In this day and age, it’s abnormal to not own technology, especially mobile devices. Mobile devices are so heavily integrated into our everyday lives that we can’t imagine how we’d live without them. We rely on them for so many things, such as communicating with others, checking the weather, and doing basic math. We’re also offered countless platforms for content and entertainment that are accessible at any minute during day or night. Content is consumed faster than it ever has been before. Trends die before they even begin. As a result, the global attention span average is at its lowest. This is a trend that’s an exception to the rest. It’s not going away anytime soon.
Research on Attention Spans
Microsoft Canada’s Consumer Insights Branch led a study in 2015 on attention spans, and how they’re affected by our new-age technology. You can read this study here:
According to this report, the average human attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds, and in 2013 it dropped to 8 seconds. Now this research study is in no way recent as we are well into 2022. However, that makes it more frightening. If the average attention span in 2013 was already 8 seconds, what does that say about the average attention span now?
I also want to clarify that there has been some controversy on this study; the test was heavily based on a conducted survey, and some people straight up believe it’s exaggerated. It’s important to not blindly agree with something just because it came from a renowned company. However, there is truth to this study. Our attention spans are dwindling, and it’s something many people have begun to notice.
A Never-Ending Stream of Content
With social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, etc, people are given an opportunity to create and post content 24/7. And that content is being pushed to consumers constantly. Take TikTok for example. According to statistics from January 2021, there are 689 million users on TikTok. Millions of videos are updated to the app each day, meaning that there is an endless amount of content. No matter how long you scroll for, TikTok is able to push new content to your For You Page. Because videos range from 15 seconds to 1 minute (there is a new update allowing three minutes but it’s not as popular), different trends and topics are consumed fast. By using the platform for only one hour, around 60 videos are watched. This is why the app has had such success; why watch a 20 minute video on YouTube when you could watch 20 different videos in that time? As a matter of fact, according to recent statistics TikTok has surpassed YouTube in viewing time. People want fast content that satisfies them quickly.
Because content is pushed out every second, trends die fast before they even have a chance to fully develop. Back in the days of Vine, and when YouTube and Instagram were at their peak, trends lasted for at least a week. Often they lasted even longer, depending on the platform. Viewers didn’t get tired of them as fast, because new ideas and trends weren’t being created at the rate they are now. For example, a group of researchers studied current trends with the use of Google Trends. It was found that a global trend on Twitter in 2013 would have a lifespan of approximately 17.5 hours, compared to 11.9 hours in 2016. Five years have gone by since then, and that number has gone down since.
Why is Fast Content Consumption Popular?
There is scientific reasoning behind why viewers around the world prefer fast content consumption, and new constant entertainment. When scrolling through the explore page, for you page, or whatever it may be, your brain is actively in pursuit of dopamine. When you find a video or post that makes you smile, laugh, or interests you, your brain receives a surge of dopamine. Your brain is then motivated to receive more dopamine, which makes it hard to stop scrolling. That’s also why it’s so easy for us to consume content so fast.
Global media and content consumption has changed radically over the past decade, and users of content platforms are affected. It will be interesting to see if these changes to the global attention span average will continue to progress or not. Perhaps this is something you could keep in mind the next time you find yourself endlessly scrolling.