Ever wonder why teenagers roll their eyes more often, we love to shuffle or fast-forward songs in our music playlists, or we love twitter so much more than ‘boring’ lengthy news articles? We seem to prefer things short, easy, and super fast, otherwise we would loose patience. We have more and more limited amount of time to be able to actively attend to one thing before becoming distracted, namely Short Attention Span (SAS).
Nowadays we are exposed to information overload and instant gratification. We received vast amounts of information in rapid succession, thanks to TV and social media. Social media also foster instant gratification (IG), which is very addictive that eventually make us impatient, but this is another story the writer will discuss another time.
Just how dangerous is Short Attention Span?
Non-clinical SAS affect young children and adults differently. On children SAS hinders cognitive development, which is crucial in the learning process. On adults SAS generally prevent them being productive, foster relationships to function well in the society, and most importantly to adapt and learn new skills. For adult, SAS is basically can be a career and relationship breaker.
The combination of information deluge, SAS, and IG is very dangerous, especially for ones with temperament issues. For individual, this combination may cause impaired judgement based upon over confidence. For society in general this may potentially cause chaos, albeit good business opportunities for some. Researches had showed that in social media sphere, quality is not a necessary criterion for virality and popularity. Popularity is more about peer choices.
To blame SAS, instant gratification addiction, and social media applications alone for the rampant hoax and viral hate speech is simply not fair. Both the governments around the globe and application providers have been engaging conversations to address these. In the meanwhile what can we do?
First one must be humble and self-critical to identify whether he/she has suffered SAS and instant gratification addiction, only then this can be fixed. It is not a disaster. Quite a few successful people have them to some degrees. Depending on individual’s circumstances, besides seeking professional help, there are many questions one could ask to oneself and tools one can use. Usually about how long one can concentrate/remain interested before being distracted. Or how often he/she makes impulsive decision or quick judgement, and so on.
It may take time and commitment to rehabilitate people who suffer SAS and IG addiction, but like any disease, SAS and IG addiction can be beaten and be kept at bay with patience and consistent effort, especially the one catalyzed by social media. Meanwhile during the rehabilitation process, one can already start to have the bandwidth to be able to deal with the information deluge wisely. This time is being critical about what has been presented in the media outlet. First by controlling the floodgate, choosing the reputable fair and unbiased sources (though it means it is not from one’s usual peers), being aware of potential motives behind the façade, maybe even taking digital sabbatical regularly. Remember, everybody can choose to close the laptops and put phones on silent. And one last thing the writer would like to advocate: curbing the itchy finger trigger, you potentially do others good.
As citizen of a young democratic country, it is our duty to monitor how our country is run by the government, through proper channels. Let us not relent and continue to monitor the progress of the commitment of our government and application providers to curb hate speech and hoax.
Barcelona, 11 October 2017