Sitting down to write this post was hard, because I am four episodes into a gripping series on Netflix,and trying to pull myself away from that feels impossible. I’ve removed myself from my lounge room, and locked myself away in my room to take away distractions, but even now I have Youtube and Facebook open in another tab, in case I want a quick break from typing.
Ask anyone from the older generations and they will tell you that youths today have no attention spans.
A 2015 report by Microsoft Canada found that:
“Overall, digital lifestyles deplete the ability to remain focused on a single task, particularly in non-digital environments. But, all is not lost. Connected consumers are becoming better at doing more with less via shorter bursts of high attention and more efficient encoding to memory” (Microsoft 2015).
The same report finds that the average human attention span is now 8 seconds. I believe those findings. I am almost never focused on a single task, always working on three things at once as well as having my social media tabs open, Netflix running in the background and my phone by my side. But, every now and then I am hit with an intense feeling of motivation and will smash out most of an assessment in one sitting, with only checking Facebook once or twice in the process.
(For full transparency, at this point of the post I went and made lunch and a cup of tea, taking my laptop and watching part of the series. Lunch went for longer than it should have. I need help).
In another Microsoft study on consumer multiscreen use aimed at helping marketers target the multiscreen consumer identified engagement with multiple devices and found there are four main behaviors:
- Content Grazing: This is the most common way consumers interact with multiple devices. 68 percent of consumers use two or more screens simultaneously to access unrelated content.
- Investigative Spider-Webbing: 57 percent of consumers use one device to find information related to what they are doing on another device.
- Quantum Journey: 46 percent of consumers use multiple devices to accomplish a task.
- Social Spider-Webbing: This is the least common use of multiple screens. 39 percent of consumers share content about activities they’ve accomplished on other devices (Marvin 2013).
Taking this information, I conducted a very small, informal experiment using my housemates. I suggested a movie night, with the aim to document their device use while watching a movie and whether that affected their enjoyment of the movie.
I believe that they are all content grazers, and would miss out on important parts of the movie because they were too busy focusing on their phones. The test pool was made up of Madi, Lauren, Tom and Gee, and we watched a horror film called Hush – which I selected because it features a deaf woman, and the film relies on watching more than hearing in order to understand the plot.
The test pool was made up of Madi, Lauren, Tom and Gee (all aged between 22 and 24), and we watched a horror film called Hush – which I selected because it features a deaf woman, and the film relies on watching more than hearing in order to understand the plot.
After the movie, I asked each of them to rate the film and tell me what they thought about it, and also if they could guess how much they used their phones during the film.
All four of them used their phones during the movie.
- They were accessing Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, iMDB as well as texting.
One four occasions, Tom had to ask what had just happened because he wasn’t paying attention. One of these times was during the climax of the movie. Gee also asked once what had just happened.
Lauren looked at her phone the least, and Tom looked at his phone the most. Gee and Madi fell in the middle somewhere.
AFTER MOVIE POLL:
Lauren voted the movie a 9/10 and said it was one of the best thriller movies she had seen in a long time. She said it was genuinely scary and she could not look away. She thought she only looked at her phone once when she got a message from her boyfriend and once when she looked up an actor on iMBD.
Madi voted the movie a 9/10. She said she liked it, and was really freaked out. She admitted that she looked at her phone a lot, especially during the tense or scary screens because it helped her be distracted and less affected by the scare.
Gee voted the movie an 8/10 and said she liked it but the beginning was really slow. She also didn’t understand one section of the film involving a fire alarm. I asked her if she remembered the alarm being explained earlier in the movie and she said she didn’t. She thought she was only on her phone a little bit.
Tom voted the movie a 6/10. He didn’t like it and thought it was a bit boring. He also thought the ending was predictable. He admitted he was on his phone almost the entire time.
As a researcher, I acknowledge my experiment was largely subjective, and therefore no real results could be gathered apart from what I know about my friends. Taking the results of the experiment, as well as my knowledge, I find that the use of a phone during a horror movie does detract from the experience of the film.
In the Canadian Microsoft study, it was found that:
“Social media can drain one’s resources, reducing the ability to allocate attention, connect with content on an emotional level, and process information.” (Microsoft 2015)
Three out of four of my friends used social media during the film, and those three all engaged less emotionally with the film. I also found that all of the four were aware of their multiscreen use, and didn’t really see it as an issue.
As I said, this was in no way an accurate study, but I would like to look into attention spans and device use as part of my final project – the question is, how?
Marvin, G 2013, ‘Microsoft Study: Multi-Screen Behaviours And What It Means For Marketers’, Marketing Land, published March 18, viewed September 10 2016, <http://marketingland.com/microsoft-study-multi-screen-behavior-and-what-it-means-for-marketer-36456>
Microsoft Canada 2015, ‘Attention Spans’, Consumer Insights, < https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/649091/mod_resource/content/1/microsoft-attention-spans-research-report.pdf>