The internet is changing your brain and affecting your behaviors constantly, whether you are fully aware of this phenomenon or not. While it’s difficult to argue whether these effects on our psyches are inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it is perhaps most important to remain cognizant about how much time you’re spending online and the ways the internet could be affecting you mentally and emotionally. The Internet, memory, and attention span are all intertwined and linked, irreversibly affecting one another.
It is particularly vital for digital writers to understand how to catch a reader’s attention and keep it. To grasp the full picture of how people navigate the Web will ultimately challenge the writer to be better and understand the nuances of their audience’s behavior. Not only is it wise to research common internet practices for writing and publishing reasons, knowing the ins and outs of Internet psychology will help one become a better consumer of information. Not only is the topic of the Internet, memory, and attention span’ ridiculously fascinating, it is important to learn about and understand these behaviors.
Our capacity for memory, particularly working memory, has also been warped by internet use. When we know that the Internet will have the information we need with just a quick Google search or with the click of a button, we are less likely to remember specific facts. The Internet has changed memory almost irreversibly since our first thought when we can’t remember a name, a statistic, or fact is to simply ‘Google it’ and have the answer in seconds. The term for having to use a memory aide instead of relying on our internal memories is called cognitive offloading, where the Internet becomes an extension of the brain.
Nicholas Carr, writer of Is Google Making Us Stupid?, has written about the way the internet has affected our attention spans and our ability to focus on one thing for a prolonged period of time. If you’ve ever found yourself incessantly checking your phone while you’re supposed to be reading 30 pages of text or you keep 20 tabs open on your browser, you can relate to Carr’s position that our brains are different on the Web. I think we all can relate to his quote from the article: “My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
Studies now show that the average human attention span is about nine seconds thanks to the popularity of mobile devices. People expect instant gratification and desire to be entertained or have a busy brain at all times. Humans like to believe they’re in control of the devices and technology they use, but it does take mindfulness to ensure users are being cognizant of their internet and device usage.
Why Is This Important To Digital Writers?
In order to cater to narrow attention spans, digital writers need to say what they want to say and say it quickly. Writers should start with an eye-catching title and continue with content that is well-researched, has a purpose, and uses a unique voice that stands out among thousands of articles on the Internet. Being concise and using bullet points and subheadings so readers can find exactly what they’re looking for will also set one up for writing a successful piece. It is also important to remember that writing for the Web is quite different than writing for print media. People have a lot of alternatives when they’re on the web, so they must immediately find value in what your article has to offer them.
It is quite vital that digital writers keep their audience in mind at all times. Writers should be asking questions like -How can I bring further understanding to this topic? How can I situate my wording and content so that the average reader can comprehend? and How can I get my idea across with the fewest number of words possible?
Here’s a reiteration in list form:
- Be concise
- Pick an eye-catching title
- Have a unique voice
- Use bullet points and subheadings
- Writing for the Web is different than writing for print media
- Constantly keep the audience in mind