Please wait while attention span loads…

goldfish attention

How many apps do you currently have open on your smartphone or tablet right now?

I’ve recently started reading an iBook (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk) and aside from the process causing my eyes to strain and often inducing headaches, I’m also finding it a lot more difficult to concentrate on the content. My brain is not used to allocating a large amount of time or attention to one thing on my phone screen for a prolonged period of time. If I’m reading a paperback, I can read 2,3 chapters in one sitting. With an iBook, I struggle to get through 10 pages. Every few minutes my mind wanders and I find myself having to open another app on my phone as a distraction. That’s not to say the book isn’t incredibly interesting. It’s actually the most insightful book I’ve read in a long while and is fast becoming one of my favourites. It has taught me more about social media in the first 50 pages than I’ve learnt through my own explorations in the past 3 years. Ironically, the book cites that we now live in an ‘increasingly busy disjointed ADD world’ so is it any wonder that it is unable to hold my attention?

When was the last time you did just one thing? I don’t know about you but I tend to multi-task almost every moment of every day, I think we all do to some degree (there goes the myth that men can’t multi-task eh). Whether at work whilst replying to emails and simultaneously having your breakfast/lunch at your desk or at home whilst on a call on your hands free and hanging up your washing or putting away the dishes. Perhaps I’m on my own here though and not everyone rushes around like a crazed maniac undertaking several tasks at once. Is that not effective time management though? Or as I like to call it, time utilisation?

I don’t generally have this issue if I’m sat watching a film in the cinema or watching a live music performance. Perhaps because to do so would be regarded as rude. One would be deemed inconsiderate. You would be committing something that (at this present moment in time) still had some sort of a stigma attached to it; a social faux pas so to speak.

Towards the end of last year mother discovered the world of social media. I helped her set up a Facebook account and downloaded various apps for her on her smartphone. She’s also become part of several WhatsApp and Viber groups with friends and family. As a result she’s constantly glued to her phone screen! (Much in the same way I was in 2010 when I first joined Twitter). It’s gotten so ridiculous that we all have to tell her to put her phone away at the dinner table! This is another social faux pas. If you’re constantly on your phone whilst dining with someone you may be implying that person is not worthy of your attention (or at least not as worthy as social media). Not to say it would be completely unacceptable to ‘instagram’ a photo of your meal. I have seen several instances of groups of people standing and angling their phones to get that perfect #foodporn photo, meanwhile their food goes cold. Thus social media has interrupted the dining experiences and infiltrated our dinner tables. One could go so far as to say it has surpassed our need for nourishment. Or perhaps, more accurately, we now prioritise social media above most things and thus allocate most of our attention towards it. Whether subsequently, this shortened our attention spans, is a topic for debate. Clearly ‘Christopher Hooton’ of The Independent feels the same way as I happened upon his article yesterday that discusses the subject and compares our attention span to that of a goldfish. Ironically, as a child I would tap on the goldfish tank at school and startle the fish, then wait 3 seconds and do it again stating “he’s just forgotten that”. I was a somewhat tiresome child…Lol.

Thus, in a world in which we have become increasingly prone to distraction, is it any wonder that 6-second looping video apps such as Vine and Snapchat have become so successful? Or that in 2013 Instagram launched a 15-second video sharing feature.

Perhaps the problem is not only that we are prone to distraction due to digital media, but also that it has enabled a culture of impatience. We are used to being able to access a vast amount of information almost instantaneously and as such want to know and see everything all at once. Subconsciously, perhaps we think it impractical to allocate too much time to just one thing.

The result, however, may be that you end up taking 3 days to finish a blog post rather than an hour.

attention span

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