Book Banter: Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention–and How to Think Deeply Again

Janet Matthews, March 2023

British journalist Johann Hari’s message is much more than a cautionary tale about the invasive forces of technology and the benefits of a digital detox. Yes, my concentration unravels at times, and yes, my iPhone often is an extension of myself. These pervasive symptoms are no surprise. What is surprising is the question Hari probes through research, interviews and arguments: Are we unknowing victims of technology or do we allow technology to victimize us? Simply put, is our attention being stolen, robbing time from reading, creativity and sleep?

While there is much to unpack in this book, Stolen Focus is essentially an awareness campaign. Hari does not profess to be an expert and is not shy to name “Big Tech” as a culprit, using our personal data for profit. He is sounding the alarm about “surveillance capitalism” and “mental exhaustion,” as well as the need to recalibrate our well-being. It seems we have crossed a threshold with an unsettling vision of the future, unless we are willing to choose deep thinking over technological distractions.

Janet Matthews
Janet Matthews is a National Board and National Geographic Certified Teacher, Fulbright Scholar and recipient of several National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships. Her career spans over three decades during which she served as a middle and high school English Department Curriculum Leader and classroom teacher in the Mount Pleasant Central School District. Her interest in global education has included study programs in all seven continents including a science expedition to Antarctica and a TEACH Fellowship in the Middle East where she had an opportunity to work with the Ministries of Education in Bahrain and Qatar. Currently, Janet works as a learning specialist and STEAM developer for her district. Her academic background includes degrees in Reading, English, and Administration. As a member of the NYSEC Executive Board, she serves as the Friends of Excellence chair and shares her passion for reading as a frequent contributor to Book Banter. Putting tennis aside a little bit this summer, Janet will be exploring the monasteries of Bhutan.

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