Distracted Minds: The Modern-Day Epidemic and How Libraries Are Helping

Life may feel busier than ever, but your library can help you cultivate more calm through mindfulness.

Did you know humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish?

As the years go on, it’s becoming more and more evident that we as a society are in the midst of a distraction epidemic. Our culture has shifted toward instant gratification, quick and convenient entertainment, and rapid dopamine hits. The prevalence of technology, short-form internet videos, and social media has only made things worse, and studies show that the average human attention span has decreased drastically over the past few years, with no signs of stopping anytime soon.

So, what can we do to remedy the issue? As with many similar problems, the solution is far simpler than one would expect, and the libraries throughout our communities play a vital role.


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The Contributing Factors

What exactly is causing the distraction epidemic? While many people choose to blame smartphones and be done with it, that minimizes the reality of the issue and ultimately makes it that much more difficult to truly solve. The rise of smartphones is a major contributor, yes, but it’s also a symptom in and of itself.

At its core, the issue is a cultural shift in which speed is valued above anything and everything else. You’re encouraged to get as much done as possible at work. Then, you're tired by the time you get home, so you throw together a quick meal. Afterward, you may find yourself too exhausted to engage in involved hobbies, so instead, you just scroll through your socials until it’s time for bed.

Essentially, you, and each and every one of us for that matter, are encouraged to do everything at such a rapid pace that it’s nearly impossible to sit down and focus on a single task. Our minds and attention spans have adapted, becoming more suited to what we’re encouraged to do and frustratingly inept at what we want to do. 

Simply put, the distraction epidemic is a far more complex issue than most people realize or give it credit for, and that’s part of why it’s had such a marked impact over the years.

The Impact of the Distraction Epidemic

The ultimate impact of the distraction epidemic is that people no longer have time to do the things they love doing. And when they do, they often lack the energy. After months or even years of continuing at the pace we’re encouraged to work at, we become burned out and exhausted, impacting not only our attention span but also our ability to take in and cherish the little things in life.


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What Are Libraries Doing to Help?

Libraries across the country are working to combat this epidemic of distraction and give people a chance to live a more present, engaged life. Many libraries, like the LA County Library, now host mindfulness programs for visitors of all ages, teaching people how to disconnect from the stressors and distractions of everyday life. 

Libraries are, of course, also the perfect place to exercise the skills learned from these workshops. Many local libraries host frequent community events attended by a wide range of people, allowing visitors to slow down for a moment, get to know a few new people in their community, and just enjoy each others’ presence.

Although it’s not an instant process by any means, by encouraging people to appreciate life’s small pleasures again, libraries hope to rekindle that sense of community lost to our chronically distracted culture. And with time, they’re sure to bring about a better, healthier culture as a result.

If you’re interested in the ways that libraries are working to help improve their communities and the cultures within them, feel free to visit us at EveryLibrary today!



Visit www.everylibrary.org to learn more about our work on behalf of libraries. 

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