began to change, and not everyone was sure (or continues to be sure) that this was a good thing.

So, now here’s the real point, is Google (being almost the generic name for search engines) the Sesame Street of this generation?  As Nicholas Carr in his article in The Atlantic on Google and the diminishing attention span asks “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

Carr, once an avid reader, laments his diminishing ability to concentrate or read long passages.

“Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

The culprit? Not aging, but the changing ways in which we learn. Thanks to, the Internet, and the Internet’s best-friend, Google.  He continues:

“I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet…. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing.”

With the easy access to information, that in itself contains further hyper-linked information, all just a click away, our minds (and eyes) tend to wander, perhaps in the very fashion of a meandering, tangential conversation. We can now only read in spinets. The quest for educational entertainment (or entertaining education) has simply moved to today’s media forum – from television to the Internet, from grade school to office cubicle.

Is it all that early childhood television watching that made us so impressionable? Is that why we need a singing alphabet to learn to read and a search engine to help us forget that we once knew how? Or is it simply a matter of things simply changing.



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One Response to “Google, Sesame Street and the Laws of the Diminishing Attention Span”

  1. sandrar Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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