Can you remember the last time you spent an hour with someone between the ages of 12 and 64, when neither of you checked your phone? Let’s face it—these days, media-free time is a rarity. In fact, according to research reported on Axios, we check our phones 50 times each day on average, with some studies suggesting it could be three times this amount! On the whole, it’s estimated we spend six hours per day using digital media.
The result of all this media multi-tasking? Microsoft Corporation recently conducted a survey of over 2000 digital consumers in Canada and documented brainwave activity in another large group at varying levels of communication technology use. Findings:
- Since the year 2000 – about the time the mobile revolution started – the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. For perspective, goldfish have recorded attention spans of 9 seconds!
- Heavy multi-screeners have difficulty “filtering out irrelevant stimuli,” which basically means they’re more easily distracted.
The consequences of this are far-reaching and dismal. Besides being a direct blow to intellectual comprehension, having a shorter attention span lowers how we connect and communicate with each other. Less focus means less listening, less understanding, and more superficiality in how we interact.
As passionate as I am about the power of connection in making all of us more effective, powerful, knowledgeable, and compassionate, I take this collateral damage from our society’s tech/media obsession seriously. Like the backlash from too much of any good thing, media consumption needs some healthy boundaries. Here are some suggestions – which I practice myself – to keep my brain and my relationships healthy and authentic:
- Scene-before-Screen Ritual – Upon waking, check out the scene out your window before checking your phone or computer screen. While doing this, focus on gratitude for the gift of getting to play another day on the planet, and then set a positive intention for the hours ahead.
- Abolish Alerts – Turn social media alerts “off” on your devices. You can check these out later, but when you do, limit how much time you invest socializing in an online versus in-person community.
- No Phone Zones – When you’re dining or spending time with family and/or friends, turn off the phone and put it face down (even better, keep it in another room).
- Ban Bedtime Checks – Resist the urge to check your email “just one last time” before going to bed. Trust me, you will sleep much better without advance notice of tomorrow’s tasks!
Some of you may be tethered to your phone on the job, but don’t extend your over-digitalization to off-work hours as well. Nurture the one quality that separates you from animals, machines, and inanimate objects alike—your ability to connect as a human being.