The short answer is Yes. The more you use the internet the shorter your attention span. A much cited study says, “…our attention spans have shrunk from 12 seconds to 8 seconds since 2000”. This article will explain to you the reason the internet shortens your attention span, why this is not good for you, what are the signs your attention span is shrinking, and what you can do to increase your attention span.
Is the Internet the Reason Our Attention Span is Shortening?
The answer to this question is a qualified yes. The internet is having a profound influence on our lives to include affecting our attention span. According to Statista as of “… 2020, the average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide amounted to 145 minutes per day …” With our increased use of the internet as well as our use of electronic gadgets and software, our attention span is significantly being affected. Below are the major reasons our attention span is shortening in the world today.
- Constant Distractions. Our phones and computers are constantly getting alerts from social networks, e-mail, and built-in news apps. According to one study, for every distraction it takes us 25 minutes to return fully back to the original work task.
- Too Much Information. With the amount of “information” available on the internet, our attention span is now only averaging a few seconds when we skim through countless information sources across the multitude of internet platforms. Just a couple of decades ago, most people had limited access to information to make decisions about their daily lives. Information came from one newspaper, a couple of television stations, and a small circle of friends.
- Shorter News Cycles. In regard to trending topics and news cycles, our collective attention is shortening. In one study, “they measured collective attention on Twitter by looking at how long individual hashtags stayed in the list of 50 most popular hashtags. In 2013, they remained, on average, for 17.5 hours. In 2016, that was reduced to 11.9 hours.”
So What if the Internet is Shortening Our Attention Span?
There are some differences of opinion, but it is clear that a shorter attention span is important to learning. According to Encyclopedia, an adequate attention span enables “… children to organize and consolidate important features of the subjects being studied.” Additionally, “attention span problems are frequently reported in children with learning disabilities, such as those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)”. Note, there are others that say “… an “average attention span is pretty meaningless. It’s very much task-dependent. How much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is” (see BBC’s Busting the attention span myth).
What Are the Signs of a Short Attention Span?
Below is a list from WebMD on the signs to look for in a short attention span.
- Making careless mistakes
- Trouble reading long texts
- Seeming not to listen
- Leaving tasks partially done
- Hard time managing time or keeping materials organized
- Forgetting activities or appointments
What Can We Do To Increase Our Attention Span?
If you desire to enhance your concentration, below are some tips:
- Reduce distractions
- Read a lot
- Be physically engaged
- Solve puzzles and quizzes
- Train your memory
- Improve your sleep
- Spend time in nature
- Make frequent breaks
- Listen to music
- Vary your diet
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