The internet is rewiring your brain! That’s according to MIT professor Ted Selker, who says that darting from website to website is shortening our attention spans and making it harder for us to concentrate. In fact, his research shows that people who constantly surf the web have an attention span of about 9 seconds. To put it in perspective, that’s about the same as a goldfish.
And the web’s not just changing how we concentrate. It’s changing how we read. Computer users tend to scan text instead of taking it in line by line. The average web surfer reads just 20 percent of a written page.
So, if you want to stay ahead of the goldfish, what’s the fix?
First: Give yourself a goal. Selker says that before you log on, write down the specifics of what you’re looking for. So, if you decide that you’re going to check the weather and the traffic report, you’re less likely to wind up looking at car sites.
Next: Read books. The part of the brain that controls our ability to focus is designed to give priority to new experiences.
And when you’re online, everything is new information, so your system gets overloaded. But sitting down and reading a book limits distractions, and re-trains your brain to concentrate on one thing at a time.
And one last tip to help you concentrate: Slow down your breathing. In a University of California study, people who practiced taking long, deep breaths improved their focus and increased performance on a variety of mental tasks.