technology suffocating relationships

Our attention span is rapidly declining — thanks to technology!

According to a study Jampp, the attention span of mobile consumers decreases by 88 percent on a year-to-year basis. Further highlighting the issue of declining attention spans caused by technology, a research study published by Microsoft went as far as comparing the average human attention span to that of a goldfish. According to the Microsoft study, while humans had an attention span of 12 seconds in the year 2000, this attention span declined to eight seconds in the year 2013. By comparison, a goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds.

Now, the veracity of the goldfish attention span comparison claims in the Microsoft study has been a subject of much contention, and attempts to verify the accuracy of this claim has only led down the rabbit hole, but the central message of the Microsoft study is this: thanks to technology, our attention span has been declining a lot of late. This is particularly true of younger people (aged 18 to 24).

According to the Microsoft study, for these young people:

  • 77 percent immediately reach for their phone when nothing is occupying their attention.
  • 79 percent use other devices while watching TV.
  • 73 percent check their phone last thing before going to bed.
  • More than half (52 percent) check their phone every 30 minutes.

It gets worse:

An entirely different study by VitalSmarts, based on a survey of 2,025 people, found that 89 percent of people report that their relationships have been “damaged” due to the insensitive and inappropriate use of technology or electronic displays of insensitivity (EDI).

  • 90 percent of people report that their friends or family members stop paying attention to them as a result of what’s happening on their digital devices at least once a week.
  • 25 percent of people report that inappropriate use of technology has resulted in a serious rift with a friend or family member.
  • 67 percent of people do not know how to confront an issue involving electronic display of insensitivity.

Perhaps the most shocking finding from the VitalSmart study is that many victims of EDIs opt to suffer silently instead.

In fact, a term has been coined for the act of snubbing someone during a conversation by focusing on your phone instead of talking to the person directly; it’s called “phubbing,” and research shows that 44 percent of people do it at least twice daily.

More likely than not, technology is already affecting your relationships. The good news is that doing the following four things will help reclaim your relationships:

1. Avoid using your mobile device during a conversation: While this might sound like common sense advice, you’ll only realize how difficult it is when you try it. Many of us are so accustomed to having our mobile devices with us during conversations that trying not to use it becomes difficult. Make it a rule to never use your mobile device during a conversation with somebody else. You can have a special ringtone for emergency calls/information, and only when it is an emergency should you politely take the call or check your phone during a conversation with someone else.

2. Be fully present during your conversations with others: Research shows that we are generally distracted, and millenials in particular! It isn’t simply enough to keep your phone at bay. It is also important to be fully present during conversations and make sure the other party is aware of this fact. Ways to demonstrate presence include active listening, repeating some of the key points of a discussion to show you’re following, and eye contact.

3. Resist the temptation to appear bored, tired, or distracted: More likely than not, it’s been long since you were fully present in a communication. Since this keeping your phone away and being fully present thing is new, it will be difficult at first. You are likely to appear tired, and your mind is likely to be distracted. Make a conscious effort to resist the temptation to appear tired, bored, or distracted.
4. Schedule more face-to-face communications: Thanks to social media and other forms of instant communication, many of us are so used to impersonal, online forms of communication that we now find face-to-face communications awkward. As established by the VitalSmart study, many people who have been hurt by our instances of electronic display of insensitivity would opt to keep silent. Initiating more personal, face-to-face communications where you are fully present would help repair some of the hurt.

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