Attention Spans Are Getting Shorter

Attention Spans Are Getting Shorter

Attentions spans are shrinking, nobody can pay attention for more than a few seconds.

That’s what I hear all the time, and it was brought up many times in a recent chat2lrn. Just to clear things up, an attention span is that thing that allows us to pay attention to something. You know, when something captures our attention because it’s so incredibly interesting and we can’t turn away.

Patience goes along with attention spans, it takes patience to have a long attention span. The big claim is that they’re both getting shorter.

The Immovable

The problem isn’t that attention spans are getting shorter, the problem is that those that had our attention in the past never deserved it.

Yup, we’re getting more selective about what we pay attention to. There’s a lot of information coming at us. It used to be just newspapers where we got our news, then came radio, then TV, then Internet, then our brains exploded.

There’s a lot of great stuff to read, watch, and listen to. There’s also a ton of crap.

Attention spans haven’t gotten shorter, they’re just more selective for good content. So if I’m not writing good content, I’ll lose my audience within 8 seconds and it’s not their fault, it’s 100% mine.

Here’s the Tweet from the chat, it was pretty lively but it had nothing to do with attention spans, it just happened to come up, I have a strong belief in it, and I felt like writing about it.

So there you have it, to sum up the truth on attention spans, and by extension patience:

Attention spans aren’t getting shorter, they’re becoming more selective for good content.

— Nick Leffler


I mentioned above there’s so much stuff coming at us we’re likely to experience a brain explosion. Sometimes it really does feel like this. Am I alone there?

It’s more important than ever to learn how to manage all this information. You can’t shut it off and stop reading and stop learning, jobs demand that you’re a lifelong learner. From the minute you get out of college with your degree you’re starting the learning program of life.

It’s not possible to read everything you run across, so it’s important to learn how to manage information in a meaningful way.

Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is a great way to manage that. My favorite person to follow that writes regularly on PKM is Harold Jarche, he runs workshops that help people get a handle on their professional improvement through PKM.

One of Harold’s methods of making sense of the information he runs across is blogging. It’s great because it’s publicly searchable and can be shared with others easy. I can’t recall how many times I’ve searched my blog for information I’d previously written about to share with others so I could better explain something. It has come in handy on more than one occasion. I found the post above in this paragraph in less than 3 minutes.

So, what do you think the best way to deal with the explosion we experience from the information overload?


I even included a long section (one of the longest!) in my course about setting up your professional website to have a blog. I’m also working on another course that’s about getting started blogging on for free. While this isn’t the ideal method for the future, it’s better than not blogging at all.

Gut Filters

We have our gut to thank for attention spans getting shorter, or I should say seeming they’re getting shorter. Our gut paired with our split second filters gives us the ability to decide if reading, watching, or listening to something is worth our time.

The shorter our attention span, or rather our ability to decide if something is worth our time, the smarter the being. In the year 2000 as a whole the human race was less intelligent than a goldfish (of course that’s not true! Is it?) with our attention span measuring about 12 seconds. In 2013 we are now the more intelligent of the two with an attention span measuring about 8 seconds on average. (Attention Span Statistics)

Dismiss The Confusion

Just so we’re not confused anymore, the statistics mentioned above have nothing to do with attention spans, those are gut reactions, the ability to decide quickly if something’s worth our time. It’s not a bad thing to have a quick gut filter, in fact it helps us find something worth our while faster and be able to spend more time on that.

Attention spans have actually gotten longer. Could you imagine a movie 40 years ago at 3 hours long? Let me know if you find one. We regularly sit in movie theaters for movies that are 3+ hours long and we love it, we come back for more!

That’s attention span. They’ve gotten immeasurably longer and we have all the patience in the world for great content. Video games? I used to play for hours at a time when I was truly into a game. Now I’m much shorter on time so I play quick bits if that. It’s not that my attention span has gotten shorter, I just know I have to use my time more wisely so I use my gut filters regularly.

Moving On

I invite you to dismiss the myth of attention spans. Propagate the fact we’re better than ever at exercising our gut filters therefore allowing us to become more intelligent and wise with our time.

What do you think? Are you going to join me in the battle against myths? Yet another one in the long line of myths that are sold to us everyday because they’re easily packaged and can easily deceive.

Attention Spans Are Getting Shorter

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2 thoughts on “Attention Spans Are Getting Shorter”

  1. This is such a great insight: We are not dumbing down or missing out to avoid our brains exploding; we’re being more selective and have honed our junk filter muscles to work 33% faster. Thanks for getting my attention.

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