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The Unreliable Guide to…Attention Span

By Nat Shepherd on May 31, 2021 in Satire

Short memory, must have a…shooooort memory. Photo: Ember Byrnes

Wait… what? Did you actually take a second to read this? Are you still here? In which case, congratulations, you may well have an attention span way above average. Studies suggest that our addiction to technology has shortened our attention span from an average of twelve minutes to a paltry five. We’ve got so used to soundbites, clickbait videos and two-minute news feeds our brains have been rewired. We get fidgety if we’re expected to focus for long periods of time, forgetting what happened last week, let alone last year. Think I’m exaggerating? Well, The Unreliable Guide has some examples that suggest we all might have the memory of a goldfish.

South Coast Property Boom
Property has always been the number one favourite topic in the Eastern Suburbs, but now it seems like the rest of the country has gone property bonkers as well. This is nothing new, but what fascinates me is how Sydney is buying up huge swathes of property in places that only a year ago were ablaze. I have a friend who very nearly lost her South Coast home last year. She said it was terrifying, the worst six weeks of her life. They were evacuated five times and she still suffers from the lung damage caused by all the smoke inhalation. The local fire service has warned residents that due to climate change it’s inevitable these events will happen more and more often. At the start of 2020 she was desperate to sell but imagined no one would touch her leafy town with a bargepole. Fast forward a year and, after a furious bidding war between Sydneysiders desperate to buy a piece of paradise, she’s just sold her house for twice what she’d expected. While we’ve forgotten about all the poor buggers still trying to rebuild, the rest of the South Coast is cashing in on Sydney’s short-term memory for the fires that devastated their communities.

What Pandemic?
Is COVID-19 now C-over? Is corona just a beer again? Despite the fact that hardly any of us are vaccinated, we’ve either forgotten all about the pandemic or have collectively decided that it’s finished. Lockdown? Can’t remember that. Masks? So last week. Social distancing? Is that the new term for avoiding the weekend Westies at Bondi? Australia’s insularity around COVID-19 is astounding to anyone from anywhere else in the world, but this normality is a luxury we should not be taking for granted. Lest we forget, the COVID death toll currently stands at well over three million. To quote Fortune magazine, “The coronavirus has now killed more Americans than the Vietnam War, Gulf War, Afghanistan War, and Iraq War combined.” And it ain’t over yet.

Apocalypse Now?
The happy clappy god-bothering doom merchants must be loving the last few years. They’ve been clutching the Book of Revelation and waiting for the God-Uber to turn up for a long, long time. I think they’re nuts, but it does feel like the world is trying to tell us something. Yet each fresh disaster – bushfires, floods, pandemic plague, that bizarre pestilence of mice – is front page for a week or two and then forgotten. After a while we lose interest, decide the panic is over and click on the next news-bait: OMG, a Kardashian is divorcing her own bum!

Finally, why do we forget so quickly? Are we just shaved and suited monkeys who forget all about the approaching pride of lions if someone waves a banana in our face? Sure, that’s a factor, but we are actively encouraged to flick, flick, flick onto the next thing. That’s what makes us all so very easy to manipulate. Look! Shiny new thing! Gotcha!