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Honestly highlights how our attention span is the product for social media companies

by Andrew Feld

Journalist Bari Weiss leads a podcast called Honestly with Bari Weiss. Each week, she interviews an expert in some health-related field. For one of her podcasts produced earlier this year, called “Your Attention did not Collapse. It was Stolen,” Weiss speaks with journalist and author Johann Hari about why people today have less focus and a shorter attention span than ever before.

Throughout the podcast, Hari shares stories about people he knows who can no longer focus, including one of his godson, who after promising to refrain from using his phone while on a vacation, sat in a corner scrolling through Snapchat, completely absent from the moment. Hari goes on to explain that people today struggle to focus on one task for an extended period, a drastic change from just a couple of decades ago. The culprit, he believes: Social media companies who profit from making it as difficult as possible to put our phones down.

In this eye-opening conversation, Weiss and Hari discuss that we are not customers of Facebook, Instagram, and so on, though we believe we are. Social media companies profit by selling our unique preferences and likes/dislikes to advertising companies. The platforms we use and love are deliberately designed to keep us on the app. Features such as the infinite scroll and the not-so-random notification of likes exemplify this point.

For anyone believing they spend too much time on their phone, this hour-long podcast shines a light not only on the reasons why social media companies aim to steal our attention but also on the individual and societal-level solutions to this massive problem. 

You can find the podcast right here.