Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention--and How to Think Deeply Again

by Johann Hari

Hardcover, 2022


Crown (2022), 368 pages


"Our ability to pay attention is collapsing. From the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections comes a groundbreaking examination of why this is happening-and how to get our attention back. Like so many of us, Johann Hari was finding it much harder to focus than he used to. He found that a life of constantly switching from device to device, from tab to tab, is diminishing and depressing. He tried all sorts of self-help solutions-even abandoning his phone for three months-but in the long-term, nothing seemed to work. So Hari went on an epic journey across the world to interview the leading experts on human attention and to study their scientific findings-and learned that everything we think we know about this crisis is wrong. In the U.S., teenagers now focus on a task for only sixty-five seconds on average, and office workers manage only three minutes. We think this inability to focus is a personal flaw, an individual failure to exert enough willpower over our devices. The truth is even more disturbing: Our focus has been stolen by powerful external forces, and the science shows that these forces have been ramping up for decades-leaving us uniquely vulnerable, when social media arrived, to corporations determined to raid our attention for profit. These forces have been so successful that our collapse in attention is behind many of the wider problems society faces. In Stolen Focus, Hari embarks on a thrilling journey, taking readers from veterinarians who diagnose dogs with ADHD, to Silicon Valley dissidents who exposed social media companies' furtive attempts to hack our focus; from a favela in Rio where everyone lost their attention in a particularly catastrophic way, to an office in New Zealand that discovered a remarkable technique to restore their workers' attention. In this urgent, deeply researched book, Hari shows that if we understand the twelve true causes of this crisis-from the collapse of sustained reading to the disruption of boredom to rising pollution-we, as individuals and as a society, can finally begin to solve it by staging an "attention rebellion." Finally, we have a way to get our focus back"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member capewood
2023 Book #30. 2022. Although it says "How to" right in the cover it's not a how to book. He presents 12 reasons why you can't focus, like, not enough sleep, phones, email, and more complicated reasons which you can't fix. Kind of an interesting read but not very helpful.
LibraryThing member dirving57
One likes to read books about things which one knows reasonably well. Stolen Focus was like that for me. One likes to read books which mention important authors from one's past. Stolen Focus was like that for me. Having made a study of the psychology of attention, it was good to revisit the subject.
LibraryThing member MichaelK12345
Good book on how modern technology and advertising is designed to distract you and some tips on being less distracted.
LibraryThing member neurodrew
The people of the world are losing their ability to pay attention, causing loss of ability to solve problems
Hari is alarmed by his own decreasing attention span, and explores many reasons why this might be so, focusing (a pun in this context) on the design of phone and computer apps. He travels and
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does interviews, talking with former app designers, biologists who believe that food additives and pollution contribute to the problem, and veers into false information on the internet and generated by governments. He argues for taking to the streets to demand action, and hews to a politically progressive agenda. I think his arguments for pollution and food additives causing attention loss are weak, and his prose seems simplistic, but the book does move along and is interesting.
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LibraryThing member ElizabethCromb
Stimulating and interesting research into why we can't focus our attention any more; how and why it has and continues to change; what we can do individually and what needs to happen in our societies to bring about major change.
LibraryThing member john.cooper
This well-researched and intelligently argued book brilliantly explains precisely what factors have led to nearly all of us losing the ability to concentrate deeply on a single topic for more than a few minutes—and not incidentally, have contributed to our society wobbling and threatening to go
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completely off the rails. The good news is that I think we can conclusively say what the causes are (and their primary origins in the period from 2005 to 2007). The bad news is that we're not going to be able to fix the problem through individual regimens akin to weight-loss programs, such as periodic unplugging from social media. Fixing this will take broad, regulated, collective effort, probably by government. The author is hopeful; I'm not. I recommend this book to anyone concerned about our seemingly dystopian present, but as a starting point to a necessary conversation, not as a blueprint of solutions.
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