Sunday, January 31, 2016

Humans' Inability to Focus

Technology, particularly handheld technology, has shortened our attention span in an alarming way. I personally have only been using this type of technology for a little more than five years and I have already noticed the significant impact it has had on my attention span and it seems like it is affecting the generation who was born with it even more.
            I can remember road trips with my family several years ago – no phones, iPods or mobile data. When I think about those excursions now I have no idea how we did it. Thinking back to my last car ride that lasted longer than five hours I was probably on my phone at least ninety percent of the time. I have noticed I have a harder time just sitting and thinking – every time a thought stirs my curiosity, I’m inclined to browse the internet about the particular thought. This habit has definitely gotten worse over the years. Just last night as I was watching a basketball game on TV I noticed something I did that I had not noticed before – I don’t watch commercials, and I’m sure I’m not alone. As soon as a commercial comes on or there’s as much as a dead ball during a basketball game I immediately get on my phone to look at the most recent tweets on my timeline or to look at scores of other games being played. Because technology and the internet have become so accessible and have so much information it is getting increasingly difficult to give all your attention to one thing.
            Our attention spans have decreased so much in the past fifteen years that the gold fish has passed the human race in this aspect. In 2000 the average attention span for humans was about twelve seconds; in 2015, a Canadian study showed that our attention span has decreased down to eight seconds – a whole second shorter than a gold fish’s.
            Many argue that our focus is still the same, but we are using it in different ways. I disagree – I have seen too many students religiously check their phones during class to believe that argument, and I am guilty of it as well. Even if I don’t feel my phone vibrate and I know I don’t have any new notifications I still feel the need to check it instead of paying attention during class. The effects are showing up even more in the younger generation. In a study that polled four hundred primary school English teachers forty percent said students did not enjoy reading by the time they are eleven.
I believe the reason for this is the new technology and social media. We are so used to our entertainment reading being extremely short (think memes) and to focus on an entire book is just not very appealing to many people anymore.

            Having so much information available and extremely accessible is great and there are definitely benefits. Our generation has become more socially aware of what is going on outside of our city, state, country, etc. This is very important for a healthy society, but our ability to pay attention to what is going on right in front of us is suffering.

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