I’m constantly hearing people say that the average attention span of a human being is eight seconds. Apparently this is down from twelve seconds, in 2008. I find this to be very WOAH A NEW SONG JUST CAME ON. Sorry, my eight seconds of attention was up.
A goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds.
I don’t care how true that last sentence is, why has no one questioned the fact that we’re even calculating the attention span of a goldfish in the first place?
Seriously. If I were a goldfish, I would imagine it would be very difficult to have an attention span longer than that. I’d constantly want to be doing something different. You know why? Because I’m a goldfish with absolutely nothing to do!
When a goldfish meets a fellow goldfish and they start interacting and exchanging hobbies, how many hobbies do you think they list? After swimming and eating, what else do they do in their spare time? Jenga? Tetris? Snapchat? Blackjack at the local casino?
Now, I’m way out of my depth when it comes to how someone calculates the attention span of a human being. I’m sure Google knows. Google knows everything. Google knows the colour of your socks. And if you’re not wearing socks, it knows that too.
I just think comparing us to a goldfish is one of those “Let’s make a headline out of a shocking fact” situations.
If we were told that the average attention span of a human was eight seconds and they didn’t tell us the length of a goldfish, would any of us even think to ask?
How many of us are thinking about the attention span of a rooster right now? None (before I mentioned it). Yet, if the fact came out and was directly compared with humans, it would be common knowledge.
Now then, let me tell you what you already know. And that is, we live in an era where we want things immediately. Yet we can wait over half an hour for a pizza to be delivered to our house. Over half an hour! For pizza! How have we displayed such restraint?
Our whole lives, we are conditioned to keep things brief. Say everything you have to say, but here’s your time limit, here’s your word limit, here’s your character limit.
We have character limits now! Every time I tweet something, I’m tempted to put no spaces or punctuation because that just uses up one of my valuable one hundred and forty characters.
Almost every tweet I compose is too long, so then I have to make an executive decision and decide which words I need to abbreviate, or get rid of completely.
Most of my tweets start on the second or third word of normal sentences. For example:
“Tonight, I am going to order a pizza with…etc.”
“Gonna order a pizza…etc.”
Boom. Just like that I knocked off 14 characters. Who says we don’t use math in every day life?
Twitter just appeases our desire for immediate knowledge, with short bursts of information before we scroll down to read all of the tweets that have appeared since we last checked.
And I use the word “read” very loosely. I’m pretty sure most of us skim through tweets. Or we look at who tweeted it, try to pick out some buzz words, and then keep scrolling.
Just keep scrolling. Just keep scrolling. Just keep scrolling.
If you want to post something longer, go on Facebook. But if people post a long paragraph on Facebook, unless it’s meaningful, has some sentimental value, or is the funniest thing you’ve read all week, I don’t think people want to read it. You’re taking up space on their precious News Feed. As if their News Feed needs your non-sensical rant! How dare you contribute to the garbage pile.
Then if you really want to write something long, you get a blog. But even here, I feel like I can’t make things too long. The word count stares at me as I type every word. The closer I get to 1,000, the closer I get to people being turned away because the post is too long.
Or if there are
many long paragraphs that
have too many words in them,
which isn’t appealing to the naked eye,
I will frequently break up paragraphs
and sometimes sentences, too
like this one, just
to make a point,
and make it
All throughout school we were given a limit on essays. 2000 words seemed like so many words, most of the time. 1000 words felt like a breeze. Yet with both, I had to be wary of not going over, as if I was a contestant on The Price is Right and feared Bob Barker telling me I overbid on a showcase showdown.
I know that teachers, professors, markers, teaching assistants, and whoever else reads essays, need a word limit so they aren’t marking for days. They also want a word limit because they want to see how quickly you can make your point and prove it.
However, sometimes I wished I was given an assignment with the instructions, “Write until you have nothing left to say.”
Only once did that happen. Well, sort of. The professor said we could write an opinion paper on anything we wanted, with a word limit of 800 words, but we could go over if necessary. My paper was almost 2000 words. Why? I got to write about sports and I thought it was necessary. I got an A.
Is there merit to making your point in 800 words? Sure. I also think there is merit in writing as much as you want, so you don’t have to cut out some really insightful thoughts.
No one likes people that ramble, whether in person, in an essay, or online. People see long paragraphs on Facebook and ask themselves why someone would post it. It’s taboo.
The term “Too long; didn’t read” has even been cut down to “tl;dr”. We are so lazy. As if writing four words is a chore.
It’s 2015. We live in a different world.
It’s a world with unprecedented access to information.
It’s a world that can go from one story to the next by the flick of an index finger.
It’s a world that wants to know everything, but doesn’t have the patience to hear everything.
It’s a brief world. And I’m not talking about underwear.