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Discussion: Shorter Attention Spans than Our Headlines

A quick note about the photo, I used a picture from my instagram of the longest books I have on my shelf. Because what is more commitment than a paragraph, than a couple hundred pages of text?

I read a study for work the other day that said that our attention spans are now shorter than a goldfish. Am I surprised? Not really. I can see this as children forget how to communicate without an iPad in their face, or those who interrupt a conversation for a notification. It makes me wonder about the future of technology, of the value of face to face communication, and where it will leave me and my old fashioned ways.

But something that immediately occurred to me, was how do I adjust my blog for this new audience? How do I compile my content into bite size chunks, eight second videos, and infographic worth statistics? It became daunting and suffocating. Like my ability to write, the words behind my fingers, were slowly and firmly squeezed within a corset with no mercy. A sort of existential crisis followed where I was worried my opinions and reviews would become out dated and I would lose this passionate hobby, of which I pour over ten hours per week into (a feat considering my full time job as well).

Yet hope prevailed when I read an article that declared that content, and intellectual content as well, was going to make a strong stand. That in the world of instant there was going to be a longing for well thought out quality written work. This news instantly brightened my day, for all of about the attention span of a goldfish. I became immediately suspicious. Could our beautiful words, our passionate sentences, really combat against the ever shrinking attention span of our readers? Because I am aware of what usually happens in history to those who fight the change, stuck in their own ways, and do not accept progress. If we transition to a new standard, a new method of communication, how do I bring my words into this brave new world?

The only thing that can decide our fate is time. I have absolutely no answers. No solutions to adapt our content, to include gifs, or to get in front of a camera. At my heart remains the spirit of a playful soul who still enjoys the feeling of books in her hand and the rolling of the tongue over words of exquisite beauty. The question will just become, is there a place for me? For the words within my head to live, to thrive on virtual paper and find the company of others?

What are your thoughts?

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11 thoughts on “Discussion: Shorter Attention Spans than Our Headlines

  1. I can’t believe attention spans are shrinking 🙁 But what about movies? I mean, they still manage to capture people’s attention for long amounts of time, don’t they? *sigh* Then again, they probably mean things like blogs and books. 🙁

    1. Yes, but then again I know people who cannot sit through a movie without texting or something. And yeah I think they meant books and blogs 🙁 I have not given up hope though!

  2. I have been thinking about this on and off. The popular content right now seems to be lists, and while there’s nothing wrong with lists, I feel like I’m cheating when my book review is ‘Things I Hate’ and ‘Things I Love’. I’ve seen how this can be done well though, so I’ll be taking a page from that. But even blog formatting now takes time, because it seems long paragraphs are too much, should be interspersed with pretty pictures and what not, and I can’t get over using pictures that I didn’t take myself.

    I do like lists though. It’s perfect for me who doesn’t have a lot of time to put posts together. 😀

    1. Yes I understand totally what you are saying. Lists are great, but lists all the time can just, for me, too much! I feel the same about pictures. 🙂

  3. I always try to add some formatting to my posts for this very reason. Even if I have a discussion post with just paragraphs of text, I try to choose one sentence (or sometimes two) to bold so that the reader’s eye will be drawn to that spot and they’ll be “captured” for another goldfish-sized moment. LOL! I also use bullet points in my reviews so that people can get the gist without reading every word if they so choose. I’d love to think that my witty comments make everyone want to stick around … but I’m guessing that’s not actually the case.

    1. Those are good ideas, I was bolding my quotes, but have nor made them into blog quotes. I think those are excellent ways to keep people’s attention!

  4. I think maybe it depends on the people? Because, for example, readers obviously have the attention span to read whole books, so maybe we’re the ones who still have the attention span to read posts. And it definitely has to do with how interested someone is in something as to how much attention they give it. But like Nicole said, it also helps to do something to break up text a bit. I don’t use gifs and I don’t intersperse images in every post, but I try to at least use sections with bold headers since it seems to make posts look less daunting.

  5. I agree that formatting can make a difference. When I write up directions for my middle school students, I use larger fonts than strictly necessary, break up text into short paragraphs, and generally do what I can to not make them give up before they’ve even started. I am not as careful with my blog posts, as I would think anyone reading a book blog is capable of navigating an entire paragraph. On the other hand, I prefer to read longer text on paper, and shorter bursts of text online. I wonder if our goldfish-like attention span is more accurate when we’re online than when we’re interacting with physical text?

    1. That is a very interesting idea (about the differences versus physical and online). I suspect you are right. Maybe we scan so much of online text that it become second nature?

  6. Your question reminds me of the approach used in the World Book Encyclopedia. Articles were supposed to begin with a few sentences geared to the youngest reader that might look at it. Then they would gradually become more and more detailed, with language and information intended for more advanced readers. E.g., the Birds article would begin very differently from the Sartre article.
    So, I guess that means that you make a book review start with the basic statements you want to make about the book. Then you gradually get more detailed and offer more subtle comments about it. Those with shorter attention span (like me) will be able to get your point before they lose interest.

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