Millennial Attention Spans in the Technological Age; an Experiment

This week’s topic is about short and distracted attention spans when in the presence of multiple different media platforms. The first thing that came to mind is a perfect example of this; university lectures. You’re engaging with the content being presented to you by taking the occasional note, while having a Facebook tab open on your computer to keep up with the group chat and texting your friend on your phone. If you look around you can immediately tell that everyone is doing the same thing. Especially when the lecturer is playing a video and the person at the end of the row is vigorously tapping on their keyboard. You just know they’re not avidly taking notes but are probably planning their weekend or bitching about the new guy at work.


So to test how crap our millennial attention spans really are, I set up a test involving myself, my 18yr old brother, a movie called ‘Hush’, and a bunch of junk food to see if we could go 1hr and 27 mins without picking up our phones, computers or engaging with any other media content other than the movie in front of us. It sounds easy but my brother and I are notorious for getting distracted. We are always messaging people or doing a quick Facebook scroll in boring parts of movies (leading us to miss important bits and be left unsure of what is going on). On the occasion we look up stuff on Google which we don’t understand but once we actually paused a movie to watch a video on Youtube.

It wasn’t even a good video. It was this one if you really want to learn how pathetic we are.

I picked the movie Hush because it’s a scary movie (apparently) and I’m not so keen on them. Therefore, on a normal viewing I would probably distract myself with my phone. I also chose it because I’ve heard from friends it’s not the best movie anyway, meaning we would probably get bored, tempting us even further for distraction. So after pressing play on my phone so the movie could sync to the Chromecast on my TV, we put both of our phones down on the desk beside us so they weren’t within arm’s reach. We also turned them onto silent to avoid further temptation.

In the end we did last the whole hour and 27 mins of our social media purge, but it was only because we were so avidly committed to proving we aren’t completely useless. We also had no legitimate excuse to check our phones or social media during the movie without being pathetic. Thankfully there were no calls from mum or dad which would’ve realistically been the only reason we could use them because no assignment is worth our parents wrath.

The movie wasn’t too bad in the end,  it was more gory with a cool concept than actually scary so we found ourselves enjoying it. It was nice to not be distracted as we realised we actually understood the plot of the movie for a change. No Googling of the synopsis was needed in the end because we payed attention this time.

In conclusion, yes I believe people do have short attention spans and can get distracted very easily. However if you actively set your mind to a task and remove distractions from the picture you can achieve your goals.  (because lets be real we all know how to, we just don’t want to actually do it.)

2 thoughts on “Millennial Attention Spans in the Technological Age; an Experiment

  1. taylabosley

    It’s interesting to see how when the participants of the research, i.e. you and your brother, know that they are a part of an investigation, can possibly change the outcome of the results.
    For example if you had simply put on the movie with your brother, without telling him you would be monitoring his social media use or attention span, do you think there would have been a drastic change in the end?
    Do you think it would have been easier to watch something that you were looking forward to? Or a movie you love that you’ve seen a million times before?
    Here is an article that relates how we constantly rewatch old movies with avid attention, yet can struggle with distractions when watching new ones:
    I also discuss how food, and being in an online conversation can be contributors to attention deficiency while watching television:

  2. daisy244

    Hey! I like the way you conducted your test! This explores how self regulation can help control/ determine ones attention span (and of course prove you aren’t completely useless. haha)
    Also, I couldn’t agree more when you say that we tend to use our mobiles during the ‘boring’ or ‘plot line’ sections of a film. I think it has to do with our emotions and that ‘edge of the seat’ feeling of suspense that action scenes bring! Here’s a resource that kind of explores that!
    You mention, how setting your mind on tasks can also help you achieve your goals. I also kind of explored this concept over on my blog, where I set myself some rules. You can check it out if want:


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