There is no doubt that social media has had some kind of impact on human behavior. Even without looking far, you can think of how you communicate differently with your friends with the advances in social media. Think of the different emotions that you go through as you interact with others through different online communities. Behavioral psychologists have been studying this new and uncharted territory known as social media. Some of the most interesting studies on the effects of social media consider how it has impacted the human attention span.
New Ways of Communicating
Thanks to the internet, the world has been brought closer together. It’s now easier and cheaper than ever to keep up with friends and family who are scattered across the globe. With social media, you can keep up with their activities, events, achievements, and anything else in their lives that they share online. Social media has also been a game changer for general information sharing, news, discussions, debates, and the spread of trends and new ideas.
This is a breakthrough in communication, which inevitably has its own pros and cons. Some of the not-so-pleasant effects include cyber-bullying, spreading misleading and untruthful information, and desensitizing people to serious matters. Social media platforms and regulators are working tirelessly to contain harmful online behavior that impacts the rest of the community. Much of this is a work in progress because not even the creators of these platforms could have imagined the far-reaching impact, good and bad, that these sites were going to have.
Social Media and Your Attention Span
Another effect of social media is reducing people’s attention span. Every day, we are inundated with so much information that it becomes hard to differentiate between what is important and what is not. For many in the younger and even the older generation, a phone is an extension of themselves to be carried at all times. We find ourselves very easily distracted by all the different apps on our phones, and this affects our productivity. One study found that people check their phones an average of 80 times daily while on vacation.
A few studies have looked at attention span specifically. According to one commonly cited study, the attention span of the average human dropped from 12 to 8 seconds between 2000 and 2013. While there is debate about the numbers, there is agreement that all the information and visuals we are exposed to are impacting our human attention span.
One study found a link between an internet addiction diagnosis and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD). School children who had internet addiction scored high in ADHD symptoms, while students who already had ADHD scored high on internet addiction indicators.
How to Manage Your Social Media Usage
There are many different opinions from thought leaders, scientists, and society in general about how much time you should spend online. Some people highlight the benefits of being able to stay connected no matter where we go in addition to staying informed and up-to-date. Some, on the extreme end, are opting to stick to email, phones, and in-person meetings as their only ways to stay connected. Whichever end you lie closer to, it’s beneficial to review your online behavior and social media usage.
The internet is not going anywhere, and it’s hard to ignore or downplay all the different benefits that it has brought about. There is, however, a great need to manage one’s use of social media to avoid becoming addicted to distractions at the expense of other priorities such as family time, work, school, and personal goals. Setting up personal limits has been one of the most effective ways to maximize the benefits and limit the harm from social media.