November 06, 2020

How Social Media Affects Attention Span

social media and adhd

In our current age of quickly evolving technology and social media, it’s no wonder that adults and children are having difficulty focusing their attention. When you consider smartphones, email, TV, video games, the internet, and social media, it’s easy to see why our brain’s neurons are constantly going full tilt. These advances in technology give us more access to screen time, and the ability to access social media on any device at any time is increasing the amount of time we spend on social platforms. 

What Are the Neurological Effects of Social Media?

The constant ability to access social media and fast-paced technology means our brains are exposed to high volumes of brain stimulation and our neurons are firing all day long. This easy access to social media on multiple devices leads to multi-tasking, which inhibits our ability to focus completely on one task at a time.

For example, if your child seems to be having difficulty concentrating or finishing tasks without getting distracted, you might think it’s due to a mental health condition, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But before jumping to conclusions, it’s important to remember that constant access to social media can also be the culprit behind reduced attention span.  

Declining Attention Span, ADHD and Social Media

Do you ever ask yourself, “why is my attention span so short?”. There’s a distinction between a person struggling with ADHD and one who’s struggling to focus due to an overload of technological stimuli. Individuals with ADHD need mental stimulation, which is why they’re given stimulants to help them stay focused in the classroom.

On the other hand, people who spend a lot of time with their electronics have trained their brains to receive heightened stimulation and the accompanying dopamine boosts. This type of stimulation leads to symptoms similar to ADHD, but they’re not necessarily leading to the actual disorder.

How Social Media Reduces Your Attention Span

A study by Microsoft revealed that the average person now starts to lose attention after a mere eight seconds. Social media’s impact on attention and focus has long been debated. It’s now well-established that social media consumes or exhausts attention resources and detracts attention from other more important life activities like work, education, and personal development. Not only are attention spans dwindling, but many users are multitasking while consuming social media, which leads to further decreased attention on each task.


Users on Facebook’s desktop version spend about 2.5 seconds on a piece of content, whereas mobile users only give 1.7 seconds. This number is even lower in younger audiences.


Second to Facebook, Instagram is where users are spending most of their social media time. A shocking 60% of users reported they are constantly connected to Instagram. The constant ping of notifications and mindless scrolling interrupts our off-screen activities and creates a habit of quickly consuming and discarding information.

Tips to Avoid Overstimulation from Social Media

If you think you’re feeling overstimulated from too much screen time and social media, try making these simple changes to your environment:

  • Monitoring your screen time. It’s important to know how much time you’re spending on your smartphone, computer, and TV. If it’s too much, limit yourself to 35-40 minutes a day. Find hobbies that don’t involve screens, like board games, walking, or riding your bicycle.
  • Relaxing your mind. Try meditation or breathing exercises to help you relax and increase your focus and attention span. If you’re working, try putting on some soothing music at a low volume, which can also keep you relaxed and focused.
  • Making your bedroom a stimulus-free zone. If you’re looking at your phone or tablet before going to sleep, you can actually disrupt your sleep, which causes fatigue. Instead, try reading a book or listening to relaxing music.
  • Learning delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is a life skill that will help you persevere and stay focused on goals for which the returns aren’t immediately experienced. It’s a great way to help you identify short- and long-term goals, which will help you gain success in your life. Track time: Logging work hours and other activities can help identify distraction patterns. If you struggle with a short attention span, time tracking is a great tactic to add to your daily routine.

Learn More About the Effects of Social Media on Low Attention Span

If you think you have low attention span issues from social media use, contact your nearest Baptist Health location today.

Next Steps and Useful Resources

Find a Provider
Screen Time Tips for Kids
Struggling to Give Up Your Smartphone at Night? 8 Ways to Ditch Screens.
Radical Acceptance: Youth and Mental Health in 2020 (Podcast)

Learn More.