In my time, I have had around 8 goldfish.
My last fish, George, lived for approximately 5 years. He was a big fella. He chilled out in his tank on top of my set of draws, that looked outside a window. Racing around the various decorations I had purchased in an attempt to ‘pimp out’ his crib, he was an easy source of entertainment. Like little toots, my mature self found the popping noises he made while he ate, hilarious. He seemed happy and by the way he would kiss my finger and look at me through the glass, I liked to think we were good mates.
Before he died, I was having stressful time at university and frankly I became quite selfish and disconnected. I interacted with him less and sometimes I was so distracted that, I hate to admit it, I kind of forgot he existed (saying that, I never forgot to feed him). With my spare time spent on social media and watching a hell-a-tone of YouTube videos, he was probably paying me more attention than I was paying to him.
The funny thing is, well it’s kind of sad really, that this could actually be true. Since 2000, the average human attention span has dropped by 4 seconds, from 12 to 8 seconds. Now, this does not seem like a lot, but, when a gold fish has an attention span at 9 seconds (McSpadden, 2015), something has really gone askew.
With our shrinking attention spans, this means that we are faster succumbed to boredom and to counteract this, we have all increased our tendencies to multitask. With an almost unlimited supply of content online to explore (Gausby, 2015), humans are using multiple forms of media at the same time to keep their brains stimulated. And this has been seen to have a negative effect on individuals abilities to focus on specific tasks. Tasks as simple as having a one-on-one conversations.
As distractions, media devices can make people disengaged and even disconnect them from what or who is physically around them (as what happened with me and George). We tend to ignore or drift in an out of conversations and for heavy device users, they can have the tendency to forget information (Millner, 2015). So this what I wanted to test.
My test subject was my brother.
My brother would be tested on his ability to simply reply when I asked him a question or told him something. I wanted to explore his ability to engage in a conversation when he had his mobile phone on hand.
Returning home from work, my brother grabbed something to eat and sat on the couch with his phone. This was the perfect time to test him.
Me: *watches brother walk past and sit on couch* “Hey bruh”
Brother: *looks up from phone* “Hey loz! Didn’t even see you there, how you doing?”
Me: “good! you?”
Brother: “good.” *begins watching video on phone
Me: “Yeah? How was work?”
Brother: *watching video*
Me: “…How was work?” *said a little louder
Brother: * video finishes* “huh? what?”
Me: “How was your day at work today?”
Brother: “Oh sorry, yeah good. Just poured concrete” *starts another video*
Me: “Oh nice! Is that hard?”
Brother: *continues watching video*
Me: “Okay, cool beans”
My brother was definitely distracted by his mobile and could not pay his full attention to our conversation, which suggests he was experiencing possible cognitive failures -which are perceptual, attention, memory, and action related mental lapses (Schurle Bruce, 2007) .
We all experience cognitive failures in different forms and sizes and according to Millner, the more you use your mobile phone the more likely you are going to experience them (Millner, 2015).
By being on your phone and not paying attention, you can become disconnected from the world around you. So in this situation, I encourage you to be better than the average human with an 8 second attention span. Get off your mobile devices and be an above average human.
A human who can appreciate long, in depth conversations and pays more attention to their goldfish.