The effects of social media on its users

By Irene Cohen and Ellie Mulvaney

In this day and age, it’s no secret that social media takes up most of our time. People of all ages are devoting so much of their lives to scrolling and posting that it has become second nature to the majority of the population. However, now that entertainment is just the click of a button away, what happens to our patience to be interested in real life situations? Technology may be very detrimental to our attention spans, especially as its use becomes more and more ingrained into society.

To put this effect into perspective, let’s look at just how big social media is. ‘Statista’ reports that, in America alone, 244 million people used social media as of 2018. That’s approximately 79% of our total population helping to rake in roughly a $6.7 billion dollar revenue for last year. This industry is obviously thriving, which means that more and more users are affected by it.

A California University study, conducted by Larry D. Rosen, l. Mark Carrier, and Nancy A. Cheever, exemplified the obstruction of attention by social media in a group of students. They were reported to study, on average, for only 6 minutes before switching to technology, and, further, the students on Facebook were even recorded to have lower GPAs than their counterparts.

With the addition of social media for mainstream consumption, it’s become a staple distraction for people performing tasks like homework, as exemplified in the aforementioned research. People have become used to quickly moving visuals and easily changed subjects at their fingertips, leaving a need for breaks and distractions during longer and more tedious activities.

Students who need to complete their studies are finding it harder and harder to concentrate, as they are so used to social media, and therefore, a generation with lower attention spans and work ethic is being made.

The sheer amount of information that social media can provide for one single person is more than any piece of media has been able to in the past. Since there is so much information packed into small frames of people’s time, those who consume a lot of social media have trained themselves to focus on things for a shorter amount of time so that they can ingest more content. In fact, according to ‘Griffin Webstudios’ the average attention span of someone in the year 2000, was 12 seconds, compared to now where it has dropped all the way down to 8 seconds.

That’s not the only place we can acutely measure this decrease in attention span among social media users. Studies have shown that those who use different social media for short bursts of time, alternating between them, have actually been shown to have less grey matter in the brain in areas associated with attention and concentration.

Social media platforms and influencers are fighting hard to maintain viewer retention when their viewers have gotten used to such a quick delivery of information. Many people suspect this factor has been a great help in popularizing the social media app, TikTok. These bite sized videos are easy for someone to watch quickly and in huge volumes.

Social media’s influence has shortened the attention span of its users, and this can be shown in many different scientific studies. This decrease in attention span has affected many areas of people’s everyday lives. However, this relationship is not a one way street. This decrease in attention span has forced social media platforms to alter their formats so they can maintain viewership for a longer amount of time.