What Is Your Favorite Shared Experience?

Humans are a social species. We like to connect with other humans, to share ideas and experiences. A shared experience, like a movie or a concert, is more enjoyable than the same activity done in isolation.

As such, things we can do together have a special place in our psyches. We remember where we were when a impactful moment happens, one that everyone knows. The moon landing. 9/11. The space shuttle Challenger explosion.

Often these events can be traumatic, like the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. or JFK. But they can also be a cultural event, like the final episode of a TV show like M*A*S*H or Seinfeld. Or a movie like The Avengers, or a sporting event like the Super Bowl.

Personally, I don’t know much about Game of Thrones. I’ve never read any of the books or seen any of the TV shows. But I felt a sense of loss as the final few episodes aired recently.

The shows aren’t going anywhere. Now that they are all done, I can binge watch the whole thing any time I want. But the communal feeling that viewers had, knowing that a large percentage of society was paying attention, cannot be recaptured.

I wish I had been part of a viewing party. Or been able to talk to friends or co-workers about what shocking thing happened last night. Or been able to appreciate the late night talk show jokes, or read any of the seemingly endless blogs or magazine articles dissecting every minor detail of each of the last few episodes.

Those moments, of a shared community, makes us feel like we are part of more than just our tiny selves.

When have you felt a part of a cultural moment? What is your favorite shared experience?

Related questions: What is your favorite experience? Where do shared ideas exist? Why do we feel the need to belong? What do we have in common? What makes a community?

What Deserves Your Attention?

Our brains are remarkable entities. We can perform some truly amazing mental feats, like learning language, memorization, pattern matching, and reading maps (among others). One of the less heralded skills is that of providing attention.

Every waking moment, your mind is focused on a task (and sometimes more than one if you try to multi-task). How you choose to spend your time is how your attention is allocated.

In our modern world, there is fierce competition for our attention. This serves as an illustration about how valuable it is. Entire industries revolve around how to capture — and keep — your attention.

In The News

For example, let’s consider a cable news program. A typical news show features several different items for you to pay attention to. An interview might be going on, so you might be listening to the content being spoken aloud. There is likely a graphic with the guest’s name and qualifications. This sometimes also updates to a notable quote or excerpt from the interview.

In addition, there may be a news scroll across the bottom of the screen with news headlines, and there may be a “breaking news” blurb specifically designed to draw your eyes. Often included is some sort of steady information, like the current time and temperature, or the state of the stock market. Finally, there is certainly a station identifier, to let you know exactly what channel you are viewing.

Having so much information available serves several purposes. The primary purpose — say, the interview — is presumably the reason to tune in initially. The others are there to provide information that might be helpful to you, but also to keep you from giving your attention to another source.

When you are watching a program like this, your attention is primarily focused on one item. However, there is likely some small percentage of your attention on each element on the screen.

Demands Of Social Media

Have you ever noticed that when usingĀ  a social media site like Facebook or Twitter, that you mean to do a quick check, but then find that half an hour or even more has passed without you realizing it? That happens because the layout and design of these sites are carefully crafted to capture and keep your attention. Facebook wants you to keep scrolling and Netflix wants you to keep binging.

With so many different demands on our valuable attention, have you given any thought to how you spend your time? News, family, your smartphone, the local sports team, a book: what deserves our attention?

Related questions: How do you set priorities? Are we too busy? What do you get out of social media? Is our attention fractured?