By Caleb Keith –
Yesterday morning an interesting article caught my eye as I scrolled through my twitter feed. The quick blurb on twitter simply read “Technology has reduced the human attention span lower than that of a goldfish.” That headline and the article it was from were based on a recent Microsoft study. Microsoft determined that the new average human attention span is a mere eight seconds long. This was decided after observing and filming 2000 volunteers over the age of 18. Microsoft listed the main cause to be the rise of smart technologies.
Studies like the one above and my own personal experience are the reason I try to keep my blogs shorter than most the other authors on The Jagged Word. Nobody seems to have the time or the attention span to read a 1,200-word blog when so many other things are begging for attention. Content and excitement are always at our finger tips and the result is we need more and more going on to fill our wondering (or wandering) minds.
Microsoft and other companies use this data as an advertising tool. Big companies want to capitalize on our inability to focus on one thing at a time. Social Media and advertising are being designed to distract you and lure you away from more important things. Ultimately this hurts me as a blog writer since even though I will keep it short you probably won’t finish reading this article. More importantly than my blog, though, is the impact this has on our vocations and our relationships. Pastors will have a harder time engaging congregations with their sermons, students will find it harder to learn from their teachers, and personal time with loved ones will become strained by the invasion of constant entertainment.
Smart technologies are a great tool and are integral in our modern day lives but they also have the ability to overtake our lives. Preparing for work gets interrupted by Facebook, family dinner is invaded with text messages, and church services are flooded with wondering imaginations asking themselves what is on TV when we get home. The added level of convenience and entertainment our devices hold mean as people we need to add a new discipline to our set of everyday skills. We have to learn to put our devices away and give our attention to one thing at a time. This doesn’t mean removing smart devices altogether, but rather more difficulty learning not to let the tool become the master. This means engaging with the world more and being entertained less. Ultimately learning this skill and reclaiming our attention spans comes from respecting and loving another. When we give each other respect and love, putting our phones away and listening isn’t a burden, but an opportunity to meaningfully engage with the people around us. So, now I want to know, do I (still) have your attention yet?