Is the internet destroying our attention span?

Posted by on Aug 1, 2013 in Featured, Internet & Attention Span | 11 comments

Is the internet destroying our attention span?

Simply put, yes. The average attention span is five minutes. Ten years ago, it used to be 12 minutes. How can our attention span be less than half of what it used to be? What’s changed? The answer is… the internet. The internet is ever present in our society. Nowadays, you can be connected anywhere at any time to speedy internet services.


The internet has undoubtedly changed our lives. It has made information accessible to everyone. The benefits of the internet are huge. Do they outweigh the negative aspects though? We are a generation that is constantly checking our phones, emails, Facebook’s, Twitters for updates and notifications. We expect instant gratification from the internet. Pages on the web need to load at breakneck speed. A study found that a one second delay in page load time can result in 11% fewer page views, 16% decreased customer satisfaction and 7% lost conversions. How many of us get frustrated when a BBM takes more than 30 seconds to get delivered? Not only is technology decreasing our attention abilities, it is also decreasing our ability to be patient. We expect everything to occur instantly, at the click of a button.


Bullet pointing information is popular these days. When the information is already organized and chunked, our brain doesn’t have to go the extra mile and do the work itself. Twitter has a character limit of 140. When Facebook statuses are less than 70 characters, they get more likes than those that are more. Pinterest does without words all together. How much smaller can the information we are consuming get?


The effect of technology isn’t just changing our lifestyles; however, it is also changing our brains. Our brains are becoming rewired to suit these technological times. It has been found that older people have longer attention spans than younger people. This is most probably because they have not had their brains moulded and shaped by social media technology. The circuits in our brains that are responsible for being able to pay attention throughout a long novel, think deeply about concepts, concentrate on a challenging task etc. are becoming atrophied in adults and will perhaps be near to non-existent in the young. It has been suggested that the sharp increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could be due to the rise in the use of technology.


A Pew Internet Study in the US found that attention span and in depth analysis is being diminished by instant access to computers and online platforms. The type of reading that’s done on the internet is shallow; there is no deep thinking involved. Not only that, but in order to keep people’s short attention spans on the page, interactive videos, images and sound clips are usually posted. Unfortunately, however, it has been found that video’s actually disrupt concentration abilities. When people read text only they are able to understand more thoroughly what the text is about than when a video is involved. This compliments what 64% of teachers in the Pew online survey said about digital technologies, “They do more to distract students than to help them academically.”


So what is to be done? The whole notion of meeting children and students on their own turf by trying to teach through social media and technology isn’t going to work. By now everyone knows technology isn’t going away any time soon. Therefore, trying to ignore the problem is not a solution either. What needs to be done is to integrate technology and learning in a more appropriate way and to understand that technology has its limits. Nothing beats a paperback book for trying to extend concentration and focusing abilities. With only engaging content present and no distractions or Facebook notifications going on, a good hour or so spent reading a day will work wonders to increase attention span, patience and deep thinking. Michael Posner of University of Oregon and his colleagues actually created engaging computer-based games designed to teach children to pay attention. They found that this did improve attention span as well as reasoning and thinking skills.


To conclude, there are ways to be a technology user and still maintain a decent attention span. As it has been famously quoted, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Let’s not be that generation.



Galinsky, E. (August 1, 2013). Texting, TV and Tech Trashing Children’s Attention Spans. Huffington Post. Retrieved July 31, 2013, from

Ordioni, J. (February 5, 2013). Social Media and Short Attention Spans. ERE Net. Retrieved July 31, 2013, from

Vidyarthi, N. (December 14, 2011). Attention Spans Have Dropped from 12 Minutes to 5 Minutes — How Social Media is Ruining Our Minds [Infographic]. Social Times. Retrieved July 31, 2013, from

Weatherhead, R. (March 19, 2012). Say it quick, say it well – the attention span of a modern internet consumer. The Guardian. Retrieved  July 31, 2013, from

Macrae, F. (September 15, 2010). Facebook and internet ‘can re-wire your brain and shorten attention span.’ Mail Online. Retrieved July 31, 2013, from

Image Credit: DANIELLEZACK. (August 19, 2010). MLM Moms, Don’t Hide Behind Your Computer! That MLM Beat. Retrieved August 1, 2013, from


  1. If we are able to stay ‘connected’ for long periods of time, then how does the Internet ruin our attention span, technically it enhances it.

    • Thank you for your response. Spending longer duration’s of time on the internet does not imply that attention span is increasing in equal duration. For instance, watching a lot of television does not increase attention span. As is the case online, people are typically flicking from one thing to another, opening multiple tabs and expecting pages to load within the blink of an eye. All of this accumulates to a decreased attention span and decreased ability to concentrate for long periods of time.

      • Not to mention,that most people these days,are super impatient&that certainly does’nt help our attention spans,or anything else,really. ‘It did’nt load in half a second! Ugh! I’m going to another thing&then another. Most of which I doubt I’ll remember much about. Yippee!’ Smh…

  2. I thought this article was fascinating and will start reading daily. Thank you I really think this will help alot of people and change perspectives as it did for me.

    • Thank you for your comment! It’s always great to hear such positive feedback, I’m glad you enjoyed the article 🙂

  3. I am glad to read a study and its conclusions that reflects what I see daily. Kids who are fed a full diet of computer games and videos have a short attention span, and are not able to comprehend from reading as well as a child who reads.

    • Hmmm

  4. I personally don’t feel that the internet is the cause to our drifting concentrations, or the “rewiring of our brains”. Our attention span was never perfect in the past, and it’s not decreasing now all of a sudden. Our minds have a much better ability to adapt to things than you think! As we get older, we generally have more things to focus on, such as our family and jobs. In fact, it has always been scientifically proven that our concentration tends to erode as we age- even way before the internet was around. There are also many other factors to blame which distract us, such as television and our phones.
    I’ve realized that the internet has more benefits than disadvantages, such as helping us complete tasks at more efficient rate, gaining various abilities (ie. Power browsing), and having access to a world of information.
    Now, for those who argue that the internet is the greatest distraction for the younger generation and affects their attention span/ academic performance, let me ask this: What do most teens spend most of their time on nowadays?
    Social Media.
    The use of the internet as a research/leisure tool is helpful for teens. But what is not useful is the overuse of social media. We should shift our focus to this growing problem and work to decrease the impact of social media on student’s concentration, focus, and even mental health.

    • Thank you for sharing your insightful comment, Alex! I agree, the internet certainly has many advantages and has opened up a world to us which was closed to previous generations. I like how you stated that social media is ‘over-used.’ In moderation, I believe social media also has it’s benefits and helps fulfill a need to connect with others but it is the overuse and addictive elements which may be a problem and as you said adversely affect concentration, focus and mental health.

  5. Hi there,
    thanks for that interesting article.
    You should probably just check your Einstein citing. I think a bit of literature research will show that it has been falsely attributed to him.


    • Thank you Tjareson for your feedback! The article has been updated. I am glad the article was of interest to you 🙂

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