Johann Hari: “This is an extract from my book, where I explain how being constantly interrupted is one of the 12 factors destroying our attention—and why there are lots of other causes, ones I hadn’t even thought of until I began this research.”
The stories people save to Pocket reveal something unique—not only about what’s occupying our collective attention, but also about what we aspire to be. This year, our data showed a few key themes, including an urgent interest in resetting our relationships with technology. To explore and expand upon this topic, we enlisted Johann Hari, the New York Times bestselling author who kicked off 2022 with the release of his book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—And How to Think Deeply Again. —Pocket team
We are living through an enormous crisis in attention and focus. The average American office worker focuses on any one task for only three minutes. For every one child with serious attention problems in 1986, there are now 100 children. Why is this happening to us? I spent three years interviewing over 200 of the leading experts on this question—and I learned there’s scientific evidence pointing to several causes of this crisis.
If you’re struggling to focus, or your kid is—it’s not your fault. You’re not weak. This is happening because of deep social causes. My book is called Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—And How to Think Deeply Again because your attention didn’t collapse—it’s been stolen from you. But once we understand why this is happening, we can start to get our brains back.
The most important thing to know is that we don’t have to live like this. We don’t have to tolerate our brains, and our kids’ brains, being invaded and degraded. We are not medieval peasants begging at the court of King Musk and King Zuckerberg for a few little crumbs of attention from their tables. We are the free citizens of democracies, and together, we can take our brains back. That’s what my book is all about, and what this reading list aims to explore. So turn off your phone’s notifications, close the rest of your tabs, and dive in. —Johann Hari
JH: “This is an intelligent piece from The Washington Post about why it’s important to change your own behavior as an isolated individual—but we also need to actually take on the forces that are doing this to us at a collective level.”
JH: “It’s not just our individual attention that’s collapsing—our collective attention is rapidly deteriorating too. My friend Professor Jonathan Haidt explains the ways in which our degraded attention are making our politics stupid and democracy impossible.”
JH: “Most of us know somebody who’s become ‘Twitter poisoned’—they become ranty, angry all the time, and narcissistic. The tech legend Jaron Lanier explains how it happened to Kanye, Musk and Trump—and what that tells us about what’s happening to us all.”
JH: “The artificial intelligence that is being used by social media companies to manipulate us is only becoming more sophisticated—and it’s starting to create its own culture.”
JH: “The pandemic shattered our rhythms, routines, and safety. How do we start to get our attention back after that? A thoughtful piece about the challenges students are facing now.”
JH: “The Washington Post reviewed my book and explained how the reviewer—their tech editor—was persuaded this is a big crisis we’re all going to have to deal with.”
Go deeper on how we can reclaim our minds. Buy the NYT bestseller now.
Johann Hari is the author of three New York Times best-selling books, and the Executive Producer of an Oscar-nominated movie and an eight-part TV series starring Samuel L. Jackson. His books have been translated into 38 languages, and been praised by a broad range of people, from Oprah to Noam Chomsky, from Elton John to Naomi Klein. His latest book, Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention, was published in January 2022, and received rave reviews everywhere from the Washington Post to the Irish Times to the Sydney Morning Herald. It has been a best-seller on three continents.