Much has been written about the distractibility of the modern American. In the past decade, diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorders have skyrocketed, the listicle conquered the internet, and there was even a report that goldfish now have longer attention spans than the average American.
Now it appears that watching television, itself a diversion, requires more focus than we can muster.
Forbes reports that a new study from the consulting group TNS found that 56% of Americans engage in another digital activity (playing with their phones, tablets, or laptops) while they are watching TV. That puts the U.S. ahead of the global average, which is 48%, but well behind Japan, where 79% of TV viewers are using a different device while they do it.
The news will come as a boon to social media platforms, especially Twitter, which have worked to sell advertisers on the idea that they can more effectively reach consumers who are watching a given TV show by also hitting them with a message on social media.
Despite the fragmented attention spans, television is still claiming big viewership worldwide. The TNS study found that some 88% of the world’s internet users watch television on a weekly basis.