We Are the Goldfish

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We Are the Goldfish

Daphne Zhu, Guest Writer

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One second. That is the difference between our attention span and that of a goldfish. We see a fish tank and we tap on the glass—moving our finger left and right and up and down, watching the fish follow our every command, smirking at its silent obedience. But what if we are stuck in a tank too? Most people can relate to the feeling of racing to grab their phone in a reaction time of a few nanoseconds when they hear the sudden ding on their phone. Most people can relate to the feeling of scrolling endlessly, pausing for a few milliseconds to press Like, and then continuing to scroll for countless hours. Most people can relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed by the mass of news articles and polarized opinions and tweets and hashtags and posts and comments that are taking over their phone and consequently, their mind. Society and the government have become our owners. Technology is our tank and information is our food. We are the goldfish.

Two seconds. That is the amount of time it takes to post on social media. In just two seconds, a promotional video can be uploaded, a hateful tweet can be shared, a meaningless meme can go viral—all designed to manipulate your mind for their own benefit. No wonder we lose focus so easily. Society is feeding us too much information so we have to swim in each and every direction, trying to consume as much as we can. However, because there is so much information, our tank has become murky and now we cannot clearly see the truth.

Three seconds. That is the amount of time a person will wait for a website to load before abandoning it. The patience levels of humans have been decreasing rapidly in this society that is aiming to be faster and faster. We rate sources and websites based on easy access rather than quality. We believe that a website listed at the top in a Google search is much more credible than one listed towards the bottom. We almost never venture beyond the third page in Google and we think those sources are suspicious and untrustworthy, because why else wouldn’t it be listed on the first page of suggestions of our most trusted companion, Google?

Four seconds. That is the amount of time it takes for seventeen million emails to be sent around the world. Out of those seventeen million emails, almost six million are advertisements and spam. Marketing teams in companies constantly send emails to potential customers in hopes that they will make a purchase. These advertisements can be seen not only in emails, but on the sidebars of websites, in big pop-ups that take up the entire screen, on billboard signs on highways, and on huge television screens in cities. At any given time, an advertisement can interrupt your concentration on a specific task because its main function is to grasp your attention by any means necessary. On average, we are exposed to five thousand advertisements a day, which is equivalent to about one advertisement every 12 seconds. Imagine being exposed to that many advertisements in just one day—of course our attention span would decrease!

Five seconds. That is the amount of time it takes a person to read a text message or look at a new post. In a car, those five seconds could mean the difference between life or death. The immense potential of technology today has lessened our ability to concentrate, and consequently, has increased the number of deaths per year. On average, there are nine deaths per day due to texting and driving car accidents. That means that nine lives could be saved if people silenced their phone or ignored it while they were driving. However, as we all know, the impulse of having your phone with you and checking it constantly is overwhelming, and most of us give into this urge.

Six seconds. That is the amount of time you normally wait before you pull out your phone in a social setting and start to be “unsocial”. Our technology which claims to promote being social is actually causing people to remain isolated and on their devices, rather than meeting face-to-face with friends and family. Even during social gatherings, people will choose to look at their phone rather than talk to others. As stated in Henry Thoreau’s Walden, “Men have become the tools of their tools” (Thoreau 18). We are all falling for the illusion these social media companies put forth—the illusion that we will become more connected with others through our devices. In reality, if a person is bored for six seconds, they will give in to the urge of checking their phone, and suddenly, a social gathering isn’t “social” anymore.

Seven seconds. That is the amount of time it takes to completely shut off your phone. These seven seconds can save countless hours in your future. By doing this, you can start concentrating on the important things in your life, you can think for yourself and form opinions that aren’t influenced by the media, and you can finally be you.

Eight seconds. That is the average human attention span. Ten years ago, it was twelve seconds. For us to continue living as a species and for us to make a positive impact on this world, we need to significantly reduce the amount of technology in our lives. We need to stop relying on technology as a tool to make our lives easier and start doing things by ourselves. We need to stop being influenced by all the information on social media and start thinking for ourselves. We need to take breaks after using our phones so that we can go outside and be with nature. We, as humans, need to stop being trapped in a tank controlled by forces outside of our control. After all, we are not goldfish.

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