Did you know that “we” now sit with both computer and smartphone while watching TV? Apparently people are so used to multitasking that they no longer get above the sensory threshold of stimulation when they’re watching TV alone. That’s very sad news.
The research mentioned here has become big news in the advertising and marketing business. TV companies now act on this and are working their hardest on coming up with new commercial content, in hopes that it will keep the watcher glued to the TV
People’s attention spans are running out of control.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of the book Flow, writes:
Unless a person knows how to give order to his or her thoughts, attention will be attracted to whatever is most problematic at the moment: it will focus on some real or imaginary pain, on recent grudges or long-term frustrations. Entropy is the normal state of consciousness—a condition that is neither useful nor enjoyable.
To avoid this condition, people are naturally eager to fill their minds with whatever information is readily available, as long as it distracts attention from turning inward and dwelling on negative feelings. This explains why such a huge proportion of time is invested in watching television, despite the fact that it is very rarely enjoyed. Compared to other sources of stimulation—like reading, talking to other people, or working on a hobby—TV can provide continuous and easily accessible information that will structure the viewer’s attention, at a very low cost in terms of the psychic energy that needs to be invested.
The ultimate test for the ability to control the quality of experience is what a person does in solitude, with no external demands to give structure to attention. It is relatively easy to become involved with a job, to enjoy the company of friends, to be entertained in a theater or at a concert. But what happens when we are left to our own devices? Alone, when the dark night of the soul descends, are we forced into frantic attempts to distract the mind from its coming? Or are we able to take on activities that are not only enjoyable, but make the self grow?
What happens, you ask, Mihaly?
People watch TV, text on the smartphones and browse Facebook on their laptops.