Whether sitting on a train or having dinner at a restaurant, many people find it hard to stop fiddling with their mobile phones – firing off a never-ending stream of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts.
If this online hyperactivity looks exhausting, it’s no surprise to discover that these high-frequency internet users find it much more difficult to pay attention to what’s going on around them than the rest of us – even when they are not consumed by the web.
New research finds that the most frequent mobile phone and internet users are the most likely to be distracted, for example by being prone to missing important appointments and daydreaming while having a conversation.
In the first study of its kind, Leicester’s De Montfort University researchers found that the more times a person use the internet or their mobile phone, the more likely they are to experience “cognitive failures”. These include a whole range of blunders, and a general lack of awareness of a person’s surroundings that stretches as far as people forgetting why they have just gone from one part of the house to the other.
The study draws the same conclusions among users of mobile phones without internet access as with it – suggesting that mobile phone conversations and surfing the web are similarly associated with distraction.
In other words, those people already suffering from short attention spans are drawn to the distractions of modern technology, which makes it even harder for them to pay attention to their surroundings.