Our attention spans have become minimal in this digital era. We are continually bombarded with opportunities to let our mind wonder and explore online platforms through a simple click of a new tab, often prolonging or preventing us in finishing the task we intended to complete. As I write this I currently have 12 tabs open in Google Chrome and two tabs open in Firefox including this post. I’m continuing flicking back and forth between internet browsers in particular Boohoo as I try to uncover why my 20% student discount is not redeeming, I must say that online shopping will be the death of me.
This week I write to you about my observations of Jessica Shaftoe’s attention span, a 19 year old studying communications in a technological era where information is continually streamed to us as we think, feel and essentially breathe.
As I try to continue writing this post I have already spent 20 minutes on my phone looking at comedic, Facebook pages, and Instagram. The sad thing is we don’t even realise how much time we dedicate to procrastination and avoiding our responsibilities, we would rather devote our attention spans to pointless cat videos than face the reality of our obligations.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Shaftoe and observing her attention span over lunch. Jess is a close friend of mine so you can imagine us on our break, we definitely gave this assignment little attention and prolonged it for as long as possible. Jess’s attention span mostly focused on Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Challenge, where she showed myself and Emily, who joined us for lunch, the nutritional and exercise guide for the 12 week body challenge. At times mentioned beginning this assignment but it was quickly shut down as we gossiped about the challenge, friends, life and of course love.
As we began the assignment and I started taking notes I noticed Jess had various tabs open on her MacBook that she was flicking between including Facebook, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Moodle, Tweetdeck and WordPress all while she was undertaking an intellectual argument on Facebook with a girl seemingly belittling the high school she once attended. Coincidentally only two tabs were actually University related which were left open from our previous class.
Although, once we started analysing each other we were more aware of what was occurring. We could see that our attention spans lasted much longer on anything we found remotely entertaining, but when it came to the assignment we brushed it aside or tried multi-tasking. This may be because this ensured a level of our state of mind was still engaged enabling us to complete this assignment while still enjoying our break. It is believed, however, that this form of multi-tasking is actually detrimental to our studies. According to the study ‘Laptops hinder classroom learning for both users and nearby peers’ which was undertaken with a series of University students results concluded that those who multi-tasked and used electronic devices within lectures scored a lower result in the final test as opposed to those who weren’t exposed.
I would have to disagree to an extent with this study. Having a laptop present in the classroom can also be beneficial, it allows the individual to undertake further research and clarify their understanding at the present time if necessary, yes, it can be a hindrance for example, looking at Facebook or in my case online shopping but when used correctly can be extremely beneficial to an individuals learning development. Furthermore in the study undertaken by Microsoft based on Canadian’s attention spans, the results indicate that 76% of Canadians between 18-24 said multi-tasking is the only way they accomplish their obligations, contradicting this study as the final result concluded Canadians are better at processing information from various sources when their lifestyles are digitally enriched.
As I continued observing Jess I wasn’t as distracted but I still looked at my phone multiple times. The study conducted by Microsoft indicated that 77% of Canadians aged between 18-24 reach for their phone when unoccupied. Isn’t that slightly frightening? That we feel the need to continually entertain ourselves, we can’t just sit for a moment in contentment, this is what technology is doing to our attention spans, although there are positives in being surrounded by information, it can also become easily distracting and overwhelming which I believe Microsoft hasn’t taken into account when providing their final conclusion.
Jess and I jokingly laughed about our attention spans lasting about 2.5 seconds, but honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the truth. We are a technological generation and this is normality for us. According to the BBC report by Hannah Richardson current teenagers only have an attention span of ten minutes. A university survey that took place concludes that most teenagers could only concentrate 10 minutes in a lecture before becoming distracted, which links to the previous study indicated above that suggests technology does impact on a students ability to concentrate in lectures. Only a small portion 13% and 17% blamed lack or sleep and part-time jobs therefore suggesting the remaining statistics would be a result of technological habits.
According to the research paper “The New-Multi Screen World” by Google our current attention spans are divided across four media devices – television (43mins), tablets (30mins), smart phones (17mins) and PC/laptops (39mins) each time indicated is how long we averagely dedicate to each device per interaction with 98% of us moving between devices daily. It is clear media devices have become a part of our daily routine. With not just one but multiple devices interfering with our lives, therefore impacting our ability to prolong our attention span as we now have access to multiple devices 24/7 creating a world of unification but also disconnection and ignorance, a double-edge sword.
Evidently it is clear our attention spans are minimal in this digital age, we are provided with too much information, sources and access points influencing how we communicate and complete tasks. I probably could have completed this post in half the time if I didn’t leave my phone by my side, or avoided the other tabs open in my search engine. I can guarantee I looked at the same Instagram and Facebook posts about five times during the completion of this blog because I found them more entertaining than meeting my responsibilities and finishing this, it’s sad, but it’s the truth and faced by many of us on a regular basis.