Here’s My Thoughts

Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention

Johann Hari delivers, again!

Hari’s last book, Lost Connections, (previously reviewed) about depression was informative and meticulously researched. The same is true of Stolen Focus.

Being able to pay attention is something that benefits all of us yet it is a skill that feels like it’s slipping away from us. If you’re like me you probably blame your lack of willpower and self-control when you can’t seem to overcome distractions and focus. However, most of us know that it is way more difficult than it sounds and Hari explains why.

Hari sets out 12 causes that he attributes to our inability to pay attention from the rise of technology that can manipulate us, the increase of mental exhaustion and overwhelm to pollution. What was most illuminating about this book for me was the extent to which external forces, forces we may hardly be aware of, are exerting influence over where and how we direct our attention and stealing it away from things that matter to us (and to the world at large). The problem is not one of a lack of willpower or a personal failing but of existing in an environment where we’re bombarded with seductive, manipulative distractions.

Every time you send a message on Instagram, Facebook or other social media and every time you search something on Google every detail of what you write, click on or search is scanned, collected and collated by those companies to create a profile of you. The more information they collect the more it resembles you and the more accurately it can predict what information to put in front of you. This information is valuable and sold to advertisers who want to target you and they’re extremely good at it! So much so that sometimes it can feel like social media companies are listening to your private conversations.

As usual with Hari, Stolen Focus, was researched thoroughly. He spent years travelling the globe to interview experts for this book – he spoke with neuroscientists, psychologists and Silicon Valley insiders.

Happily, although he does not claim to have all the solutions, Hari offers some valuable insights into what can be done on a macro level to improve our focus and, most interestingly, he gives some practical tips we can follow to help restore our ability to concentrate.

Here’s a link to my review of Lost Connections, also by Johann Hari:

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