Attention spans shrink as technology use expands


Photo courtesy of Jess Seldner

Seniors Colleen Megerle of Colts Neck, left, and Khushi Kadakia of TInton Falls.

Sally Ehlers

Stop reading this and look around. Whether you are eating lunch or sitting on the bus, it is likely that at least one person near you is looking at their smartphone. They stare into the unnatural glow of the screen in front of them, not fully aware of what is happening around them.

As daily technology use increases, the human ability to focus, listen and comprehend decreases. According to a Microsoft study, the human attention span declined from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013 as a result of regular technology use. That is one second less than the average attention span of a goldfish.

Not only is the human attention span shrinking, but social interactions are taking a major hit from technology use as well. Research published on Academia found that those who have conversations without mobile devices present demonstrate higher levels of empathetic concern than those in the presence of technology.

This result proves that people do not fully comprehend what they listen to when technology is there as a distraction, which it often is.

In fact, according to an Elon University study, 62 percent of students either text, talk on the phone or use a computer or tablet while they are with other students.

And students are often together in class, where the ability to listen is crucial. Although more and more students are opting to take notes on laptops rather than by hand, technology can act as a barrier between hearing the concepts and comprehension.

According to Scientific American, students who take notes by hand have a stronger conceptual understanding of the information than those who type their notes. Since writing is a slower process, it gives the learner the opportunity to comprehend the notes as they are taking them, whereas the typers do not actually focus on the words they are typing.

Whether it be during casual conversation or in a classroom setting, technology interferes with the human ability to focus, listen and comprehend.

Technology may open us up to a world of conversation, but words only have value if we listen to them. So next time you talk to a friend, put your phone away and engage.