Is Technology Lowering Our Attention Span?

Is Technology Lowering Our Attention Span?

A goldfish has 9 seconds attention span, but would you believe me if I told you that humans have an average of 8.25 seconds of attention span? Between 2000 and 2015, there has been a nearly 25% decrease in attention span between the years. With the rise of computers and cellular phones, it's often easy to pin the blame on technology, so we decided to investigate if technology really is lowering our attention span.

One study from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine explored to find something called "Perceived Social Isolation" in people who used social media. The study concluded that participants showed to be more socially isolated than their less exposed counterparts. Another study from The Journal of Management and Engineering Integration found that there is no connection between the number of accounts and attention span, nor do people with shorter attention spans tend to use social media more.

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Trishala Chokhani from eLearning Industry attributed attention span to the ability to multitask while using technology. You can listen to music, write a blog post, and at the same time communicate with a client, all while sitting at the same desk. (Yes I used myself as an example). She also continued to state that constant messages and notifications cause people to lose focus, which in turn lowers attention span. I also noticed there are some conflicting views between this and the Journal for Management. However, it does appear that sometimes taking a break from social media and focusing on the present is also good.

Additionally, the article condemned the use of phones as another cause for short attention spans due to the fear of missing out which makes people constantly feel the need to check their phone even when it may not be necessary. This is a cause of severe anxiety and stress which is another negative effect it can have. But one important thing is also important here, and that's that there are so many more things besides just social media on technology.

There are so many benefits to making technology a part of our life. First off, it gives the public critical information regarding natural disasters ahead of time so people have time to prepare. The widespread access to this information has decreased the death tolls and injuries that result from severe natural disasters. Not only that, people have more access to information in the modern world, so news no longer travels slowly.

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Next up we have the COVID-19 pandemic, something which virtually shut down the world around us as we knew it. Technology companies came to the rescue by proving that we can do work and bounce back from virtually anywhere. It opened our eyes to how ready our world is for the rise of remote work and showed that the future may bring offices without any physical buildings at all.  

So what do I take away from all of this information? Well, I believe that technology can have many benefits, we need to take control of how much time we choose to "donate" to social media and spend some time doing social media detox just like what Chokhani also suggested in her article. Everything in life is about balance, and the same thing is with technology. Tell yourself, how much attention are you willing to sacrifice? In fact, Forbes described in a 2021 article, that we spend 47% of our time mind-wandering, meaning a lot of time is wasted living in the past or the future rather than the present. It doesn't take a lot to assume that social media and decreasing attention spans are related to this.

Another thing to remember is an article from Healthline that explores other possible causes of short attention spans, one of them being Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. While I won't go into the deep details, this disorder essentially is like your brain having way too much energy and makes it difficult to focus on some things. In fact, I've been diagnosed with this disease and virtually had it my whole life.  ADHD is a very common disorder, which is getting more and more common throughout our lives.

But ADHD is only just minor compared to the next thing they put on their list, and that's depression. Sometimes, difficulty focusing is connected to depression falling under "losing interest". Over a long time, you may start to notice you'll start paying less attention to what's being said in class, you'll start constantly feeling sad, and you may even stop liking the things you used to love doing. If some of these things have been happening to you for weeks or months, it may be time to see a professional and see about getting yourself some help, because you aren't alone.

A study published on PubMed Central attributed chewing gum as a way to increase attention span. If you feel your attention span is being affected by technology, you can use this method on top of cutting back on social media to ensure you can gain your attention back. It's also important to remember that you will have a lower attention span when doing things you don't like versus how it would be if you were doing the things you enjoy. No matter what you do, a lack of passion and motivation will further decrease your attention span.

I hope you enjoyed this article that explored the topic of technology and how it can affect attention span. I also hope that something in this article was able to teach you something new. Thank you for taking the time to read this far, as I've spent quite some time gathering resources and doing research.

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