A Media Avalanche is Burying Our Attention Spans

April 16, 2019 — Pop art guru Andy Warhol once predicted that in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes.

He may have been too generous.

The vast and growing volume of diversions that pepper our modern world appears to be taking a toll on our attention spans as people hop to the next trending topic faster and faster, European researchers report this week.

“We’re confirming something that a lot of people have been feeling, but that we haven’t had any large-scale evidence for,” says Sune Lehmann, PhD, a data scientist at the Technical University of Denmark and a co-author of the study. “A lot of us have had a feeling that things are moving faster.”

The findings, published Monday in the research journal Nature Communications, were the result of nearly 2 years of work by Lehmann and colleagues in Germany and Ireland. They mathematically tracked billions of Twitter hashtags, Google queries, Reddit comments, and other markers of online popularity as they rose and fell over various time spans in the last decade and a half.

They also examined citations of scientific journals, Wikipedia entries, box-office receipts of more than 4,000 movies over 40 years, and key phrases in 100 years of books cached online. And they found the time it took for a topic to peak in popularity and drop off has been getting shorter as more material competes for a limited mental market.

The study differs from previous research by trying to quantify differences in attention span “on a very large scale,” Lehmann says.

“It’s a new take on trying to understand some of the things our technology seems to be doing to us,” he says.

For example, in 2013, a popular topic generally stayed in Twitter’s top 50 trending topics for an average of 17.5 hours, the researchers reported. By 2016, that number had dropped to 11.9 hours. At the same time, the number of people following each topic at its peak was roughly the same, Lehmann says.

In other words, the same number of people were engaged with the Twitter topic at its peak in both years, but no single topic could keep the masses engaged for as long.

Article source: https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/news/20190416/a-media-avalanche-is-burying-our-attention-span?src=RSS_PUBLIC

No comments yet.

Leave a Comment