Sunday, 17 June 2012
Fragmentation of attention in the internet age
When I first ran a web site around 1999, many folk would browse the whole of the web site at a leisurely pace and even download all of the free pdf documents before moving on. More recently, I’ve seen that most visit for a specific purpose and often leave having read or flipped through one or two pages, sometimes within just a few mere seconds.
Over time I’ve also seen the old usenet newsgroups die a death, then yahoo! forums, with lengthy discussion threads giving way to one-liners or simple “likes” and more and more fragmentation of venues, of information, and of the participators' or audience's attention. Having said that, certain niche communities, such as pagans and conspiracy theorists, continue to buck such trends.
And in the new social networks, where alas there often seems to be far more time spent talking or selling than listening, a tweet about a blog post now gets perhaps 0.2 seconds’ exposure before such disposable material becomes buried and pretty much lost. Unlike the old forum archives, very few people venture far down a person's tweet feed in search of hidden gems.
Added to that, I do believe, based in part on my own experience, that as a whole our attention span is slowly being eroded, and more and more we are skim reading and looking for sound bites that momentarily grab the attention. At some point in the future, we may look back on these heady days and realize that something has -- or temporarily had -- gone amiss.
• By Etienne de L'Amour ~ Google+