Facts about digital overload

A new study from Microsoft Corp. proves that our attention span is reduced to 8 seconds, which is less than that of a goldfish which has 9 seconds attention span. Attention span is defined as ‘the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted’. People now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.

We live in a time of information overload. Desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, we’re bombarded with so many messages and alerts that even when we want to focus, it’s nearly impossible. Our distractions are just a click away. A new piece of research, “The Attentional Cost of Receiving a Cell Phone Notification,” reports that the reverberations of new notifications can distract us, even when we don’t look over to see what they could be. It is found that just being aware of an alert can hurt people’s performance on an attention-demanding task.

Gloria Mark, of the University of California, Irvine, has shown that workers typically attend to a task for about three minutes before switching to something else; it is usually an electronic communication and that it takes about 20 minutes to return to the previous task.

We waste time, attention, and energy on relatively unimportant information and interactions, staying busy but producing little value.

The Information Overload Research Group, a nonprofit consortium of business professionals, researchers, and consultants, reports that knowledge workers in the United States waste 25% of their time dealing with their huge and growing data streams, costing the economy $997 billion annually.

Several Studies have shown that:

  • Ringing phones and e-mail alerts lower IQs by 10 points
  • Knowledge workers spend on an average 20 hours a week managing e-mail
  • 60% of computer users check e-mail in the bathroom
  • A typical knowledge worker turns to e-mail 50 to 100 times a day
  • 85% of computer users say they would take a laptop on vacation
  • Employees consider 1 in 3 e-mails unnecessary
  • Knowledge workers switch tasks every 3 minutes
  • We shift our attention between online and offline activities every 45 seconds.

More people suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), FOBO (fear of being offline), and nomophobia (fear of being out of mobile phone contact) —all forms of anxiety that border on obsession or compulsion. A survey by Tata Communications showed that people in the U.S., Europe, and Asia spend an average of more than five hours a day on the internet, and 64% worry when they don’t have access.

Many people, regardless of age, check their Smartphone’s every 15 minutes or less and if they don’t get to do it their anxiety level can go up.

Now turning off is not the best solution in this digital age.

What solutions do you think are out there? If you have any additional suggestions or tools, please feel free to share in comments or write to us.

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