Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Regardless Of Age We Now All Seem To Have The Attention Span Of A Gnat

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 5, 2009

It seems as if it doesn't matter how old you are, kids or grownups and beyond, everyone is complaining they are having trouble focusing on tasks, and that they are constantly distracted.

I remember when MTV launched in 1981. The music videos were a big hit at the time, they were imaginative and innovative -- it was very compelling content. But there were concerns that the fast edits, combined with the seductive imagery of the music world, would shorten the attention span of viewers, especially kids. There was talk of an "MTV attention span" syndrome.

However, today I know people that would kill to have the breadth of an MTV attention span. In this world where worlds of compelling content are just a click away, it's like being in a garden of Eden and feasting on every type of fruit, a cornucopia of amazing content and knowledge. And it is all available in any format you want, at anytime, and in anyplace.

The death rattle of the newspaper industry makes it seem as if media is dying, yet there is more media being created today than at any other time in human history.

Plus, there is more compelling content today than at any other time. And it has never been easier to find because our social networks constantly tip us off on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, email, sms, blogs, phone, and when we get together to talk. We are all sharing (and creating) massive amounts of compelling content, all the time.

The problem with compelling content is that it's compelling. That's why we now all seem to have the attention span of a gnat.

I've been thinking about this question for a while: In a world of compelling content what do you do? How do you deal with the distraction of its easy reach and abundance?

I have a suggestion. I'd love to hear yours, please send to tom(at)foremski.com or leave a comment.

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