A lot of people in the past 5 years or so have been suggesting that attention spans are on the quick decline. After all, you’ve probably heard that we now have a collective average attention span of 8 seconds, which is less than the 9 seconds that goldfish have. And even while that last statement was actually a blatant lie (just to be honest), it does seem to me that our collective reading attention span is going down.
After all, knowledge has been conveyed either by word of mouth or by written text for at least 2,000 years before today. People with books were the people with knowledge. In medieval times, the peons were the ones who couldn’t read. In the 1800’s, an extensive home library meant an extensive mind. More reading, more knowledge. Simple equation. In the 1900’s, newspapers were big. Small, dense lettering, almost everyone could read and the daily paper was available to everyone.
Then, the Internet.
Thank you, Al Gore (also a joke). But honestly, the Internet revolutionized something. What do we call this revolution? The Information Revolution. Within the same span of time as the life of Christ on Earth, we developed the ability to take a square out of our pocket and touch it in a way that lets us search almost every recorded thing that has ever happened. For all of the last few thousand years.
This isn’t to be cheesy, but just stop for a moment to think about that. Your grandparents didn’t grow up with the ability to do much other than go to the local library. Your parents were the exact same way. We’ve grown up with technology as another appendage. This has come with some incredible advances, but now most of us are literally on social media as much as we sleep, digesting information in 280 character blips, or posts with pictures or videos.
It makes it a lot easier to catch breaking information on the latest stock market trend or your latest political joke, but does it make it easier to have honest, truthful and deep conversation and debate? Probably not.
Ask yourself where you thought you’d be today when you were 10, and then ask yourself where you think you’ll be when you’re 40. Maybe a little more lengthy reading won’t kill you? Or maybe we’ll just need to wait for @Twitter to raise the character limit again.