The truth about our shortening attention spans

Attention spans are rapidly shortening. Social media, texting and the always-online lifestyle is destroying our ability to focus for more than seconds at a time!

You’ve probably heard this a hundred times, maybe experienced it yourself on occasion? The strange thing is, it isn’t true.

How do I know? While we’re reading about shortening attention spans the same sources also report new trends like binge watching shows on Netflix, long form articles, and the popularity of book long podcast episodes the likes of Hardcore History. These two ideas contradict each. Both can’t be true.

The truth is that media consumption is changing radically. We are so inundated with content that we simply have no tolerance for things we don’t like. At the same time we will put in every effort to indulge in the things we love.

If your content needs to be trivially short to catch your audience attention, chances are your content just isn’t that great. On the other hand, it might just be suited for very short consumption?

I wonder if engagement killed social media?

There’s no way to miss the frustration about social media all around us. Algorithmic feeds, allegations of Facebook manipulating the media. It never seems to end.

in the middle of this storm Andy Baio, the former CTO at Kickstarter, put up a link that shows you what your twitter feed was like ten years ago. It went viral.

Today were bombarded by snide comments and jokes at everyone’s expense, but ten years ago people mostly observed and shared things. 

I wonder why?

What happened that made the social landscape change this drastically? Was is the influx of new people that swamped the established culture? Possible, but I believe in humanity way more than that. was is the hardening social climate all around us? Doubtful, the only place it seems to get rougher is in the the media.

I think there’s a piece of evidence right there in what social posts look like today.

It’s a megaphone.

All these posts are broadcasts. They’re mostly snide, satirical or cynical posts at someone’s expense. 

There’s  another sort of content that’s experiencing the same development in parallel. News is growing worse and more snide by the minute in the race for faster and cheaper clickbait. 

Can it be that social media turned bad because we all strive for short term engagement? We know that measuring engagement shortsightedly has left Facebook with the massive undertaking to redesign their feed. So it’s not a big leap of the imagination to think that perhaps social media was killed by the like button. And twitter by the heart icon.

An entire form of media. Possibly killed because of a bad design choice. 

...or am I reading to much into this?