by Sabry Otmani, CEO and founder of Pulpix
Multitasking: Why We Are Obsessed With Doing a Thousand Things Per Minute
We have entered an unprecedented world of unlimited content and constant connectivity. The rise of the Internet of Things and the incessant need for immediacy have transformed our ways of communicating and consuming content online. We are now multi-screen and multi-device, crawling through the web of infinite information. Millennials are the Multitasking Generation.
According to a recent study by Microsoft Corporation, the overwhelming amount of data provided by technology has reduced the human attention span to 8 seconds (one second less than a goldfish). The study found a decrease in attention span across all age groups and suggests that long-term focus is being diminished by increased digital consumption. It argues that, with news reduced to 140 characters and communication increasingly via emojis, we have developed the ability to focus our attention on several activities and devices at once. In fact, we actually need multiple stimuli to keep us engaged and interested, and to fight off boredom.
The consequences of this has a huge impact on modern marketers. The Microsoft study states that heavy users of social media are “better at identifying what they want/don’t want to engage with and need less to process and commit things to memory.“ Information now needs to be instantly enticing. Think, if the average adult listens and reads one word per second, that gives you just eight words to capture your audience’s attention. No pressure.
Videos, texts, tweets, news, calls, snaps, posts…
One of the most impressive forms of multitasking is our ability to consume video content at the same time as other types of content. As our long-term focus is diminishing, it is arguable that video is optimized for multitasking: it is both audio and visual so we can choose what aspect to focus on while doing something else.
Deloitte’s Digital Democracy Survey 2015 reveals that Millennials (born between 1983 and 2000) spend 60% of their viewing time watching content on portable and mobile devices. It then goes on to confirm that a staggering 90% of consumers multitask (up to 3 different activities simultaneously) on other devices while watching TV.
This is not to say that video is repelling the audience’s attention and should be overlooked, on the contrary! It remains the most engaging format on the web, but perhaps marketers should start considering different functionalities and formats for video to make it multitask-optimized. After all, multitasking has become second nature, and we’re getting pretty good at it.
But what happens next?
Generation Z, or the so-called “Digital Natives” born post-2000, are continuing to change the way we consume information. Multitasking will become ever more prevalent and necessary as these Digital Natives are born hardwired for instantaneous communication and with a dependence on technology for their social interactions.
Bruce Morton, a researcher with the University of Western Ontario’s Brain & Mind Institute, doesn’t see a problem with this change in content consumption. He believes that “digital technologies dovetail seamlessly into the information processing abilities of our brain.” That is to say that multitasking is the brain’s natural response to our new ability to consume an increasing volume of information and digest it faster. The more information we have, the more we want.
We are already starting to see major brands reply to this need for multiple stimuli and simultaneous activity, such as Windows 10 Snap Multi-Window, Apple iPad’s Split-Screen Multitasking on iOS 9 and Android M’s Multi-Window Mode.