“Young people are always on their phones!” says every middle aged person ever, “They can’t even go five minutes without checking Facebook.”
In a recent study done by me (yes, I’m an expert) I found that there may be more truth to this statement than I had previously thought. I completely deny the statement every time I hear it, claiming I can survive perfectly fine with not checking a message or ignoring a notification. But that may not be the case for everyone.
Last week I took it upon myself to set up a small informal test to see what happens to someone’s attention in the presence of multiple media devices. At first I had a lot of difficulty deciding on how to actually conduct the test as all of my ideas were far too complicated to implement. Eventually I decided on something simple, yet effective, that would give me an indication of how individuals perform in the presence of both study material and mobile devices.
What: A texting test
Who: Me (conducting the test) and Chloe, a classmate (the subject in the experiment)
Why: To see how an individual responds in the presence of multiple media devices
How: By sending Facebook messages to Chloe whilst she is studying to see how her attention changes
I chose to conduct the test one afternoon whilst studying in the University library with a classmate. Chloe was unaware that I was conducting the test, and this ensured that all her responses were genuine. We sat down in the quiet study area of the library in separate booths, which worked perfectly for the purpose of my experiment.
I saw my Chloe open a textbook, a word document, and an internet tab. Straight onto Facebook. She quickly checked messenger on her iPhone then placed it next to her laptop and began typing away at her study notes. I told her I was going to print off my own study notes and made my way over to the printers. This is when the test began. I sent a Facebook message to Chloe asking a general question about printing (so as to not make it seem so suss). Instantly the message came up as ‘seen’ and three dots appeared indicating Chloe was typing back to me. I waited a minute before replying and received a message back instantly. Again, I waited a few minutes before sending a message back to my classmate. Sure enough I received another reply within seconds (so much for studying, Chloe). This indicated to me that when in the presence of multiple media devices, the attention of my subject was diverted away from study as soon as social media became active. It also indicated that Facebook was a major distraction for Chloe.
Upon collecting my study notes and making my way back my to my study nook, I sat back down next to Chloe. I decided to give the experiment one more crack. This time instead of messaging Chloe, I decided to tag her in something on Facebook. Since my classmate was ‘busy studying’, I was under the assumption that the notification would not capture her attention. I found a funny post on Facebook and tagged Chloe in the comments. Not even a minute later I heard laughter to my left. Chloe had seen the post. A notification on my own Facebook indicated she had liked the post, a definite conformation that she had looked at the photo.
Overall, the results from my small test showed that when exposed to multiple media devices, the attention of a student studying is quickly diverted when other platforms become active. When exposed to a social media such as Facebook, Chloe’s attention was immediately turned away from studying.
So perhaps the middle aged people were right, maybe we really can’t go 5 minutes without checking Facebook.
Until next time,