Thanks Social Media – Our Average Attention Span Is Now Shorter Than Goldfish

Oops. I forgot!

On October 9, 1999 I married the love of my life. The following day we were whisked off to beautiful Hawaii for an amazing honeymoon trip we still talk about now almost 15 years ago.

2 days into our trip, I was videotaping the sunset and noticed on the date stamp on the old camcorder screen that it was October 12th – OMG I forgot it was my birthday!

How could I forget my own birthday? (Thankfully, it was mine and not my wife’s!)

Marketing ROI Formula DownloadBut it’s easy to see how this happened. I had gotten married, spent almost a whole day on a plane to fly half-way around the world. I landed in a tropical paradise and I guess part of my brain just checked out. This was 1999. Before Facebook. Before Twitter. Before iPhones with reliable cell service.

Linkedin launched in June, 2003. Facebook launched in 2004. YouTube launched in 2005. Twitter in 2006. And now we also have Pinterest. And Instagram. And Snapchat. All of these mechanisms are pushing content across a world that now also sends millions of texts per second.

Our Average Attention Span Is Now 8 Seconds – 1 Second Less Than A Goldfish

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. This is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish. That’s right, goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds – 1 second more than you and I.

According to the source, this is due to “external stimulation” like all that content marketing we’re producing and distributing across all the social media channels. The research states:

“Attention span is the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted. Most educators and psychologists agree that the ability to focus attention on a task is crucial for the achievement of one’s goals. It’s no surprise attention spans have been decreasing over the past decade with the increase in external stimulation.”

Additional Statistics on Attention Spans:

  • 25% of teenagers report forgetting important details about their friends and family
  • 7% of people forget their own birthdays from time to time
  • The average office worker checks their email 30 times every hour
  • Typical mobile users check their phones more than 150 times per day (Mary Meeker)
  • Content on the internet tripled between 2010 and 2013
  • Social media sharing has doubled from 2011 to 2013

The Content Marketing Imperative #MPOMMA #IWNY

This was one of the key stats that really seemed to resonate with the audience I spoke to this morning at #MPOMMA #IWNY.

I was thrilled to kick off the day as the opening keynote. And although I was competing with the mayor of NY, Bill de Blasio on another #IWNY stage, the audience filled the Media Post Theater at OMMA Native #MPOMMA.

My job was to set the stage for the discussion on Native Advertising.

I asked “Why are we talking about Native Advertising?” And the answer is because digital, social and mobile access has changed the world. Marketing has become highly ineffective because consumers can now tune us out.

What do they tune in to? Stories. Stories that connect on a human and emotional basis.

I also provided an overview of the journey we’ve taken and some of the native advertising we’ve tested.

Check out my slides here:

Are you interested in engaging and converting new customer for your business? Contact me here and let’s talk about how we can help.

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

13 thoughts on “Thanks Social Media – Our Average Attention Span Is Now Shorter Than Goldfish

  1. We have shorter attention span, but we consume more information overall. Therefore, I don’t know of social media’s short attention span is good or bad for us…

    1. Thanks Tony, I don’t think it is good or bad. It just is an outcome of our desire for progress in all aspects of our lives. I am optimistic at the minds ability to deal with everything and think we will continue to find ways to thrive in spite of some of these consequences of digital life.

  2. Interesting article Michael! I’m very curious what’s going to happen in the future… With content marketing but also the effects on the human being in general.

    At least I see some serious concentration issues coming at us, or actually they are already here!

    I expect that people are gonna act against this over-stimulation in one way or another.

    Buying hard copy books again?

    1. I saw a study this week about a huge decline in the number of people who reported that they actually read a real book in the past month. Crazy!

  3. Huge fan of detaching from social for extended periods Michael….so I can out do the goldfish lol….nice post!

  4. Future of content is very likely be governed by images and graphics. Text doesn’t seem to have a sustainable future. Great blog Michael

  5. Michael – Great stuff! I fall victim to the Goldfish Syndrome myself and purposely unplug so I can get important work completed.

    For content marketers in general, I would love to see “us” create more valuable content; not just produce more. The format is obviously important (visual over text-heavy) but I believe it all starts with knowing your audience and what they care about to elicit an emotional connection or response. Again, great post!

    1. I agree Heather, I try to do that too!

      And yes we need to create quality stuff that people actually want. Listening and watcing and learning what your audience wants is definitely the key!

      Thanks for your support!

  6. I was never able to keep up with social media. I guess this is a good thing, so I can still retain a longer attention span than a goldfish’s.

  7. If this is true, then no one read beyond the third paragraph or remembered what the first part of the article said by the time they finished reading the end. I would like to read the study to see the methods and results. No doubt we PREFER as much stimulation of our senses as we can. But saying that is decreased attention span is a stretch. Besides, how did all of those politicians read the affordable care act?

    1. Nobody reads everything. Mostly scrolling down to second paragraph. If you have images that grab attention, they are likely to go down to see the stuff.

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