Is Social Media Deteriorating Our Attention Spans?

Is Social Media Deteriorating Our Attention Spans?

Study shows that we have attention spans shorter than goldfish.
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According to Microsoft’s recent research, we apparently have a prolonged attention span of a whopping eight seconds. In comparison, goldfish have an attention of nine seconds. How can this be? There’s no way in hell that we’re dumber than goldfish. Well, the facts say otherwise. With the rise of ADHD diagnoses and an exponential increase in attention deficit medication prescriptions, it is evident that social media is taking its toll on our brains. However, don’t be alarmed! Although there is an incredibly sad decline in our prolonged attention spans, there is good news. We have developed new skills as a result: multitasking and filtering.

It only makes sense that our attention spans have shortened. Tweets have a maximum 140-character limit, Vines have a max video length of six seconds and Snapchats max out at 10 seconds. We’re constantly scrolling through our different feeds, half-reading all the content we see. Maybe not even half. I know that I hardly read any Instagram captions, especially those excruciatingly long @humansofny ones. Despite your refusal to believe that the attention span of the human race scores lower than that of goldfish, this digital society we live in conditions our brains to concentrate only for short periods of time. Consequently, this leads to difficulty in prolonged attention spans.

The effects of over consumption of social media? The age group between 18-34 years have the lowest sustained attention spans, concluding that digital lifestyles have a negative impact on attention span. However, neuro-readings demonstrate that higher usage of social media increases short bursts of high attention, as opposed to a sustained attention span. This leads to the glimmer of positive effects. Millennials have an incredible ability to sift through what we want to engage with and what we don’t want to engage with. Our brains actively select which statuses or tweets we want to read and experts say that this filtering mechanism is a benefit, because we need less to process and commit things to memory. Another silver lining from active social media lifestyles is that it builds alternating attention, aka multi-tasking. How often do you find yourself having several tabs pulled up? Or how about when you double-click the home button on your iPhone and multiple apps are always running? This leads to our amazing ability to have multiple conversations not only with multiple people, but even with the same person on several different media platforms.

So to answer my initial question—is social media deteriorating our attention spans?—yes. It is. We can’t sit and pay attention for long in one sitting like we used to. That’s okay. I believe that our brains are learning to adapt to how technology is evolving, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We are seeing institutional changes as a result of this shift. Colleges and universities are starting to move from long lectures into breaking up the class period into lecture and discussions. This is to stimulate our brains, actively engaging in different ways to keep us thinking. The professional world is starting to build offices with a more open concept, to instigate discussions and conversations with other colleagues. Furthermore, offices are creating snack and leisure spaces to facilitate necessary breaks. So yes, we can’t pay attention for long but it’s not the end of the world.

Cover Image Credit: weekendowo

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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7 Words To Remember When You're Trying To Eat Healthy

An easy way to remember how to be healthy.

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Around this time of year, people everywhere are giving up on their New Year's resolutions to eat healthier. At this point, the full reality of their commitment has hit them hard, and they are not having it! Eating healthy may be harder than some think, but it doesn't have to be. There are simple ways to help you eat healthier.

Keep in mind, I am not a nutritionist, but these tips are meant to be basic enough that anyone can use them. If you have health concerns, I recommend talking to a doctor rather than just consulting an article you see online. I will say, however, that these tips are useful, and I hope you get good use out of them!

If you keep the following words in mind, they'll help you get closer to eating and feeling healthier:

1. Eat.

If you want to lose weight properly and healthily, then eat. You may have to change the way you eat, but you must eat! Even if you need to eat less to get healthier, you still need to eat. If you're constantly starving, then change your diet! Even if you're following a diet that seems to be healthy, it may not be right for your body and lifestyle. Be aware of the signals your body is giving you, or you could end up even more unhealthy.

2. Variety.

A healthy diet consists of a variety of foods. Fruits, veggies, carbs, proteins - you'll need them all. If you eat too much of one thing, you'll get too much of one nutrient and not enough of another. Be sure to add some variety to your diet if you find yourself eating too many carbs or meats.

3. Portions.

A lot of losing weight and getting healthy has to do with portions. You may eat good foods, but they won't be good for you if you eat too much of them. In a world with tons and tons of tasty food available, you'll be tempted to get more than what you need. You must resist that urge! Again, be cautious when restricting your portions so that you don't end up starving yourself.

4. Balance.

There are some foods that you are gonna want to eat that aren't very good for you. That's okay! We all have those cheat snacks. You can have those, but you'll have to balance them with other things that are good for you. Chips and cookies can be part of a good diet as long as you eat them sparingly and with other healthier things.

5. Enjoy.

If you're not liking what you're eating, you're not going to keep eating it. Period. Even if changing your diet is a little unpleasant at first, you can stick to it by eating stuff that you still like. Sure, maybe you can't have that slice of cake, but if you like berries, you can still have something sweet that you enjoy. Don't choke down things you don't like; eat things that you enjoy!

6. Substitutions.

If you think you need to cut down on some burgers, maybe go for veggie or chicken patties instead. If you like pizza, try finding whole wheat crusts with veggie toppings. There are so many healthier options out there; you'll for sure find something you like.

7. Avoid.

Avoid places, situations, and foods that you know will be tempting. If you want to cut down on cakes, then don't walk past your favorite bakery. If you know you'll be tempted by an unhealthy snack at work, then bring your own snacks instead. The best way to avoid falling into temptation is to avoid the temptation entirely.

The hardest part about any change in your life is self-discipline. These tips can help you, but you'll have to increase your discipline if you want to do well on your goals. It all depends on you and how badly you want to make a difference in your life.

I hope these tips will help you make that difference. Good luck and happy eating!

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