We use screens for everything now
Whether it is because of fantasy football or simply the changing of the times, there is no doubt that people consume information differently than they have in the past. With the explosion of the internet and the advent of smartphones and tablets, it seems like people have more ways to receive news, watch their favorite shows and more in the palm of their hands. In Anthony Carr’s Is Google Making Us Stupid?, he even sings the praises of the internet: “The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes.” That said, Carr also argues that the advances in technology spread our attention spans thin:
“Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking — perhaps even a new sense of the self.”
According to Statistic Brain, the average person has an attention span of 8.25 seconds as of 2015. For comparison, the average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. Also, 17 percent of web users spend less than four seconds on a page. Only FOUR percent of page views last longer than 10 minutes. Are we spreading ourselves too thin? Is there so much information that we can’t keep up?
Dominic Boyer details the routine of writers at a German branch of the Associated Press in The Life Informatic. In the book, Boyer talks about how the writers are looking at multiple screens, looking for news worthy of scribing for their site.
As someone who writes for the school paper and writes for two other sites, I find that I am constantly looking at news or other things on my phone if I’m not at home on my computer. There are even times where I have had multiple things up on different devices.
With all of this new technology, people can get the information they need at the snap of their fingers. Viewers can interact with their favorite show more than they could in the past. People don’t just watch their shows, they talk about them on Twitter and on message boards. People don’t just watch sports anymore and gripe to their local sports talk radio show, they start fantasy leagues or play Draft Kings or FanDuel.
In general, people are less productive when they try to multitask. Most folks, this writer included, may believe that they are getting more done. Instead, they detract from the quality of each thing that they try to do. Having access to all of this technology is a net positive, and multitasking certainly existed before the iPhone or Internet Explorer were even concepts. That said, do these steps forward contribute to out short attention spans or does it help us manage it better?