Shorter Media, Shorter Attention Span


Ashley McCormick

Illustration by Preston Randall

TikTok, YouTube and Instagram all have one thing in common: using short videos to reel viewers in. I first noticed these shorts on Instagram and watched them occasionally. I thought nothing of them at the time since I go to Instagram for photos, not videos. 

When shorts arrived on YouTube, I slowly got hooked. After or before I watched a video, I would scroll down and see if any shorts titles caught my eye. Then after scrolling through three shorts, I would watch the video I intended to watch. Impatience crept up the first minute into seeing twenty-minute videos.

Not to mention all the ads that are on YouTube videos these days. Before any video I watch now there are always two unskippable ads. Add on the ads YouTubers will put in their videos, and there are a lot of boring ads I don’t want to watch. Yet, shorts have interesting titles, and they are so short, I can watch two in one minute versus an ad. Recently, I have watched so many shorts the algorithm is now tailoring them to my specific taste. Tempting shorts make me lean toward watching more shorts instead of videos.

 My mind is getting used to watching shorter pieces of content. Now it expects rapid-fire every time I watch something, which is problematic. Getting bored quickly means losing focus even quicker.

To combat this, I still watch longer videos and movies. I also read books, which take longer than watching a short does. Consuming longer content can lead to a more fulfilling experience. You have to go on a journey to learn about the characters and the ending; it is not achievable in 30 seconds or less. More and more of my peers watch these short videos no matter the platform; they are addicting. I can’t say I notice their attention span getting shorter, as I can’t catch that. Attention spans develop over time. 

Though shorts are fun to watch, I hope shorts do not merge themselves with attention span.