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The Goldfish Effect: Social Media Users and Short Attention Span

By Akinwale Akinyoade 20 January 2019   |   6:08 am

In the 21st century where everyone uses social media, it is safe to say that Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” campaign would be more effective if it were replaced with, “Are you paying attention to me now?”

Why you may ask? The people have a short attention span that researchers are speculating has a negative effect on social networking platforms. Social Media Today published an analysis that Facebook posts of 70 characters or fewer get the most likes and comments; posts from 71 to 140 characters do less well, and the number of likes drops tremendously when posts are over 140 characters. The same number as a tweet.

 

A lady pressing her phone at work

A lady pressing her phone at work. Photo: Pexels

A connection was made between social media and attention by British Neurologist, Lady Greenfield because social networking allows for “instant gratification”. Just like a drug, the social media user wants the instant thrill before moving to the next high and social networking encourages this by rewarding the centre of the brain to signal as it does with drug use.

It comes as no surprise, that social media users can hardly give a subject matter adequate attention before getting lost. A good example of this is with the recent rape allegation levelled against a social media user. The reactions moved quickly from the grave subject of rape to nudity and the subject of analingus while we forgot what had actually started the conversation.

We call it media multitasking but the truth is that although the brain can perceive two stimuli in parallel timeframes; it limits the ability to respond or process. Social media comes with many gains but checking how it affects you now and then is not a bad idea.

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