With the abundance of streaming and content consumption at an all time high, one can only imagine what effect it will have on society long term. But according to a 2019 report from a team of scientists from the Technical University of Denmark, the future of mankind may already be written. “It seems that the allocated attention in our collective minds has a certain size, but that the cultural items competing for that attention have become more densely packed,” says Professor Sune Lehman. Perhaps more importantly, the study goes on to make a sharp claim about the effects of the world’s connectedness: “The world has become increasingly well connected in the past decades. This means that content is increasing in volume, which exhausts our attention and our urge for ‘newness’ causes us to collectively switch between topics more rapidly.”
Nothing about this report surprises me as I have most certainly experienced some of the aforementioned ramifications. Perhaps what bothers me most about our “collective regression” is our increasing inability to truly enjoy one thing at a time.
“It seems that the allocated attention in our collective minds has a certain size, but that the cultural items competing for that attention have become more densely packed” — Sune lehman
Surely we can all agree that the constant creation of content has forced us to digest information at faster speeds so we can be prepared for what’s coming next. In a way, we’ve become like addicts–always searching for a fix but never able to be satisfied. And if our attention spans as a whole truly are shortening, should we be worried about the impact streaming may have on our health?
A 2019 report from the Journal of the American Heart Association found that individuals who watched more than four hours of TV each day had a 50% greater risk of premature death from heart disease than those who watched less than half that time. To some, this may seem dramatic. But if you consider the omnipotence of streaming and small screens, one could argue that we’re engaging with some form of TV 24/7–and there’s no way that can be a good thing.
I think it’s time that we start to acknowledge some of the drawbacks of the digital age and the negative impact streaming can have or we may soon find ourselves at the point of no return.
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