Extensive Social Media Use and Attention Disorder

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram force us into ‘media multitasking’.

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

They are designed in such a way that many things occur simultaneously. Our attention is quickly switched from one information to another, from one site to another. We may get used to doing tasks in a short time, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or TikTok while watching a movie, checking Twitter while studying, or checking notifications while having lunch.

At the same time, the human mind actually struggles to process more than one thing at a time. When we force our brain to multitask, it becomes overwhelmed and overloaded. We need time to switch back between each task, and to refocus each time, and that’s exhausting for the brain.

The Goldfish Effect: Why Social Media Shortens Our Attention Span?

Attention span is the amount of time spent concentrating on a task before becoming distracted.

Photo by Esteban Bernal on Unsplash

Although it is still debated, National Centre for Biotechnology Information conducted research that shows the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013, just one second below a goldfish.

It means that humans have 8 seconds of concentration on a task on average before they are distracted by another thing.

Our brains have begun to imitate the internet browsers we see daily. Just as we can always open more tabs in our browser, we can now cut short one thought and open a new one. Social media has caused the human mind to have an attention span equivalent to that of a goldfish.

Why having a short attention span and attention disorder is a problem?

Extensive social media and smartphone usage have a negative impact on our attention and memory systems by changing the way our brain processes incoming information. Attention disorder has effects on the brain as the attention system is closely linked to all other cognitive systems, including our memory: short-term memory and long-term memory.

If our attention is working optimally, our memory hardware is able to effectively encode new information and retrieve old information. Otherwise, the encoding mechanism in the brain becomes less optimal and we will have difficulty storing new memories.

A video explaining the effect of attention disorder on the work of memory:

Extensive social media use may also affect other ways: called “instant gratification” we get from posting an image or video or anything.

Every time we get a new like or new follower our brain releases dopamine, the same feel-good neurotransmitter that is released when you eat chocolate. It causes a good feeling of using social networks and makes us use them again and again. After that, since using social media becomes more joyful, multitasking keeps going on, affecting our attention, and then it is just like a circle of problems.

Minimizing attention Disorder and Improving Attention Span

Monitoring screen time

It’s important to know how much time you’re spending on your smartphone, computer, and TV. If it’s too much, limit yourself to 35–40 minutes a day. Find hobbies that don’t involve screens, like board games, walking, or riding your bicycle.

Relaxing mind

Try to practice meditation or breathing exercises, or any mindful activities to help you relax and increase your focus in the present moment.

Having a stimulus-free zone

If you’re looking at your phone or tablet before going to sleep, you can actually disrupt your sleep, which causes fatigue. Instead, try reading a book or listening to relaxing music.

Putting the phone away

Putting the smartphone away while working on a certain thing. It can prevent us from unconsciously checking the phone every minute while working or studying. One of the simple ways of avoiding distraction.

Reducing the time spent on the internet

Reducing the amount of time spent multitasking on the internet and social networks. This could mean no phones at the dinner table or wapping a laptop for a book during relaxation time.

It’s okay to scroll away through Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or anything, but take it slowly and do one thing at a time.

“Try to always find time every day to unplug, calm down, and focus on one thing at a time. Your notifications and those cat videos would be there when you get back.” :)

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