A recent Microsoft study caught my attention. Highlighting the smart phone-induced deteriorating attention span of humans, it found our average attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds. Meanwhile, goldfish are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds! Microsoft defined attention span as “the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted.”
To see how widely our shrinking attention span has been accepted and pandered to, we have to look no further than the race for the White House. In debates and on the campaign trail, candidates prefer to talk in sound bites, rather than offer detailed answers to questions. Personal finance magazines have employed that tactic for years, diluting investment commentaries and strategies in short catchy headlines. The phenomena has occurred with our personal communications; letters and emails have devolved into 140 character tweets or abbreviation-riddled texts.
However, the Microsoft study did illuminate a bright spot. Even given our reduced capacity to pay attention, our ability to multitask has improved. I say we tap that multi-tasking ability to improve our ability to focus on the long-term.
The next time you feel bombarded by headlines on market volatility that are designed to inspire fear, all within those aforementioned 8 seconds, consider reading this humorous article titled “A Market Update for Real Investors: News for People with Long Attention Spans.”
As the article discussed, on any given Monday, one hundred forty-eight million eight hundred thousand and five Americans wake up and go to work. Thirty million U.S. companies open for business and earn $4.62 billion of net income. More than 13,000 workers were hired, and more than 5,000 new businesses were created. And by the end of the day, 1,604 patent applications will be filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Regardless of our short attention spans I want to emphasize that behind every scary headline are far more facts that show the dedication, success and innovation in the U.S. and global economy. I choose to be inspired by the positive, unreported facts in the U.S. and global economy rather than to let the media dictate how I should feel. As Peter Diamandis says in his book “the future is better than you think.”