It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that we live in an attention-based economy, and with the average American spending more than 10 hours a day viewing different media (*Nielsen), our ability to focus on one thing and really understand what we’re consuming in detail is being significantly challenged.

Following a recent trends briefing with global trend forecasting agency LS:N Global, we’re exploring a key macro trend they’ve coined The Focus Filter: a race for attention raging across media, advertising and culture in our era of non-stop digital distraction.

We find ourselves forced to spend more time than ever on screens as all facets of our lives turn to apps – from medical and banking, to shopping and dating. But while this digital distraction is hitting us everywhere we go, we’re also experiencing it at all hours of the day.

One in three UK adults, and half of 18-24 year olds, check their phones in the middle of the night, while one in 10 smartphone owners admit to reaching for their phone as soon as they wake up (*Deloitte’s sixth annual Mobile Consumer Survey).

We’re addicted to technology, and that’s how it was intended, with this addiction being built into society on an inescapable scale. A consequence of this constant influx of information is that it’s driving consumers to adopt a ‘skip culture’ mentality, whereby we’re falling into a trans-like state, skimming over floods of information in search of standout content.

‘Time is Precious’ campaign by Nike, global

According to LS:N Global, this era of non-stop digital distraction has three key drivers: our constant multitasking and multiscreening; technology’s ‘clickbait’ mentality and the integration of the science of persuasion into digital design to fuel our digital addiction; and open-plan intrusion, the rise of open-plan spaces which foster interruption rather than collaboration.

According to the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, ‘second-screening’ lowers your IQ more than smoking marijuana

One of the strongest outputs of this era we’re seeing is how our stress response caused by this constant engaging is fuelling the rise of the wellness industry. The wellness industry and practices like mindfulness are experiencing massive growth, largely in response to our issues of technological distraction and its effects on our bodies and minds.

A $3.7 trillion market globally, today the wellness industry covers everything from healthy eating, fitness, travel and beauty to workplace wellness, alternative medicine and mindfulness. This shows an understanding that our current addictive relationship with technology is unsustainable, and that we are seeking ways to take a conscious attitude to tech time.

So what does this mean for brands and businesses? A few out-takes…

  • Capturing consumer attention is no longer enough – brands must determine what engagement KPIs look like, and focus on grabbing a deep focus/engagement from consumers
  • The ‘skip culture’ is here to stay, and brands need to consider this when developing and formatting content to ensure optimal intake
  • To inspire and motivate people, communications across advertising, culture, business and the public sphere need to operate with a view to supporting focus and regaining concentration

by Stephanie Dale 

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