Where is your smartphone right now? Maybe it’s on the desk next to the computer you’re using to read this post. Maybe you’re reading this post on your phone. Maybe you’re thinking, “Gotcha! I don’t have a smartphone! You digital marketers think you know me, but you don’t.”
Actually, we do. We’ve seen the data – we work with it every day. We’re making a general assumption that you have a phone at all because we know that 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone of some kind. If you’re looking solely at young adults between the ages of 18-29, that smartphone ownership skyrockets to 85%. But that’s not really what this post is about.
Still reading? If you hung on through two paragraphs, congratulations! Your ability to focus should be celebrated because you’re in the minority – it’s recently been determined that the average human being’s attention span is about 8 seconds long. In 2000, the average attention span for humans was measured at 12 seconds. Now, thanks at least in part to the fact that we all own smartphones, our attention spans have been decimated to less than that of a goldfish.
So, you own a smartphone but you’ve made it to this point in the post. You’re feeling triumphant because you’ve defied the odds that you’ve just now learned about and will probably Google immediately after finishing this read. One of the differences between you and that goldfish (or any other animal, really) is innate curiosity and our entire industry is built on this idea. But what will you search for? It might be:
“how long is the average human attention span”
“average human attention span”
“attention span human versus goldfish”
“8 second attention span”
Despite the seemingly vast differentiation in these search terms, the results will likely feature the same six news articles with headlines that scream “HUMANS CANNOT PAY ATTENTION TO ANYTHING ANYMORE BECAUSE OF THEIR PHONES!”
And what will you do with this information? Inevitably, you’ll either a) shrug your shoulders and continue living your life, b) share the article, along with your thoughts and feelings on the subject, with your social circle on Facebook or c) feel the need to turn your phone off and throw it out the window, but instead just stow it back in your bag until you receive a text message.
If you’re still reading, thank you. We recognize that it was probably difficult to keep yourself from opening a new tab and leaving the article for a moment to conduct the search we referenced above. We’re also grateful that you even chose to start reading this post in the first place – we know what we’re competing with. As a token of our appreciation, we’d like to challenge you to continue to defy the odds of our educated assumptions.
If you were a part of group A, refusing to let anything get to you, we welcome you to dig a little deeper. Surrender to the innate curiosity that will send you spiraling down a digital rabbit hole. Allow yourself to read the entire Wikipedia page on ‘Goldfish’ without fear or paranoia. Click through to the very end of the search engine results to find out what information is lingering on the fray of social consumption. Find a way to appreciate the vast amount of information we have at our fingertips.
If you were part of group B and ready to write your social media diatribe, wait. Instead, hold your tongue and consider the information in a new context. Are you making your own gross generalizations and assumptions regarding a subject about which you may not know much about? Are you just adding fuel to the fire, orr do you genuinely want to have a conversation with your social circle? You can slow down – being the first, best or fastest on social media doesn’t always end well.
And, if you were part of group C – prone to adverse reactions to anything that feels negative – consider the positives. Consider what it means to have a shorter attention span. Maybe you’re able to tackle many more obstacles in a much more efficient way. Multitasking, while not always valued as a skill, is a critical component of one’s day to day existence, especially in this day and age.
In short, we’re challenging you to go against the grain for a few minutes – we’re challenging you to challenge yourself and your typical reactions. In the midst of learning more about the direction society is going as a whole, learn about yourself.
We know that being a part of modern society is equal parts blessing and curse. Even though your phone might be giving you cancer and might be keeping you from being able to focus for more than 8 seconds, it also connects you to your social circle and gives you access to incredible amounts of information – access which has been proven to have increased levels of happiness around the world. If it doesn’t make you happy, we won’t be offended – we’re just working with the facts. Because of that, we’re totally impressed that you’ve made it through this piece – a diatribe in its own right – and we hope that you feel as proud as we do.