Tereza Litsa

28 December 2015

How Social Media Affects Your Attention Span

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How social media affects your attention spanWe are surrounded by bits of information and content and it seems like time is never enough to read and watch anything we want. With the Internet explosion, it’s almost impossible to avoid a distraction while working, with this distraction leading to the next one and the next one leading to a new one.

Quick questions:

When was the last time you actually read a long article?

When was the last time you watched a movie without any distraction?

When was the last time you checked your mail?

How often do you check your Facebook newsfeed?

According to Associated Press, the average attention span for 2013 was just 8 seconds, beating the 9-second attention span that the average goldfish has. What’s more, 17% of people visit a page for only 4 seconds, while only 4% of people visit a page for more than 10 minutes.

Did you know: the average attention span for 2013 was just 8 seconds. 

What are the effects of the social media attention span?

  • FOMO: Fear of Missing Out something important on social media. There is a constant need to check our social networks in case a friend posts something that we cannot miss.

lack of focus: do you struggle focusing for a long time? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

  • procrastination: it’s so easy to start clicking all over the Internet, even forgetting the reason you first browsed a site. Facebook, Youtube, and Pinterest are probably the reasons you haven’t worked that much today.
  • wandering brain: lack of focus leads to a wandering brain and a wandering brain leads to procrastination. So simple, but so difficult to prevent it!
  • new type of productivity: learn how to use the short attention span to increase your productivity. Is this possible? Yes, if you realize that you’re working faster than before, using all the available resources you need.
  • faster reactions: your increased productivity also leads to faster reactions and generally a faster working performance. Everything happens so fast anyway nowadays so you are obliged to keep up.
  • changing browsing habits: do you suffer from the multiple tab syndrome? How easy is it for you to keep only ONE tab open? As it seems, some people (also including me) are not bothered by the multiple open tabs. One the contrary, there is a feeling of anxiety when having only one tab open.

What does social media attention span do to our brain?

  • multi-tasking skills: we already feel born for multi-tasking so it’s no surprise that it’s not easy anymore to focus on one single task. There is a completely new brain function on the ability to juggle from one task to another in a matter of seconds
  • compulsive Facebook newsfeed refresh: how often do you check your Facebook newsfeed for no apparent reason? Unfortunately, there is an urge that we don’t always control, which makes us spend time checking our Facebook news feed, even when we were supposed to be busy. Of course, it’s among the reasons that Facebook is so addictive.
  • mail checking: there is a constant need to check our mails, creating us a feeling of anticipation, even if we don’t even expect an important mail. The case is turning worse when you realise you’re checking your mails every half an hour while it’s Sunday. Yes, it happens!
  • smartphone addiction: Smartphones and social media have contributed to our short attention span and our digital addiction. They might have improved our lives in so many different ways, but they still create a new kind of addiction that does not allow you to leave your smartphone off your hands.
  • second-screen habit: social media attention span does not allow us to focus on a single screen, with our smartphone addiction contributing to this effect. It’s so easy nowadays to check your Facebook/Twitter account through your smartphone while working on your laptop that you just don’t realize how fast you switch from one screen to another.

How social media affects our memory

Along with the short attention span, we are also noticing a shorter memory, with the Internet and social media being partly responsible for this. With the information overload, our brain is not able to retain every detail it processes and most of the times, it’s not even necessary.

Your smartphone may serve as a calendar, reminder, notebook for everything you need to remember. And if you have a question, all you have to do is check Wikipedia or Google to find the answer. (What Google does to our brain is another topic we already discussed).

Moreover, you don’t even need to remember your friends’ birthdays anymore, since Facebook is serving as your reminder. All you have to do, is check the birthdays on your Events and wish accordingly.

However, with our brain learning to function in a different way, it’s not always easy to distinguish the useful information from the useless, which makes us unintentionally forget important details. The lack of concentration with the shorter attention span may also lead to accidents, which is an issue that should not be ignored.

How do you beat the social media attention span?

Gone are the days when you could enjoy the silence and read a book for hours. It’s not easy nowadays to lose track of time without the Internet temptation. This doesn’t mean that we should condemn technology. Yes, it’s becoming more difficult day by day to avoid distractions, but it’s up to us to have the power to handle our time and focus properly.

Learn to say ‘no’ and allow some time for focus on important tasks. Leave your smartphone aside, turn off the Wi-Fi, if possible, and try to focus on one task as much as possible. It’s just a matter of discipline!

Don’t worry, short attention span is not something worrying for our health. Our brain is adapting to a new reality and we are starting to explore new ways of productivity and entertainment. Just make sure you can tell the difference between these two!

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