Mark Thompson

Eight Seconds or Bust: Embracing Our Short Attention Spans

The humble goldfish now outranks our attention spans. But, who cares? We’ve explained the benefits in easy-to-compute, eight-second snippets.


Well, it’s official. Goldfish now have longer attention spans than us, and it’s about time.

There’s a reason why we sit at the top of the food chain. We absolutely set the mark where parameters lie in regards to paying attention to stuff.

Yes, naysayers and luddites alike may pull the trigger, looking to 187 the smartphone for reducing our minds to gloop; we refuse that because … wait … where was I?

Oh, yeah. Smartphones = bad.

Anyway, the study, from Canada (reminder: check airline flight prices) and Microsoft stated that: “While digital lifestyles decrease sustained attention overall, it’s only true in the long-term. Early adopters and heavy social media users front load their attention and have more intermittent bursts of high attention.” Well done if you read that quote all the way to the end. I didn’t.

Since 2000, the attention span for humans has dipped from twelve seconds to eight, whereas the goldfish stands (swims) at a stoic nine.

In the age of TL:DR, Pokémon Go, and MDMA … who cares? So what, the goldfish pays more attention. Attention to what? That plastic fake castle in the bowl? Or the residual trail of you-know-what from an evacuation seconds prior?

Good work, professor. My point is, I think, is that we have far more interesting things to half-read and half-arse.

This point is evidenced by the fact that I’m watching sports highlights while writing this article. Why? because I can. It soothes me.

We, above all, and above all species and times that have come before us, crave experience.

And boo-hoo, Victorian English types, as you sit there in your wooden bookshelves, gradually swirling the brandy in your unfeeling claw, eventually mustering yourself to utter an “Mmm, yes, quite.”

They did that because they had little to do before dressing for dinner and/or contracting polio. Yawn.

We can’t pay attention because we live in these times. Fake is becoming more interesting than real.

Virtual Reality is upon us, as is the ability to take procrastination to unseen new levels, and as is the chance to write something, but actually say nothing.

I feel it’s time we separate ourselves from the negative connotation surrounding our eight-second attention spans. It’s time we turn it into something meaningful. Our generation’s mantra. Much like Keep on Truckin’ or Peace, Man was for those unwashed hippies-turned-management execs. Ha. Sellouts.

Anyway, the mantra. It should be timeless. Ostensibly eight seconds or less. We can all start by doing our bit and raise up and blah blah blah.

It doesn’t matter, because I know you’re not really reading this. And neither am I.

Which means we’re on track.



Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson lives in regional NSW working by day in an accounting firm, and by night lives and breathes being a food and wine snob. He hopes to one day be a food critic or at the very least, meet Maggie Beer.

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