Obviously, the way in which culture and ideas are presented have changed in recent decades. We are in a world of short attention spans. Thus, we don’t read books anymore, we read short pieces on the Internet, like this blog instead. This short attention span is also thought to be reflected in the use of cell phones, with people constantly multi-tasking and not being able to focus on one matter at a time. We have become so obsessed with portable devices and overwhelmed by content that we now have attention spans shorter than that of the previously jokingly juxtaposed goldfish.
A research report conducted by Microsoft surveyed 2000 people in order to determine the impact of mobile devices and the increased availability of digital media and information have had on our daily lives. In the year 2000 the average attention span was 12 seconds, however this has fallen to just 8 seconds.
The study reads:
“Canadians [who were tested] with more digital lifestyles (those o consume more media, are multi-screeners, social media enthusiasts, or earlier adopters of technology) struggle to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed.”
However, the report stated that although our sustained attention has decreased overall, it’s only true in the long-term:
“Early adopters and heavy social media users front load their attention and have more intermittent bursts of high attention. They’re better at identifying what they want/don’t want to engage with and need less to process and commit things to memory.”
Many of us can relate to the increasing inability to focus on tasks, being distracted by checking your phone or scrolling down a newsfeed. Thus, I created a small informal test that allows us to view what happens to someone’s attention in the presence of multiple media devices. I simply listed particular items that I purchased whilst grocery shopping to two of my friends (who have both consented to be videoed and published online) whilst they were using digital devices and asked them to repeat the list back to me.
As you can clearly see, the first participant was more receptive than the second. This however, may have been the result of varying digital devices as one was playing an online game and the other was on a mobile device. These results highlight the impact that technological devices have on our attention span. Maybe by the year 2020 our attention spans would have reduce down to a mere 6 seconds… but let’s be real, you all probably stopped reading this blog about 50 seconds ago anyway.