I read a very interesting article in The New York Times. Recent research found that “the average attention span had fallen to eight seconds, down from 12 in the year 2000. We now have a shorter attention span than goldfish, the study found.” Goldfish can actually stay focused for nine seconds! The article says:
…there seems little doubt that our devices have rewired our brains. We think in McNugget time. The trash flows, unfiltered, along with the relevant stuff, in an eternal stream. And the last hit of dopamine only accelerates the need for another one.
According to Wikipedia, information overload (also known as infobesity or infoxication ) refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information.
We are increasingly becoming impatient because of the information overload enabled by digital technologies. Digital technologies keep “entertaining” us 24/7 with sensational visual effects, sounds, fast-evolving plots and provoking words. They can take us to an easily digestible, “user-friendly” conclusion or a punchline in a matter of minute or second. All we have to do is move one of our fingers ½ inches to swipe. It’s becoming the norm for us. We can no longer concentrate on anything that takes longer, takes more waiting or thinking to get to the conclusion.
By the way, “attention span” is defined as “the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted.”
Concentration and distraction is what we reviewed in Chapter 4 of Zero Narrative, “abundance by absence.” We found that when we are concentrated, our senses are aroused at an optimal level and can feel deep satisfaction. But when we have excessive external stimulus, we get distracted.
Whereas we can feel deeper satisfaction when we are concentrated, we are increasingly becoming “infobese” and getting distracted and impatient.
What is the answer to this trend?
Interestingly enough, publishing industry is responding to peoples’ growing impatience by publishing series books with increasingly shorter intervals. Very simply put, if they used to publish a book of 100 pages per year, they now publish 50 pages every six months. Or they are forced to publish 30 or 40 pages in three month (even the author is not ready), to keep drawing consumers’ attention. That’s how the industry reacts to “customers’ needs.”
But there are different reactions to infobesity. In a different article from New York Times,
A crop of bookshops is rebelling against frenzied online engagement and is creating environments where the real-life, internet-free book browse is the most effective way to expand your social and professional networks. And in countering the internet overload, some stores are proving to be among London’s hottest hangouts.
According to Rohan Silva, the owner of Libreria Books and a former policy adviser to the former prime minister David Cameron,
We’re celebrating human curation over algorithmic rhythms,
We wanted to get people using their human intuition when they shop for books. You can get Wi-Fi anywhere now, it’s not necessary in a bookshop.