A TikToker with a sizable 352,000+ follower count is questioning what short-form social media content is doing to the attention spans of viewers. Candace (@candacce) said that she's noticed that a number of folks who've commented on her videos seem to lack patience with clips that are barely 2 minutes long, often telling her to "get to the point" or remarking that they wasted their time watching a clip that when compared to the early days of YouTube, is a fraction of the length.
She discussed this phenomenon, which she has attributed to "brain rot" in a viral video that's logged in thousands of comments from folks on the platform, many from folks who agree with her assessment that it certainly appears people's attention spans are deteriorating over time.
She begins her clip by addressing the camera directly: "You know how there's a lot of teachers saying that their students are taking significantly longer to grasp information or their students will be in 7th grade and read at like a 2nd-grade reading level. Have we seen those videos? Or they say that they've been working for like 15 years and the last couple of years they've noticed a significant decline in kids' learning levels?"
"I think this correlates with, I'll make a 2-minute, 3-minute video, I get so many comments that are just like, get to the point oh my God, I just wasted my time. I just wasted my life watching this 2-minute video. Do you remember on YouTube when there used to be 10-minute videos, 15-minute videos, 20-minute videos?"
"Those did just fine," she remarked, before continuing on her rant against folks with mitigated attention spans: "the YouTube monetization it had to be like 10 minutes so then you'd see a lot of YouTubers uploading ten minute and one second videos. Everyone's attention spans..."
"One time I uploaded like a minute and fifty-second video and someone was like I can't believe I watched the entire thing get to the point!" This prompted her to wonder what was going on with the irate social media user: "Are you okay? It's a minute video. And then when I'm like dude, what's wrong with you? They're like what's wrong with you? You're the one making two-minute videos!"
Candace responded that she doesn't think there's anything wrong with her or the length of the videos she's uploading to TikTok: "I'm just making videos. You think I'm the weird one? Because I made a minute long video that you can't sit through? I'll be like dude...this is obviously brain rot."
"And then other people pile in and they're like um just because they don't wanna sit through a minute long video doesn't mean they have brain rot. You have brain rot too, okay, I don't know what to tell ya'll. The entitlement to where they feel like there should never be over a minute long videos, it's either COVID, or it's either virtual learning, or it's just extended internet use."
There were several commenters who responded to Candace's video who seemed to agree with her assessment of this disturbing trend she's noticed when it comes to people's attention spans. One person wrote: "brain rot, long covid, executive dysfunction in a fast paced society, etc"
Another penned: "it is 100% brain rot, it was hard to even sit through this but im working on it cuz i got things to do in my life"
There seemed to be a lot of votes for "brain rot" coming from a slew of folks: "For teenagers specifically, i would definitely say brain rot. Ive noticed that school was a lot easier for me before covid but when covid hit, we were"
Another TikTok user said that the folks who complain about the length of her videos doesn't necessarily mean that they have brain rot, but that many folks who spend a good amount of time consuming content online have become accustomed to rapid-fire dopamine creation via fast content: "People are just less patient, it has nothing to do with brain rot, its addiction to quick stimulation"
And it isn't difficult to see where the aforementioned TikToker is coming from pertaining to "addiction to quick stimulation" with so many folks who have on-demand access to a slew of just about whatever kind of content they want to watch from whoever they want to see it from at a moment's notice.
And being raised on content curated distinctly for social media is different than the kind of entertainment that, let's say, previous generations were used to watching, like feature-length films or TV shows with fully fleshed-out plot points.
That type of entertainment model was based upon a release schedule: films would come out in theaters and if you watched serialized programming on TV, you had to wait for an episode to come out and if it was on network/cable TV that were supported via advertisement models, you had to sit through commercials.
But if you grew up watching YouTube videos, followed by content creators on social media applications like TikTok and Instagram Reels, then it's easy to find yourself in the habit of swiping up through an endless list of folks vying for your eyes for a few seconds at a time.
The mind becomes trained to become enamored with this certain type of content. It also doesn't help that with the advent of longer form content being delivered to viewers via on-demand platforms like SVOD video services have also changed people's expectations when it comes to watching movies and TV shows, either.
Whatever the reason for the alleged reduced attention spans that Candace is referring to in her video, it seems that there is indeed some research that indicates she's onto something: Embryo has written about "The Goldfish Effect" in human beings, stating that the average attention span of a human being has ultimately dropped to a second lower than a goldfish's.
The outlet states that there's been marked drop in the aggregate attention spans of human beings from 2000 to 2013, and, seeing that there's been a downward spiral before the advent of "fast-dopamine" social media applications like TikTok, it's probably safe to assume that our species' attention span has worsened in the last ten years as well (at this time of writing.)
"The National Centre for Biotechnology Information at the US Library of Medicine reportedly conducted a study claiming that the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013, one second below that of a goldfish. Hence, the term ‘The Goldfish Effect’ was born."
This opinion piece in The Thunderbolt echoes these sentiments, and another piece from M Power Wellness states that the average human being's attention span is 8.25 seconds, but can range from 2 seconds to 2 minutes.