Many of us have our phones glued to our hands, and the amazing technology we have available to us has enhanced our lives in ways we can’t imagine. But how many of you are already thinking about something else? How many of you are planning to stop reading already? Louisa Davies examines attention, and what really captures it these days…
We are a nation of thumb scrollers. We are endlessly browsing content that is available at our fingertips, so easily, so carelessly. We hardly piece together a thought before finding out the answer. We can see through the fake Instagram posts, and the tweets crying out for attention. We are endlessly searching through a carousel of content that never ends, looking for something that truly captures our attention.
But do we even know what that is anymore?
New studies show that the average person in 2017 has an attention span of 8 seconds, which is one second less than the memory of a goldfish. In that space of time, I had the opportunity to scroll through 12 Instagram posts. In 8 seconds, you can miss a world of information. It takes something special to stand out on the ‘millennial’ time line, but what makes us stop our thumb and connect with the content? What makes us different from the gormless goldfish?
Social media is a double edged sword, opening our worlds up wider than our parents could ever have imagined, but also creating those damned ‘echo chambers’ we hear so much about, and condemning us to a bitter cycle of always seeking true perfection – however filtered that may be.
As we scroll and scroll, we become immune to the absurd, the arguable and the amazing. Our generation is not surprised by anything anymore, living in a world full of terror attacks, gender fluidity and more. Our minds are open, and unlike the generations before us, we are not easily shocked.
As well as this, we are not easily impressed. Millennials and Generation Z see through brands as if they were invisible, rolling eyes at the obvious ‘ads’ and the colloquial use of ‘woke, sick, dab’ that some brands use on their own social channels, feigning youth but appearing older than they could ever imagine.
In recent months, the rise of the influencer has become obviously saturated, and the world of bloggers/vloggers is no longer the Narnia it was even three years ago. We get it. We see the Instagram’s in the Maldives, holding a bottle of coconut water. We aren’t amused, we’re bored. And it takes more to stop us in our digital tracks than white washed images, flat lays, and panoramic landscapes.
Our minds are busy, our lives are busy, and the world is busier than ever. Our break from the world around us largely now comes from our phones, we learn from them, getting instant bulletins when another world disaster occurs, linking with any of our friends whenever we want, no matter where we are.
To capture our attention is to capture something personal. A feeling, emotion or connection that we can differentiate from the rest of the mindless 140 characters. It makes us stop and think, feel or laugh, and ultimately want to share the experience with our friends.
Things like army veterans coming home to their families. Cats high fiving their owners. Gemma Collins memes that you can tag your best mate in. Relatable content that enhances our experiences, and also pieces that everyone is talking about. We make the trends, we start the conversations, and we want to feel a part of that global gang, laughing and crying together.
Social media is used differently to how it was even two years ago. Platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories offer 10 second glimpses into our lives ‘best bits’, and then disappear from our timeline forever. Bite sized, video content is the future, with Facebook Statuses and even Tweets slowly becoming as obsolete as MySpace Bulletins. It’ll continue to change as we grow, but it’s clear that it’s cottoned onto our ever waning attention span, urging us to please, please listen, even for ten seconds.
Those seconds mean a lot to us, and we aren’t here to have our time wasted. We value experience, we want to learn, to grow, to have something we can then post about on our own timelines to say we were there. Attention may be fleeting, but memories last forever, whether they’re uploaded for the world to see, or simply spoken about for years to come. So fulfill us, don’t patronise us, and give us something new to like.
And most of all, make those 8 seconds count.
Written by Louisa Davies