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Why your mind wanders

Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention By Johann Hari; Published by Bloomsbury Publishing; 352 pages; ₹550

Johann Hari awakens us to an epidemic of stolen attention, and  puts us on a programme of de-addiction from the 'behavioural cocaine'.

Are you reading this with undivided attention — or are your ears and your mind alert to the beep of notifications from WhatsApp or Facebook? Chances are that you're distracted, but you're not alone. We are all struggling to focus on one thing at a time, and it doesn't help that technology is spreading our attention thin between multiple screens. It is drawing us away from what we want to do: it's sort of a Collective Attention Deficit disorder. Journalist-writer Johann Hari, in his book Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention, reckons that this a "real crisis, and an urgent one".

In sensitising us to our "stolen focus", Hari covers three areas: How much attention have we lost? What has contributed to this? And how can we get it back?

As I read the book, I felt myself experiencing a range of emotions. For one, Hari makes us pause and reflect. At other times, I felt angry at big tech companies and at political leaders. On occasion, I felt hopeful, but that soon gave way to a touch of sadness. But through it all, I could not stop turning the pages. In fact, ironically, while I was reading the book, everything else became a distraction. Hari has a lively narrative style, which he fuses with the curiosity of a journalist and the fast pace of thriller writers Vince Flynn and Kyle Mills.

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