Tools and attention spans

Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter

Blogs wane as young people figure out it takes work to keep them up, and even more work to read them. Facebook and Twitter lend themselves to shorter attention spans and more easily attained popularity.

Chicken-egg: Are tools like Facebook and Twitter the right tools at the right time for our (TV) shortened attention spans, or, has the use of these particular tools shortened our attention spans (even more than they were already)?

All of us involved in online social networking have experienced the shortening of our attention spans as we scan large amounts of information looking for interesting tidbits. The question is, what do we do with the tidbits when we find them if they’re the tip of a long form article iceberg?

I’m noticing many on Twitter will re-blog this stuff without reading it which is a shame because sometimes their quick executive summary is way off the mark. Couple this with the fact that many on Facebook and Twitter are tracking thousands of contacts (some think more contacts = more popular) and you have a recipe for the dumbing down of information or certainly, the telephoning of tidbits that many aren’t taking the time to dig into and understand.

So, two things are happening that are creating shorter attention spans: Tools like Facebook and Twitter are built for chatter rather than long form writing and reading, and the sheer amount of information that many are tracking is growing, much of it chatter that gets in the way of or interrupts long form reading and more nuanced understanding.

Broadcasting tweets is a great way to build a revolution (Egypt) but it may not be the best way to build a new government and society. For that you need long form thinking, writing, reading, and understanding.

3 thoughts on “Tools and attention spans

  1. Alex Forbes

    Gad, could you say again, I was multitasking and missed that? Actually, Adam Gopnik posted a related piece on The New Yorker, um, strike that, I mean he wrote an article for publication on the paper and ink magazine. McLuhan warned us about ‘the medium is the message’, but I don’t recall him warning us about getting the profusion of them all mixed up.

    I couldn’t finish the Gopnik article because I had to catch a TV show, but I think his drift was global angst over shortened attention span. They’ve been warning us about that, he wrote, since the Gutenberg Bible, radio, dime novels, television and now that new stuff on them there Dick Tracy wrist watches. When will it all en

    … and once again it’s great to read your post, Sam, sent by Husky all the way from Anchorage … Cheers, Alex

  2. Richard Post author

    Alex: Yes, I read the New Yorker piece and have been collecting pieces about this for a while now. As you know, I was thinking about this when it was just TV taking up a lot of people’s time and attention. Now it has all sorts of other things competing with it.

    I’m afraid we’re going to lose the ability to think, or consider more than one thing at a time.

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