Multi-tasking, a somewhat love hate relationship. On one hand I feel that im getting more done, on the other hand, am I really? As technology continues to advance our ability to multi-task has rapidly increased and improved during the information age, and at the same time it seems our attention spans have somewhat suffered in return.
There has been too many occasions where I have been sitting talking to someone only to realise I have been talking to myself as they are absently nodding in agreement and providing reassuring thoughtful hums while they scroll through their Facebook feed, only to later jolt back into reality (usually when asked a question) and requesting me to repeat what i had said. Sometimes you cant help but to think whats the point, but its even more shocking when you find yourself doing the exact same thing, because of this I understand why many think the millennial generation has a much shorter attention span and are constantly being thought of as being ‘oblivious’ or ‘absent minded’.
As the lovely Mycroft Holmes puts it, sometimes it feels as though we are living amongst goldfish, if only you should be so lucky…
Research conducted by Microsoft showed that the average attention span of a human in 2000 was 12 seconds, which has now dropped to 8 seconds as of 2013, considering goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds its easy to say they have won this round. Although the report displayed that 77% (ages18-24) of those surveyed agreed that when their attention was unoccupied, the first thing they would do is reach for their phone, I find that while I to do this at times it is mostly because I am in fact multi-tasking.
I often find myself doing uni work on my laptop while watching a movie and occasionally replying to messages on my phone in between, and although I myself acknowledge this isn’t always the best way to remain focused when trying to meet deadlines I must say it is not always an effort in rushing to mix work and play. Growing up in a society with such fast growing technology it feels almost ignorant not to adapt to and take advantage of the changes and advancements in technology especially when it is being incorporated in every aspect of our lives. For example at times the uni work I am doing may be a group assessment that is coupled by a related documentary in the background while I am taking part in a group chat regarding the task at hand, this sort of divided attention is called alternating attention. In this retrospect multi-screening and multi-tasking can at times be more effective and efficient.
Sohlberg and Mateer’s model of attention breaks down attention into 3 categories; sustained, selective, alternating. Upon further reflecting past encounters especially in social aspects I find that the level of attention that I myself display is greatly affected by varying circumstances such as, what the topic of discussion is, if I have anything important or pressing to do at the time, and if I am at all interested in what is happening at the time.
In the end I don’t think that the generation is always to blame, our environment is continuously changing and evolving, perhaps we are only adapting to what is happening around us? Or maybe its just harder to keep us interested? But for now here’s a cat meme, because you can never have enough.
Microsoft, 2015, ‘Attention Spans Research Report’, Consumer Insights Microsoft Canada, <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/490916/mod_resource/content/1/microsoft-attention-spans-research-report.pdf>