Social Enterprise

Peter Cochrane's Blog: How much time are you wasting on online time-wasters?

If you're not careful, social media and the internet make the trivial important...

Social media at work

Social media has massively increased the scope for interaction but also for wasting time on trivial contactsPhoto: Shutterstock

Written in a Paris coffee shop and dispatched to silicon.com via a free wi-fi service at 35Mbps on the same day.

Human attention is easily diverted. Given half a chance, it always focuses on the trivial and inconsequential. In the world of the internet, that tendency is amplified.

I have long observed that people spend more time agonising over the choice of a pack of bacon in the supermarket than the purchase of a house or a car. When I examine my own life I find valuable - and irrecoverable - time eaten away by non-productive and non-profitable activities. In short, trivia rules.

Manifestations of this inverse attention span phenomenon include security, where company time is afforded to email and firewalls at the expense of the insider threat, and local government, where the colour of toilet doors vies with the building of a new road. The least important always seems to win. On another level, I find myself wasting time communicating and meeting people I should have bypassed in favour of those who really deserve my attention, and those who could help me in a big way. How come?

It seems to be a fundamental law of the universe and humanity. And if we didn't behave in this manner nothing would improve and move on anyway. We do it when we raise our children, as we run our education system and manage people.

The really big problem is...

About

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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