Stolen Focus by Johann Hari: Social media, technology and why you can’t pay attention

Book review: An accessible piece of work that sometimes veers into TED Talk territory

Johann Hari notes that 57 per cent of Americans do not read a single book in the span of a year.

Johann Hari notes that 57 per cent of Americans do not read a single book in the span of a year.

A decade ago, when I interviewed the writer Nicholas Carr about his book The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember, he said a motivation for writing the then-controversial book was his growing realisation that he, a passionate lover of books, increasingly struggled to concentrate on any long-form piece of writing. “I really began to realise in a way that frustrated me that I really couldn’t sit down and read, not just a book but even a long article, with any degree of attention.”

Dismissed sceptically by many web-loving detractors as a misguided and unhip attempt to blame technology for his distraction, Carr’s book now impresses with foresight. Appropriately, he is namechecked as a pioneer in recognising our still-growing attention deficits by Johann Hari in this fresh and well-evidenced exploration of what Hari deftly describes as our collective “mental jet lag”.

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