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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Ugh, today's kids are forgetting the old-fashioned art of absentmindedly reading the same half-page of a book over and over and then letting your attention wander and picking up another book.
Title text: Ugh, today's kids are forgetting the old-fashioned art of absentmindedly reading the same half-page of a book over and over and then letting your attention wander and picking up another book.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Early-Bird Draft. Temporary synopsis. Reorganization and details reccommended.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

Cueball is seen at his desk in front of four devices. He has clearly run out of things to do, or is looking for an excuse to procrastinate. A flowchart describes the process by which he scans the whole environment for something to do, which everyone can relate to.

The comic uses electronics likely because they are the common timekiller these days, and are most likely to contain fresh, tantalizing entertainment. News sites can be viewed as a good source of yet-to-be-seen content. Yet the search yields no interesting content, or the results don't garner enough attention, thus the blank stares and moving on to next device in line.

The title text notes that this probably still happened before there were electronics and the internet, when most entertainment came from books. The point made is that, while Internet and modern electronic devices are often blamed for jeopardizing the minds of adolescents, the attention span of “the kids” is no worse than it ever was, either in the context of low-tech or high-tech media.

Transcript

[Cueball sits at a desk, accompanied by numerous electronics - a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone.]
Stare blankly at screen -> open news site -> start reading -> get bored -> absentmindedly check smaller device

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