When I was in my youth I remember participating in classes all through school and we had no computers, no carry along phones, were not allowed to bring music players to classes and all the other digital carry along devices of today were non-existent. Most kids I knew came home from school and went outside to play and engage. Unless you had one of the original Atari sets, video games did not exist for the majority of kids. Out in the country and mountains, most of us had horrid black and white TV reception and so even setting down in-front of the TV screen after school was not really an option. What was left? Well life of course, in all the dynamics of its physical engaging reality.
Kids overall paid much better attention then than they do today. The attention span of people in general was higher than today, by far. The National Center for Biotechnology Information stated that the average attention span of people is now, in 2015, only 8 seconds. 8 seconds! How atrociously pathetic! TIME magazine reported earlier this year that goldfish have attention spans of 9 seconds. And now the average human has only 8 seconds of attention ability.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information also stated that in 2008 the attention span of the average human was only 12 seconds. 12 seconds is still quite pathetic. So in 7 years the average attention span of people has dropped 4 seconds, from pathetic to worse.
Studies done in 1976 by A.H. Johnstone and F. Percival showed the average attention span of adults was 10-20 minutes. Ralph A. Burns did another study in 1985 showing similar attention span results. So what is the major difference between the 70’s and 80’s and today that could point to the extreme lack of the average person’s ability to stay focused? I think there are a few…
The advancement of personal technology I feel is one major factor. The introduction of computers into homes and onward to video games, carry along phones, carry along computers that can access the Internet 24/7, the ability to game and surf social media sites at all hours from practically anywhere in the world and the extreme bombardment of the ever increasing intensity of external stimuli I feel all play a dramatic part.
Our brains have evolved to function in a very unique and practical way that has allowed the human species to survive and thrive in the world. Our ability to rationally think as well as deeply and complexly feel on the emotional level has made for a very dynamic being. In a world free of technical/digital bombardment and overload, our nervous systems and brains were able to cope and adapt with ease to the slow progression of social interplay. Scientists have been studying the brain and its ability to function and adapt to the extreme levels of digital sensory exposure throughout the decades. What they have been discovering is that the digital world is forcing the human brain to change and change very fast and harshly to accommodate new thinking patterns required to understand and following along with the digital format. The focus techniques used for tens of thousands of years is being forcefully changed to allow the brain to try fitting in and adapting to the digital genera. The result, dramatically decreased attention span and the very common mental disorder doctors call ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), formerly called ADD (attention deficit disorder).
Statistics show, I think a very reserved report, that the number of children 3-17 years of age ever diagnosed with ADHD is 5.9 million. Of course it is more difficult to assess the number of adults since many adults do not get “diagnosed”. Likewise I think many children also go undiagnosed.
The human brain is thought to be trying to “rewire” itself to try coping with the vast amount of high intensity and high speed information and stimuli of the digital world of modern socialization. TV, music, movies, computers, I-phones/cell phones, digital cameras, video games, social media, digital book readers, digital road signs and business signs, video games, TV, cell phones, video games, TV, cell phones and on and on the endless loop goes. Many people today use multiple digital machines at once. They will be watching TV while texting and playing some video game in one corner of their TV screen!
Just look at how much excess garbage is crammed onto on page of most websites out there today. Pop up windows and so many advertisements cluttered around that many times I have a hard time finding that actual text meat of the website! Unless necessary I avoid website such as that because they drive me nuts.
This is another damaging aspect of the modern world, multitasking. It has been shown and proven by researchers that multitasking is harmful to the way our brains have evolved to think and function efficiently. Multitasking creates an extreme and forced refocusing of the brains attention to details. This in-turn creates the inability to focus on any one thing for more than a few seconds, and what is being focused on for those few seconds is stripped down to bare minimal retention processes. Anything in that fleeting moment that is deemed extra is ignored so the brain can attempt to comprehend only the most vital speck of information deemed pertinent to the immediate and fractioned task at hand. Thus the quality of everything the brain does is lost for the sake of shabby quantity.
It used to be if you wanted to read you opened a book, one book, and you read the book in-hand. Now people can open 20 different screens on their computer and search and flip back and forth between 20 different topics, while listening to music and talking on the phone through their headsets all at the same time! How in the natural world is the brain supposed to cope with that and maintain and retain any kind of functional quality?? Kids today in many schools can have headsets on to listen to music in class while going through a lesson. Instead of reading a book or drawing once they finished a project they are instead allowed to surf the Internet, watch music videos, text and play video games on the I-pads and I-phones. How is this beneficial to the quality of the learning process?? All this does, and it is being proven through research, is distract the kids and create more and more degradation f the brains ability to focus and pay attention.
Many kids today that I know do not even know how to interact, to socialize without the digital structure. They get together in groups and the majority of their conversations are based around the Internet, video games, social media interactions and all manner of other jargon that is beyond me, but has to do directly with their I-phone apps and whatnot. If you were to remove the ability to talk about or interact through those means they would probably just sit there board out of their minds.
