Generation Z’s attention span is shortening.

The World Economic Forum (2021) found young people in 1984 used to read twice as much (35%) as young people in 2021 (17%). The explanation for this is simple: social media and our growing use of smart devices.

Dopamine is a hormone in our brain that has various roles, including reward and motivation. Social media makes the most of this natural pleasure drug in the shortest amount of time. Every like, follow, or basic notification causes a momentary surge of euphoria, strengthening the brain’s need for this sensation.

We’ve all grown addicted to dopamine, which is fed to us through our phones.

According to a Microsoft research, the typical individual now loses focus after only eight seconds. The influence of social media on attention and focus has long been questioned. It is now widely accepted that social media consumes or exhausts attention resources while diverting attention away from other vital life activities such as employment, education, and self-improvement. Not only are attention spans shortening, but many users are multitasking while using social media, resulting in even less focus on each job.

Through rapid and instant pleasure, social media has taken over our attention spans, impacting our brains’ capacity to focus on anything else we deem less interesting.

A shorter attention span can have a number of negative impacts, including:

  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Missing significant details or information
  • Difficulties in communication in relationships
  • Empathy, and the compassion it inspires, are vital human characteristics. Empathy decreases when the attention span falls.
  • The whole vision is lost, and propaganda can simply carry it out.

Fortunately, even though this is a prevalent problem, there are solutions to combat it.

When feeling overstimulated from the amount of time spent on social media, try making these simple changes to lessen the impact social media has on your attention:

  • Monitor your screen time. Figure how much time you spend on social media a day and limit yourself to 30 minutes. The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology recommends using social media for 30 minutes every day for better physical and mental health.
    • Find other hobbies that do not involve screens. For eg. socialising with friends, playing board games, riding a bicycle.
  • Set specific times to check social media. For eg. if you’ve been in a class for an hour and a half without getting distracted, then reward yourself by checking your socials for a few minutes afterward. Doing this teaches your brain to link extended periods of focus with a dopamine boost.
  • Relax your mind. Studies in the USA have found a very strong association between intense social media use, lower mood, and life satisfaction, and even depression, and anxiety.
    • Practicing meditation or breathing exercises to help you relax can increase your focus and attention span.
  • Make your bedroom a stimulus-free zone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should avoid using electronic devices, including your cell phone, at least 30 minutes before sleeping.Looking at your phone or tablet before going to bed might really affect your sleep, causing weariness.
    • Instead, read a book or listen to soothing music.
    • Similarly, avoid going on your phone an hour after you wake up unless necessary. Doing this will force you to focus on your morning routine and give you a productive start to your day which sets the tone for the rest of the day.
  • Learn delayed gratification. This will help you preserve and stay focused on goals where the satisfaction is not immediately experienced. This helps you identify your short and long term goals that bring you success in life.
    • Track your time by logging how much time you dedicate to each activity and identify your patterns of distraction. This allows you to reflect on what is the best use of your time. This tactic is a great add to your daily routine.

Life’s far too short to spend the whole time scrolling.