Social Media, Attention is fas

Social Media Reducing Attention Span | Digital Distraction of Generation

Social Media, Attention is fas

Thanks To Social Media, Attention is fast becoming a scarce commodity

Globally, attention span is gradually getting reduced

The world is changing. It’s changing faster than we could have ever imagined. In fact, the world is getting transformed so fast that we are finding it difficult, on many fronts, to respond and adapt ourselves to changing scenario.

Within the broad ‘Tech development’, numerous revolutions are taking place affecting our lives in many different ways. If we compare our lives with the life, we have been leading a decade back, our life has become easier, healthier, more comfortable, and secure. Various highly-developed gadgets and the internet are changing the way we work, communicate, study, exercise, play, and behave with others in a big way.

Excessive Use Of Social Media Impacting Our Lives

Within the information and technology (IT) domain, we are witnessing disruptive technologies impacting our lives.  The most notable effect of digital technology is social media.

More than half of the world’s population is connected through social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Out of India’s 1.3 billion population, it is estimated that around 336 million and 80 million are active Facebook and Instagram users resp. These numbers are rising at a rapid pace.

Alarming numbers of users, especially among the younger generation, are excessively using social media.

When we use it, there is a direct neurological effect on our minds. Some even say that social media is like the world’s largest slot machine. What temptation and range of choices do we have for those videos and text on these platforms? We are getting overburdened with material which is very difficult to resist.

Whatever spare time we had earlier is now spending maximum on social media, watching and sharing information in different forms. Real-life experiences like interacting with friends and family members, visiting libraries and movie theatres are getting less interesting.

We all are getting trapped in a situation where we want to focus on too many things in the digital world but too little time for them. There are virtually unlimited opportunities for pleasurable content from social media, as well as from the Internet like gaming, videos, movies, porn movies, etc.

We get tempted to use the internet more often. Imagine, WhatsApp users share more than 1 billion videos daily! All the time, we are flooded with videos and texts that are vastly shared on social media.

As we get addicted to our phones and computers for social media and Internet stimulation, it starts affecting our mind and body in many ways.  When we are busy on digital media, we are intentionally or intentionally under the grip of FOMO (fear of missing out). We don’t want to miss anything.

There is an obsessive desire to check and see text messages and videos, whenever there is a notification sound. Even if notification is off, still a powerful urge is generated to check mobile at short intervals. More and more time we are now devoting on mobiles due to the FOMO effect. The younger generation is especially getting badly trapped in this phenomenon.

National Centre for Biotechnology Information, Maryland, USA has claimed that the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013.

This is happening because we are not able to focus on any particular thing for more time.

We are developing an appetite to take in more and more things in a short period of time. Too many distractions and attractions on digital media are causing us to be less focused on other priorities.

A recently published study from researchers at the Technical University of Denmark is confirming that the collective global attention span is narrowing due to the amount of information that is presented to the public. Released in a scientific journal Nature Communications, a study shows people now have more things to focus on, but often focus on things for short periods of time.

According to another Microsoft Attention Spans Research Report, this digital lifestyle has made it difficult for not just students but all of us to stay focused, with the average human attention span shortening over a decade from 12 seconds to 8 seconds.

Whether it’s in the workplace, home, school, or educational institutions, there is increasing use of gadgets. The Report further says that in the digital age, it seems the ability to maintain focus is now a “superpower.” This weaker attention span could have an effect on the brain, having to so rapidly adapt and change in the presence of technology.

“We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is limitless, and the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.”

(Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft)

Social media offers two things:

Instant gratification and a great variety of hyper-stimulating material of entertainment and information all the time. If we don’t like one thing within the first few seconds, we tend to switch over to something else.  We can hardly give undivided attention to anything.

The most disturbing thing is that most people hardly listen at all these days. They are always distracted by their phone or their thoughts. Most people have an attention span of a few minutes. We are getting hesitant of giving undivided attention to the presence of another person and to personal conversations.

Daniel Goleman, the author of a New York Times best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence, has recently written another book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, in which he very elaborately explains why it’s becoming so difficult for us to focus.

He explains that attention is the thing that makes life worth living, and helps you develop more of it in every area of life: work, relationships, and your own attitude towards life and the planet.

Not only are we becoming more distracted, less attentive, and less sharply focused, but there is also an adverse impact on our health and well-being. When our distracted mind wanders in various directions, it becomes bewildered and unhappy.

Social Media Addiction Distracting Students To Pay Attention

Digital addiction is having a wide impact on youngsters’ studies, health, career, and relationships. For instance, students need to pay full attention to their studies. 

It’s now become more difficult for students to pay attention for a longer period in the classroom. Focus is lacking. Students are not attentive for a longer time span. Engaging students during study hours in and outside of class has long been a challenge for teachers across the globe.

That so many students are mentally and physically occupied with social media obviously takes a toll on their studies, which in turn impacts their careers. And as attention to studies decreases, work pressure from parents and teachers increases, and this leads to greater mental stress.

New Era Of Social Media

We have entered a new era of social media. In this social media age, real-life experiences are less pleasurable and exciting. Our interest is reducing in social interaction.

Community participation is getting less interesting. We don’t want to pay attention to anything, which is not exciting enough, for a longer time. As the attention span reduces, distraction increases and so the boredom.

We are getting more restless and experience greater ‘satisfactoriness’. So, we are becoming more vulnerable to mental health problems. The younger generation especially college and school students are getting worst affected since they are prone to obsessive use of social media. Studies are adversely impacted.   

Another wider implication of reduced attention span is in the areas where the attention of others is sought. Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector is working far harder now to seek the attention of consumers for advertising.

To attract and hold the attention of the target audience/consumer is now a big challenge. Fashion and other trends don’t last long. People want to see new designs and trends earlier.

Media is competing to seek the attention of their potential viewers. The time for subject matters of public importance is now reduced on media platforms. The media is concentrating more on sensational and interesting issues. Emphasis is more on ‘newness’. As we move deeper into the social media age, more distractions with reduced attention span will further impact our lives in many different ways.

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Balvinder kumar

I am retired IAS officer and writer of books and doing work for mind therapy.

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