Of course some of the attention span issues, especially in kinds, could have something to do with vitamin deficiencies from poor diets. B-Vitamins play a particularly strong role in the mental qualities of attention, comprehension, memory, level moods and alertness. Deficiency in the B-Vitamins can create such things as:
- B-12 deficiency – anemia, depression, dementia, paranoia, tingling hands and feet and other neurologic behavioral complications, weakness, heart palpitations, failing eyesight
- B-9 (folic acid) deficiency – anemia, diarrhea, birth defects
- B-1&2 (thiamine, riboflavin) deficiency – cracks in the sides of mouth, confusion, fatigue, failing eyesight, neurologic behavior complications
- B-6 (pyridoxine) deficiency – anemia, skin disorders (rashes, cracks around mouth, swelling, hot inflammation), confusion, susceptibility to infection, depression, poor brain development in infants
There is a rather high level of vitamin deficiencies reported by health organization around the world. You can research the details of this in many places on the Web. With the bombardment of toxic chemicals, blue light and other unsavory outputs from digital devices and the overall body stress the modern way of technological lifestyles causes harms the body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients from foods we eat. This does not even get into the nutrient deficient food of the modern times.
Social media sites now number in incredible amounts! Just a few of the many social media sites and when they were launched:
- Myspace- August 2003
- Linkedin- June 2003
- Facebook- 2004
- Flickr- February 2004
- Youtube- 2005
- Twitter- 2006
- Pinterest- March 2010
- Instagram- October 2010
- Google+- June 2011
- Snapchat, originally called Picaboo- July 2011
Social media use has doubled between 2011 to 2013, as stated by attention span statistics. Who knows how much it has increased since 2013! People are losing the ability to physically engage because they use social media engagement, if you can even call it that, for the majority of the interactions anymore. Email, texting, social media, forums, video games, and so on create a virtual space, an illusion of engagement that takes away the vital physical energy interactions required by the brain to fully experience and thus comprehend the interaction. Each and every one is a distraction and facade of the reality of physical engagement.
Being a teacher I have noticed just within the last 7 years the decreasing of students abilities to properly or successfully focus in classes for any length of time. Sure it varies from person to person, but the ability to keep people fully engaged in classes becomes more and more challenging for more than a few minutes without having to change the format or position. Even in martial arts classes, if I am not constantly changing things up, I see people dissociating and spacing out. Having to cater to such poor attention spans while teaching anything is exhausting.
The results are blatantly obvious and yet so many people continue to turn a blind eye or perhaps more aptly, a dissociative eye. We can see it all around. People are putting out shabbier work at higher production rates and marketers are taking full advantage. They understand average people have pathetic attention spans these days and will get board of products much faster than people did 50 years ago. So they make cheaper products, disposable products to suit the 8 second attention span, knowing people will want something new very quickly. Therefore the manufactures produce more and more at lower cost using cheaper (less durable) materials. They know full well people will buy a product and quickly turn around to buy another one in short time. Why should they spend the time and money to produce high quality products anymore? It is quite disgusting.
“Clinical studies have proven that 2 hours of nature sounds in a single day reduces damaging stress hormones up to 800% and activates between 500-600 DNA segments responsible for repairing and healing the physical body.” ~Dr. Joe Dispenza~
The issue is that most people do not get near two hours of outdoor time and actual, live nature sounds (not recorded) each day. This is one reason I enjoy teaching what I teach and in an outdoor setting, to help people gain such experiences found nowhere else beyond the world of the “outdoors”, removed from all digital devices.
If we combine the ever increasing noise pollution, chemical toxin pollutions, toxic chemical additives to food, water, medicines and clothing and the drastically increasing stress rate of the global population, we can only guess at what dramatically ill effects it all has on the brains ability to focus and thus pay quality attention for more than 8 seconds! However, even so I think that without the vast and chaotic digital platform that much of the modern world now functions off of, the brain would be able to cope far better in its ability to function in attention aspects even with the toxins than with the excessive stimulation of digital mayhem.
I have noticed people who used to do a lot of recreational drugs also tend to have very poor attention spans, seriously damaged grounding abilities and sluggish mental aptitudes. That rather goes without saying.
With that in-mind we must also not forget the endocrine system and our hormones. It is my opinion that most of these digital screens people carry around all the time and have their faces glued to all day long are seriously harming the natural and healthy function of their endocrine systems and thus hormone productions. I have written about this before a few times so will not repeat the information here.
This attention deficit disorder I feel has many angles and sources for the issue. But the one thing very clear to me is that this issue is now a global epidemic undermining the health and well-being of the entire species of the “modern human”. Again in my humble but rather strong opinion, people need to seriously unplug and return their focus once again to the physical reality around them and stop playing into the ever increasing technically convoluted, distracting and mentally damaging modern “entertainment” and convenience technologies.