Is social media shortening our attention spans?

With the pace of life ever-quickening, we seek pick-me-ups where we can. Often, the easiest place to find a bit of delicious procrastination fodder is social media. Whether we realise it or not, we crave dopamine, the ‘feel good’ chemical triggered by consuming sugar, alcohol, drugs – and content on social feeds. It doesn’t matter whether the content is funny, sad, or outrageous. We just need to scroll.

The question is, how did we get so addicted to our phones? And is this scattergun mode of consuming content wearing away our attention spans? Because they are diminishing. Gen Z has an attention span of just 8 seconds, compared to 12 seconds for millennials.

Gen Z are changing how socials are used

We can’t talk about the changing landscape of social media content without talking about audiences, and how they’ve changed. With the oldest Gen Z now well into adult life – those born in 2012 are 25 now – the way we watch and produce content has shifted.

Millennials were the first digital natives. We grew up with Myspace, and then Facebook. Different platforms, sure, but the form wasn’t so different. These are platforms for us to escape the daily grind and relax our minds as we had a nosey around our friends’ increasingly curated online lives.

Gen Z has grown up with social media too. But where millennials prefer longer-form content, such as YouTube videos, Gen Z like their information delivered fast. With Vine, Reel, and TikTok showcasing hacks and how-tos in seconds, why sit through a lengthy explanation when you can consume information in small, easily digestible chunks?

The reason for this could be that where Millennials see social media as a distraction to dip in and out of, Gen Z uses social media as part of their everyday living.

Apps have evolved to become creative tools

Most apps are now designed for mobile first. In the millennial era, apps were restrictive, often more of a scheduling or planning tool than a creative platform. But now, users can do anything on an app, from creating video content, to gifs, to animations. Creativity is for everyone.

Unlike when Millennials started using social media, there’s no longer the same need to platform individuality. Back when we started posting our lives on the internet, we wanted to establish ourselves as unique. Nowadays, it’s more about following trends and expanding on them. You only have to spend five minutes on TikTok to see the same dance played out by ten different people.

None of us can resist nostalgia

If there’s one thing every generation has in common, it’s a love for nostalgia. They say there is no such thing as a new trend, and we are seeing things considered ‘retro’ re-emerge. 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s and early 00’s aesthetics are everywhere.

Low Fi, guerrilla-style content is on-trend. We no longer care whether something is HD. People can’t be bothered to even turn their phones landscape or turn their volume up to listen. Instead, we cater to the viewer, sharing videos in portrait to fill the phone screen, with captions so the consumer can follow the content with sound off. Everyone is chasing viewers, and viewers are chasing a quick fix.

Above all, know your audience

With so many ways to make the most of social media as a brand, knowing your audience is important as ever – and part of this is recognising that we’re in an ever-shifting environment.

Gen Z uniquely has grown up with a choice of what they consume, and if content doesn’t feel authentic, they’ll be quick to abandon it. Gen Z now represents 40% of all consumers. They may have short attention spans, but their spending power is significant.


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