Twitter and the Loss of Attention Span

As technology and social media trends evolve, we begin to question if our thinking processes are changing. If so, are they changing for better or worse? Nicholas Carr, author of the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, wrote that our ever changing and fast paced media platforms have caused his attention span to dwindle.

I have had the same feeling about my attention span. Once a bookworm, I lost myself for hours at a time in a novel. Now, I can only read a few pages without getting distracted by a social media notification or losing interest. I noticed this change in my attention span but never really understood why it was happening.

Julian Dibbell offers an interesting theory as to why some of us can no longer stay focused on a topic for a long period of time. The title of his article, “Future of Social Media: Is a Tweet the New Size of a Thought?”, is pretty self explanatory. Social media, particularly Twitter, only allows for short messages and as social media users, we are bombarded with short, uncomplicated messages that consist of little detail. Meaning, it is possible that our constant interactions with short messages have made our thought processes less detailed and our attention spans shorter. Nicole Plumridge, in her article called “Is the Internet Destroying Our Attention Span?”, wrote that “Our brains are becoming rewired to suit these technological times.”

However, some tweets have more detail than meets the eye. Tweets that have multiple layers, also known as “thick tweets”, offer Twitter users the option to find more information about the 140 character message. In my two thick tweets, I included links, hashtags, and other twitter usernames. By clicking on any of these, you’ll be redirected to another page that has much more information. I believe that most Twitter users that are my age overlook thick tweets. This is one of the first times that I have ever included a way to get more information on one of my social media posts. But, I think it is a good start to teaching our brains to slow down and absorb more details.

In my opinion, seeing short messages, such as tweets, on a daily basis could be either a positive or negative thing. On the negative side, such messages could be harmful to our ability to process complex information. On the positive side, tweets allow us to obtain the essential information more quickly and even open up a new way of thinking.

 Have you felt that your attention span is becoming shorter? Do you think that this new way of thinking is more beneficial or harmful?


By Sarah Erickson





  1. In all honesty, I do feel as though my attention span is becoming shorter as I use social media sites, such as Twitter, more frequently. I spend too much time using Twitter for the most basic level of insight. With that said I completely agree with what you’re saying and I think that society’s new way of thinking can be beneficial or harmful depending on the individual. I think that it can be beneficial if we are using sites like Twitter to link us to more detailed accounts of topics. For example, reading a newspaper article only after discovering it through a link posted on Twitter. On the other hand, if we are constantly seeking instant gratification from short tweets and posts sent by friends, family members, celebrities, etc., then perhaps social media is hurting us more than it is helping.

  2. Ever since I’ve been on twitter I’ve always used thick tweets. Whether to reference a site or attach a picture, I’ve never gotten used to the 140-character format. I always think there is something more to be said. I don’t really tweet about having a cheeseburger or vent about some turmoil in my life. I guess media is a two-way street; what it is and how you use it.

  3. I was at first somewhat skeptical to believe that Twitter is causing attention spans to get shorter, mainly because Carr’s piece was an opinion and not scientific evidence. You can’t know by pure observation if using Twitter changes the human brain. There is a lot of research and experimentation that would have to be done to concretely prove that. The article you posted offers some studies and evidence that the internet could be affecting the human brain and I think its definetly possible, but I still wouldn’t be quick to agree that our neural circuitry has changed as Carr suggests.

  4. I also used to be an avid reader, I could burn though novels in a single sitting. Now I find myself struggling with longer newspaper articles. My book collection is nearly non existent and I rarely read the magazines I used to enjoy. Reading takes a lot of effort and I think our generation is collectively becoming lazy in this regard. Reading novels and reading online, even if it’s fanfiction, are very different. I think we absorb the story differently based on the medium in which it is presented. And in our digital age, it is unfair to students not to teach them to read from different mediums.

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