The next time you watch a commercial on television, count how many different camera shots you see in 30-seconds. What you’ll discover is that in that 30-second commercial, you’ll count between 8 and 15 different camera shots, and in many commercials more than 20! A different picture, a different camera angle, a different happy, smiling face blasted into your watching mind every two or three seconds … every time you watch a commercial. Why so many different camera shots? Well, researchers now estimate that the average attention span of an adult is eight seconds. No kidding. Eight seconds. Smart advertisers know they need to keep throwing different pictures at us every three seconds or we’ll lose interest in what they’re selling. They say goldfish have longer attention spans than the average adult.

Every day, we are bombarded on a variety of fronts with information, distraction, noise that demands our attention. 96% of us over the age of 16 have a cell phone. And 85% of us have what’s called a ‘smart phone.’ The reason they call it a smart phone, of course, is because in many ways, it’s smart. It can give me directions to an address I’ve asked for, or what the weather tomorrow is forecast to be, or the menus of restaurants nearby. Killing time sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for my appointment seems like the perfect time to grab my smart phone to check my emails. It seems like a natural, normal, even logical thing to do. Perhaps. But then, again, perhaps not. When life is as uncertain as it is today, the last thing I would want to be good at is killing time.

In Ephesians, chapter 5, The Book cautions us to be careful how we live. Don’t live like fools,” writes Paul, “but like those who are wise.” That’s sort of another way to say ‘Pay attention to what you’re doing merely out of habit.’ I wonder, if God decided to bless human beings not with ‘smart phones,’ but with ‘wise phones,’ I wonder how those phones would sell? God’s Book is the number one seller every year. But, because of our weak attention span, I wonder how many pictures God would have to include in a commercial that would convince me that His way is the very best way I can possibly live? Only our loving God knows what we truly need. But, because of my stubborn heart, sometimes God’s way can be a tough sell.

Yes, the routines of our lives represent some of the most important elements we can notice about ourselves. The fact that I carry a smart phone doesn’t make me a smart man. Listening for God’s voice in a world cluttered with so many distractions will almost certainly demand an attention span longer than a thirty-second commercial.

“Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.” (Ps. 119:37)

2 thoughts on “Attention Spans

  1. I wrote a comment, and in my usual technical standard, I lost that comment. This attention span thing is just kind of frightening, and it is a difficult part of education. I know that even very young children seem to understand swiping, while it is not a natural feeling thing for me, and I just never think of such a method. I do have a smart phone, but my I only share my number with family and occasionally a private student for scheduling purposes. This “Studio Laptop” has a touch screen, but I had that disabled due to my clumsy unintended brushes with the screen. Now I think I’ll have my IT man turn it back on. Just wanted to thank you for this particular post, which should be read by everyone. Attention span is a concern like so many other matters of significance. Anyway, thank you.

    1. Yes, attention ‘span’ or the lack of span is so problematic in so many areas of our lives, huh? Thanks for taking the time to respond. I appreciate it.

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