How Social Media Affects Our Attention Span
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How Social Media Affects Our Attention Span


Many times, we open social media platforms to take a break from our studies or work that we were engaged in earlier till the times we are surprised to see the break which was intended to be no longer than 5-10 mins, has somehow extended to almost an hour of mindless scrolling. And even if we try to recall the contents online that we have consumed so far in this one hour, we fail. As if the one hour has vanished from our lives suspiciously. But why does this happen?

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Social media, which we sometimes consider the latest medium of networking has been there for a long time now. Social media is a great way to find friends, show your talent, take up new hobbies, get a job and learn almost anything you want to without stepping out of your house. It was essentially remarkable for people to express their emotions and views at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic when every single person was locked till the situation of the world became better. But as we all know, there are several shortcomings of this social media that have now become an integral part of our lives.

Starting from loneliness, to fear of missing out, social media makes people constantly compare themselves to others. While it’s all perfect and aesthetic in the world of social media, oftentimes, the people that you see through screens having the most number of followers, have to go through the circumstances of using it too much. One such major effect that we will be talking about in this article is social media and its effect on our attention span.

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According to the American Psychological Association, attention span is “the length of time an individual can concentrate on one specific task or other item of interest.”. Attention span refers to the ability of an individual to focus on a particular stimulus for some time. The longer it takes a person to shift from a particular stimulus makes it easy to focus and concentrate, in short, retain attention for a longer period. Although your concentration might vary in situation, place and many external and internal factors, one prominent factor nowadays is the usage of social media. The need to respond quickly online, makes it difficult to focus on any ongoing tasks that the person might be engaged in. Social media and notifications are some of the key distracting features in the modern day.

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Risks of Short Attention Span

  • Faces difficulty in communicating their ideas.
  • He/she becomes less detail-oriented which increases the scope for errors.
  • The performance of the person at school, work, or social events decreases.
  • The person experiences an inability to complete daily tasks and meet deadlines.
  • Lack of self-care leads to poor health conditions and an inability to take up healthy habits.

How does social media affect the Attention Span?

Attention Span is affected by the increased use of social media as there is no scarcity of content on the social media platforms and the mindless scrolling makes an individual shift from one stimulus to another in no time. On an episode of a famous podcast, “Speaking of Psychology by the American Psychological Association”, Dr Gloria Mark, PhD, explains that the constant stimulation that we receive from social media platforms, paired with the constant influx of information in our daily lives affects our brain’s ability to maintain attention over some time. Paul G. Simeone (PhD) Vice President, Medical Director of Behavioral Health at Lee Health, says “There are no clinical diagnostic criteria for social media addiction, but general addiction criteria can be adapted to people’s social media use.

Read More: Social Media Addiction Among Children and how to deal with it.

Like with many addictions, social media directly targets the reward system within the brain, triggering a release of dopamine.” (Macit et al., 2018) This pretty much explains the whole idea behind the additive social media and its effects on us. The dopamine serves as the reward system within us. Other reasons for having a shorter attention span can be related to certain conditions like ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, brain injury, any type of learning disability, autism or other conditions that include a decline in the cognitive functioning of an individual.

Activities that can help you Increase your Attention Span

While it’s quite common for us to have a shorter attention span nowadays. But if your attention span is leading to distress or any type of dysfunctioning in your social, occupational and personal life, it’s time for you to seek professional help. From there it will be easier for you to identify the root cause of the shortening of your attention span. But here are a few of the steps you can take to help yourself increase your attention span.

  • Therapy: therapy will not only identify your problems in a more detailed manner it will also let you have personalized solutions to your problems.
  • Drink water and hydrate yourself: we might not notice the effects of dehydration on our body but studies have found that dehydration for two hours can impair your concentration.
  • Exercise: 30 minutes of exercise or walking daily can lead to a better attention span and focus in an individual. Studies have shown it is even beneficial for people with ADHD.
  • Chewing gum: yes you heard it right, chewing gums can be beneficial for people to increase their attention span, and alertness and lower stress levels. It is an easy way of developing attention span.
  • Practice mindfulness: mindfulness is a process that makes you pay attention to details and focus on one thing at a time. It can be achieved through several methods, for example; mindful breathing, eating etc.
  • Meditation: It is no wonder that meditation is beneficial for an individual’s ability to perform better, and have more focus and concentration on their daily life activities. It’s the most tried and tested method to increase attention span.
  • Try listening or reading more than viewing content: Listening to a podcast or reading stories will enable your mind to create images out of your schemas which will keep you engaged and let you focus more on the details, rather than when you watch content.

Every one of us gets bored of things, places and people around us, sometimes when we multitask, there are external factors like noise and distractions, and sometimes it’s burnout or exhaustion that makes it difficult for us to focus on a single thing for a longer period. Taking breaks in between, walking, reading books, meditation etc. are the way out of it. Although it’s recommended to engage for a smaller amount of time on social media. But if the shorter attention span affects your daily life, try asking for professional help.

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