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Relationship between attention crisis and fascism: “Authoritarianism attracts people who can’t concentrate”

“When you die, you don’t want to be remembered for the time you spent on Instagram, but for what you were worth.” And for that, according to Johan Hari: “We have to fight to regain attention.” The promoter sheds light on what he describes as a “major crisis” in the “cost of attention”. Why was it stolen from us and how can we get it back (the planet). A solid and poignant essay that, while it does emit some halos of optimism, is troubling because since its inception, it seems that no one is exempt from this “epidemic” with no beneficiaries.

Nevertheless, the author of Tras el grito and Conexiones perdadas assures this newspaper that he is “optimistic” about the context, because after traveling the world, interviewing experts in human concentration, he concluded: “People are hungry to regain attention, like you. Once you get there, you want more because it makes you feel competent and able to reach your goals again.” Perhaps the most widely held view is that this problem has been exacerbated by the advent of the Internet, cell phones, and social media. But Harry points out that this has happened before and there are many more factors involved. Among them, stress and diet.

“We’re eating diets that produce constant energy spikes and crashes,” he says, “and they’re loaded with chemicals that seem to act on our brains like drugs. “The food was going through a deep degeneration. In the mid-20th century, it rapidly shifted from fresh to pre-cooked and processed,” he adds, warning that “exposure to pollution and industrial chemicals” seriously impairs the ability to concentrate.”

Likewise, this condition does not affect a person in the same way, but leads to a lack of reflection, creativity, relaxation and ultimately unhappiness. “Anything that requires depth is suffering. It brings us more and more to the surface,” he laments. We’ll make more mistakes, we’ll be less creative, and we’ll remember less of what we do.”

The solution, he argues, involves a collective response: “We all see that it brings us down.” Because, in fact, it doesn’t just affect the individual level, it affects societies as a whole. “As a species we face a succession of traps and ambushes, such as the climate crisis, and, unlike previous generations, we generally do not act to solve our greatest challenges,” he criticizes.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this crisis of attention coincides with the worst crisis of democracy since the 1930s. People who can’t concentrate are more likely to gravitate towards overly simplistic solutions. And they are unlikely to do so. They realize they don’t work,” he writes, warning of the great danger it poses and how closely related it is to the rise of the far right. “It’s not the only reason, but it’s a very important factor,” he says.

“Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter make money in two ways: advertising and the time we keep scrolling. Everything we do on them is analyzed by artificial intelligence, which tries to figure out what we are like. They have a lot of information that they use to find. Find out what makes us last longer in apps,” he shares about social media “monitoring”. Harry explains that “they found that people pay more attention to posts that make them angry or sad than to posts that make them feel good. The results are terrifying.”

The broadcaster appreciates that Jair Bolsonaro was a figure who had no recognition “until YouTube and the algorithms started to promote him. It was seen how he went viral when he told a deputy that he would not rape her because she did not deserve it. In full Congress ” . It is no coincidence that on the day of his victory in the elections, his followers shouted “Facebook, Facebook!”, he says. Harry claims that from the social network they investigated the effects of their own dynamics, one of their conclusions was that recommendations made among users would also contribute to, for example, “expansion of neo-Nazi groups”.

Disruption of focus, whatever the activity, is damaging to self-esteem because, according to the promoter, it leads to a “loss of sense of self.” And if this happens on an individual level, what about the people around us? What room is left for love and attachment? “Attention is the deepest form of love. If you think about your childhood, the most valuable are the moments when someone paid attention to you,” claims the author, for whom his grandmother spent hours reading books. When she was little is one of her favorite memories.

Harry suggests “reclaiming childhood” because it is a crucial life period in the development of future societies. Apart from regretting that the image of playgrounds full of children playing is practically non-existent, he is committed to “exercise” as one way of promoting the ability to concentrate. “We’re the first generation in history that wants them to sit down all the time. It’s crazy,” he criticizes. As part of the game, he says, “If they do it without being surrounded by adults telling them what to do all the time, they’ll learn to deal with anxiety. And you can’t pay attention to anything if you’re anxious all the time,” he details.

Harry spends an entire chapter analyzing the rise in diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which in the United States increased by 43% between 2003 and 2011 in the child population. Currently, 13% of the country’s teenagers have the same assessment, and as a result “they are given strong stimulant drugs.” “We know that this trend has coincided with other significant changes in the lifestyles of children. Now they are allowed to run much less. They eat a very different diet,” he explains. They have little room to store their curiosity.

Despite the seriousness with which he describes the attention crisis, the author makes it clear that the awareness of its existence should not lead to guilt. “You have to understand that we shouldn’t feel bad because it’s hard for us to pay attention. Not even if it happens to our children. There is nothing wrong with them or us, this is about our lives. If we understand that, we can start to sort things out,” he urges. “We’ve come this far without knowing how it’s going to affect us.” For this reason, he insists on taking advantage of the opportunity that opens up: “We have to decide what we want and fight for it. We can do a lot to protect ourselves.” “Attention is our superpower”, – Trench.

Source: El Diario

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