How technology is shortening your attention span
I'm sure we’re all familiar with the phrase, “the human attention span is shorter than a goldfish”, well that might just be true…
Around two decades ago the average human attention span used to be twelve seconds. Fast forward to the present and that number has significantly dropped to a whopping eight seconds according to a study done by Microsoft Canada. This puts us in second place with the notoriously ill mentioned goldfish who has an attention span of 9 seconds. That's right folks, the goldfish has inadvertently won the battle for which species has the longer attention span.
What's to blame for our attention span shortening?
One could blame social media FOMO (Fear of Missing out), our smartphones or even the internet. The simple truth is technology. It has become so intricately woven into every fabric of our daily lives we are dependent on it for almost everything we do. Let’s not give technology too much flack though there have been great achievements made through the advancement of technology during our lifetime. We’re all connected more than ever before but this comes at a cost. Emails, DM’s, phone calls, Skype requests, push notifications, oh and don't forget the perpetual adverts that bombard every form of media we consume. Our brains simply were not wired to take in so much information at any given time.
How Technology Affects the brain
Have you ever felt mentally or physically drained and can't seem to figure out why? You might be experiencing digital overload. Allwork.space has defined digital overload as “the overwhelming feeling that comes from being constantly connected to, and constantly bombarded by, digital platforms and notifications”. This can in turn cause us to feel distracted, anxious, fatigued or even depressed.
Technology is not the main cause for our shortening attention span but is definitely one of the biggest contributing factors. It's more a case of what we decide to give our attention to and how our attention gets robbed by distractions caused by the technology we are surrounded by.
Every time we get a notification, email, or text message, we stop the task at hand and give our undivided attention to our computers and smartphones. Our attention is almost like a goldfish (pun unintended) calmly swimming in a river searching for food, that then bites down on the fisherman's bait (distractions) and is hooked. What follows is getting sucked into the never-ending feed of limitless information at our fingertips, causing us to unintentionally spend hours mindlessly searching for the next best thing.
Our brains work off of a reward system, every time we watch a funny video, listen to a groovy new song or check out the freshest memes our friends send us, it releases a small amount of dopamine as a reward that creates a feeling of pleasure or relaxation. Over time the excessive use of technology can cause our brains to become dependent on this as our only source of happiness and lead us to develop a technology addiction.
So how can we fix the damage that's been done?
To some, it may seem like a feat too great to overcome, but there is hope. The brain has a thing called neural plasticity, which is the ability to create new neural networks through growth and reorganisation. By practising the methods below on a constant basis, you can slowly start to create new neural pathways in the brain and rewire them to take back control of how technology affects and dictates your life.
1. Limiting screen time
There are numerous methods to help minimise the amount of screen time spent on your devices. We have written an entire blog on tips/tools for managing screen time which you can check out here.
2. Going outdoors
Nothing beats the great outdoors. Spending more time outdoors disconnected from your devices and re-connecting with yourself or mother nature has been one proven method for helping reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and can even help increase brain cognition!
3. Wind down in the evening by reading a book
Instead of watching Netflix or scrolling through Facebook right before bed, rather try spending that time winding down and limiting the use of technology by reading a book. Not only will this help you get better sleep, but it will allow your body to get better adjusted to its natural circadian rhythm.
4. Invest your time into hobbies
We’re sure you have at least one hobby you’ve been meaning to put more time into, and if not, what better a time to start investing in one? By investing more time into your hobbies you are actively dedicating more time to improving yourself, your skills and even your mental health. Not sure where to start? We found a site that lists 50 inexpensive hobbies you can start right now.
5. Do tasks or activities that force you to unplug
Do you have a gym membership card that's been sitting in the back of your wallet for far too long? It's time to whip that bad boy out and get into shape. Fitness and exercise are great ways to force you to unplug, disconnect and achieve the fitness goals you’ve been aspiring towards. Other activities you can practise that force you to unplug are: meditation, yoga or going on a full tech detox.
We hope you found this blog insightful on how technology affects our lives and our attention span. If you have any feedback you’d like to leave us with, please let us know in the comments below.