Train your brain to focus again

Avery Boulware, Campus Carrier Editor in Chief

Do you remember when you got your first smart phone? I know I do. I had to save up my babysitting money for about a year to finally buy an IPhone 4 in the winter of my freshman year of high school.

It was everything that I dreamed it would be, and more. I immediately downloaded Instagram and Facebook (Twitter and Snapchat didn’t really exist yet) and found the perfect photo for the phone’s wallpaper.

No longer did I have to carry around both my flip phone and my iPod touch to be entertained. Now, it was all combined in this sleek new device, housed in a very clunky Otter Box case.

I loved my phone, but I wasn’t attached to it. Not like I am now. I now own an iPhone 7, and with each new upgrade, I have felt my dependence grow stronger and stronger.

I have recently begun to notice a severe decline in my attention span, especially since I have come to college. This is an incredibly inconvenient coincidence. I am doing at least twice the work I did in high school, but it feels four times more difficult. I can hardly read one page of a textbook without getting fidgety and checking my phone. This is especially comical when my Instagram feed looks no different than it did when I checked my phone two minutes before.

But prolonged attention on one subject will be the death of me. On Instagram, I only have to look at a photo for a few seconds before moving on to something else, and I only have to read a few words at a time.
In fact, if your caption is long enough to require a “read more” button, I probably won’t read it. I mourn this loss of attention.

I have checked my phone three times since beginning to write this. As a child, I spent most afternoons and evenings reading whatever I had checked out from the school library that day. I could devour a novel a week. I ruled the Accelerated Reading program.

In contrast, I have read two short books for pleasure in the last year. I haven’t finished a required novel for any of my English classes since coming to Berry (which may not be wise to admit in a campus-wide publication, but here we are). My ten-year-old self would be disappointed.

The problem is not unique to my brain, of course. According to research presented by, the average American’s attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015. For comparison’s sake, a goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds. In other words, if you’ve read my piece this far, you’re doing great. Keep going!

I’m not proposing we throw our phones into the ocean and go off the grid. Digital communication is amazing. Through technology, we can learn more and learn it faster. We can save more lives and reach more people and serve one another better.

I’m proposing we begin to retrain our brains. Just like we exercise to keep our bodies in shape, we truly must keep our brains in shape.

I’m going to try to watch a whole movie without checking my phone. I’m going to do more puzzles and read more books. I’m going to try and make my fifth-grade self proud.

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