Teenagers Attention Spans Suck

I am a child of the internet generation; 18 years old in 2014. I have known the internet as it is my entire life.

I am so different in the way that I grew up.

My friends and I just arrived home from a weekend trip to Portland, Oregon. We took tons of pictures. On one of those photo excursions, I had accidentally parked in a no-parking zone. To my wallet’s dismay, a state trooper exploited the blunder. We came back to the car with a ticket nestled under the wind shield wiper.

Most expensive photos I've ever taken.
Most expensive photos I’ve ever taken.

When I arrived home, I remembered the ticket and prepared it for mailing. Though I hadn’t send a letter in over 5 years, I’ve received and sent copious boxes over my young life. But the postage is a little different. My dad couldn’t stop giggling when I asked him a few questions on how to mail the payment envelope.

This probably sounds ridiculous to most readers. But my generation does almost all payment online or digitally. I think I’ve only ever written checks for traffic violations (total of 2). The rest of money transfers are done online either through bank services, PayPal, or buying goods directly for someone. To an internet baby, this is normal.

I graduated high school just 2 months ago, and my extended family sent checks in the mail, as the tradition holds. I rounded up all of the paper rectangles, whipped out my phone, and deposited them with a few pictures and a couple of clicks.

Is this the future?

What’s even more normal is to pull out a mobile device during breaks in conversation, when amongst strangers, or even if you’re just not entertained to a modest amount (people do this in movie theaters).

We’ve lost grips with comfortable silence.

Constant noise is more comforting to us than a simple quiet concordance with human beings (or even interaction to some extent).

Teenagers are the worst at this.

But teenagers aren’t the sole culprit in this practice. A few months ago, I went out to lunch with my boss and a coworker. We were all pulling out our phones at random points to look up esoteric rhetoric as we continued in conversation.

Naturally, as points in the conversation died down, we’d transition to check on social media.

In a meta-cognitive moment, I examined how silly my actions were; scrolling through a garbage Twitter feed at a restaurant with these intelligent people sitting next to me.

But they were doing it too!

This kind of A.D.D. behavior is incredibly common today. We have an ever increasing deluge of distractions. This is not even mentioning the new types of communication technologies popping up like bath bubbles.

The worst example I can think of is event planning. Almost every time a trip, event, birthday party, or an organized time and day is planned, someone drops at the last minute; when we were all expecting them to go.

More often than not, they had plans that they made earlier in the day, or the day before, to do something else. Occasionally it’s their parents asking them to do something, but often it’s also their other friends creating spontaneous plans. It’s seems that even just a week of waiting is too much for our teenage attention spans.

This may just be a characteristic of our age group. Or possibly just some haphazard correlation (as they say, correlation does not mean causation). But there’s something happening to our psyche that’s influenced by our constant connection we have to each other;

I’d like to know what that is.