new watches and the shrinking attention span

A bit of insomnia struck around 5am Sydney time, and I thought I’d check the predictable hysteria around the new Apple product launch. As everyone expected, there’s a new set of phones, and a new wearable device: the Apple Watch, as they’re calling it.

The headlines are varied, but predictable: “everything you need to know about” and “why I won’t be buying one” pieces were written within the hour of the announcement. There’s plenty of places to read such things, but I think the product announcement raises some additional issues.

An article at (satirical news site) The Onion written over a month ago – Americans demand new form of media to bridge entertainment gap while looking from laptop to phone taps into the issue that the device raises. Never mind that the announcement of a consumer electronics product (not even available for sale on the day of announcement) is a major global news story, pushing everything else down the headlines.

What does our desire for wearable electronics tell us about our state of mind? Until today’s product launch, the primary use case I’ve heard for a “smart watch” is to access notifications from apps, and to work on the usual phone functionality when it’s too much trouble to lift the phone out of your pocket, swipe to unlock it, and check a particular app.

Are we letting the ongoing desire for the latest shiny consumable make decisions about the kind of people we want to be? To set the standard for what we want to prioritise (the urgent versus the important)? To push our attention span shorter and shorter? To limit our ability to deal with boredom?

There are a lot of screens around me as I write this. I’m trying to be more judicious in my choice of screen time, and more deliberate in what I do with my attention. Will you join me?

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