Nicola Adam column

Twitter logo.
Twitter logo.

Do you remember the TV advert about the fruity pastel sweet that you couldn’t put in your mouth without chewing it?

If you do, you are probably old enough to remember a world where everybody was able to concentrate on one thing long enough to get to the end, even if it is longer than 140 characters... but possibly not old enoughto know better.

Much like the mouthwatering sweetie, it seems impossible these days to to resist the temptation of phones, tablets and social media in general.

So impossible that 70 per cent of people (and I include myself in this sad made-up statistic) find themselves snacking on information, sometimes several types at the same time.

This has resulted in generations of information rich, fidgety types with short attention spans, a nervous twitch at the sound of a generic ‘ping’ and the inability to read to the end.

In other words, they only read the headlines. In fact, if you get to the end of this column, you are the exception not the rule. These days reading to the end of anything seems a challenge too far to most. It also means that everybody knows a little about a lot, as opposed to times gone by when people tended to have specialist areas of interest i.e knew a lot about a little.

Even though I am a thorough fan of the information generation, I do worry about our inability to concentrate on one thing at once. Call it multi-tasking if you like, but when I find myself watching telly, while scrolling through Facebook on my iPad, while tweeting from one of my phones, I do really wonder at myself. (And I didn’t even mention the e-reader)

I’m prone to a slight panic if separated from functioning wifi or 3G (and therefore from the news headlines) and even on holiday struggle to turn off (even from halfway across the world). My excuse to myself – I’m a journalist and information is my livelihood.Which is, of course, an excuse. But it is a very real problem.

Short attention span syndrome can be summed up by a recent complaint to this newspaper.

The educated person rang up to complain that the story headline, which was three generic words, succinct and straightforward, would make readers believe his completely unrelated organisation was involved.

When I pointed out the story was fully explained in the first paragraph, and all parties involved were named repeatedly throughout the entirely accurate report, his argument was: ‘No-one will read past the headline.’ Really? Well, he certainly hadn’t. Or maybe he mistook it for a tweet...

Media organisations have picked up on the world of shorter attention spans of course. Newspapers are largely tabloid, stories are shorter, news generally in brief. The ‘I’ newspaper is a series of tweet length stories and radio bulletins short in deference to our twitchy natures. So, if you ARE still reading this, did you resist temptation to chew?