Consider the ability of a person to concentrate on a task. Not necessarily a mammoth task, such as creating a famous work of art such as Michelangelo’s The Last Supper. Instead, perhaps a Word Search puzzle. In order to complete this task, you need the capability to focus and concentrate. Sounds simple enough. Now before we begin, it is important to note, the average attention span of a human is about 12 seconds. Well it used to be. It has actually seen a reduction from 12 seconds in 2012, down to EIGHT seconds as discovered in 2017. You may be pleasantly surprised now to discover, that is one second less than the NINE second attention span of a Goldfish.
Ok, so we are going to have a little less of an attention span, but we can still do this. Once we begin our task, inevitably there will be a beep from our mobile device. We put the puzzle down, to check the notification on the device. A feeling of anticipation rises, what could this notification be? It’s nothing, just a Snapchat notification, to informing us one of our contacts are also on Snapchat. Filled with disappointment we resume our task, only to be distracted once more by a WhatsApp Group Message, a meaningless but funny Gif we then forward on to several friends and family members. That feeling of boredom might make a little appearance now as we return to the puzzle, but thankfully the sound of the phone ringing has interrupted it.
After taking the twenty-minute call, we return to the Word Search. This time we see a word we don’t understand, however this simple word search on Google lasting forty minutes inevitably takes us on a journey through the internet. We are two hours in to this Word Search now and nowhere near to completing it, as there are lots of other more important jobs to do, we put it down and possibly never return to it. So what just happened?
When we attempted to complete our task, we were distracted. On being distracted once, it may have been easy to return to the task. But it required our attention. The more our attention was broken by the interruption of the device, it becomes harder to regain our concentration and stay focused. Worse once boredom sets in, at time we really need motivation to continue what we are doing, the device offered us more distractions, and delivered nothing of benefit to us, it simply impeded the completion of our simple task.
The ability to concentrate, requires focus. It requires our attention. If we permit ourselves to be conditioned by the distraction of our digital devices, we end up refocusing our attention on the device, rather than the task at hand. Given enough of time repeating this type of behaviour, our capability to remain focused reduces. This is possibly one reason, we have seen such a significant reduction in the average attention span. A four second drop is a considerable reduction. An Airbag company, who’s product took four seconds longer than the next competitor to activate, would be out of business pretty quickly.
From early infancy, right up to the day we die, we need to have the ability to concentrate. It is this ability which enables us to learn the skills required to advance in life. If we begin to lose this skill, and instead develop poor concentration, it becomes more and more difficult to focus. The purpose of today’s blog, was to show how easy it is for an adult to become distracted from a very simple task, given the multiple interruptions from our digital devices. Imagine if Michelangelo was around today and attempted to paint The Last Supper while Snapchatting, Messaging and updating his profile.
Now consider it from a child’s perspective. Imagine sitting down to do your homework when you were younger. Just as you start to focus on what you’re doing, someone taps you on the shoulder and interrupts you. This continues as you battle to get to get through it. By the end you’re possibly at the stage of saying to yourself, “I’ll just wait till later on, or the morning to complete it”.
This should give you some idea of the cost of having a device which is constantly craving your devotion and the consequences of giving in to its demands. It is also important to remember, Social Media sites and other Apps we use have been designed specifically to distract you then prompt you to return to the platform. We hope that you didn’t think you were doing it of your own free will. You have been conditioned to respond to the notifications without even realising.
This is one of the primary reasons parents need to set a screen time limit for children. Parents should also look at their own screen time and to see how much their device is interfering with the everyday tasks. Switching the device to Airplane mode for a set duration of the day, is one way of ensuring that you remain uninterrupted. All those needless notifications will still be waiting, but at least you get to manage them on your terms rather than the App developers.
Hope you all had a great weekend