I read recently that the average American adult has an attention span of 8 seconds. That’s roughly the same a goldfish. The author went on to suggest that the actual data indicated 8 seconds may be too long, but that the researchers didn’t want to insult people by saying that a goldfish has a longer attention span.
Is the 8 second attention span real? A joke? A faulty conclusion based on bad science?
Does it matter?
If you’re somene who pays attention to things like news and politics, you’ve probably noticed a pattern. Someone will say something. It will get blasted all over the news, all over social media, and seemingly around the world. For a brief, shining moment, it seems like everyone is talking about this event. Then, it’s forgotten. Poof. Almost as if it never happened.
This is why politicans make all kinds of promises during elections. Keep people distracted and they’ll soon forget.
Ryan Holiday wrote a book in 2012 titled TRUST ME I’M LYING: CONFESSIONS OF A MEDIA MANIPULATOR. Holiday used the book as a platform to detail his own antics as director of marketing at American Apparel, and how the methods he used to manipulate the media and get free publicity for his brand were being used widely and for nofarious purposes. Holiday followed this up with business / self-help books, EGO IS THE ENEMY and THE OBSTICLE IS THE WAY. Yet he tends to maintain that the viewpoint that the media is, in essence, the Great Wizard of Oz and that we as people have the power to pull back the curtain, if only we would decide that we actually wanted to.
Maybe the 8 second attention is real. Maybe it says less about our intellect as a society and more about the constant flashes of information that come through the screens around us: our television, our phones, our tablets, our computers, and — increasingly — even our cars. And maybe the people who have best learned how to use to this 8 second attention span aren’t the ones with our best interests at heart.
Holiday says the best way to make things better is to turn off the news. Stop stalking the newsfeed. What do we do when we turn off the news? We get involved in the lives of other people. We get involved with the world around us. We get involved, period.
Change doesn’t happen because we rant on Facebook or share some article that’s already trending, change happens when we see needs in the lives of people around us and in the world around us and we do something about those needs.
Also published on Medium.