The New York Times

Attention Deficit

I recently stumbled across a quote, rendered in friendly block lettering and posted, naturally, on the internet: “Perhaps figuring out what matters most matters most.” I couldn’t tell if it was meant to be inspirational or a joke. Funny as it sounds, it is a widespread, fervid belief that we are failing to concentrate on the things that actually matter. If only we could pay attention where attention must be paid! Instead, we fritter away our energy on frivolous distractions! Our inability to focus is framed as weakness, moral failure, neuropathology; as the byproduct of sugar, artificial colors, video games, loopy brain chemistry, social media. Distraction, we say, will be the death of us. This is the way the world ends — not with a bang but a ding. From your iPhone.

Until recently, these distractions were easy to spot; you knew one when you saw one, and we all basically agreed on what mattered and

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