Are Smartphones Making Us Stupid?

Text On The BeachSmartphones always have a corner of our attention. When they beep, buzz or blink, we take notice. Walking down the sidewalk, on public transit, or while watching television, our smartphones are our sidekicks. Even during meetings, or maybe especially during meetings.

But our attention is rarely complete. Few people schedule smartphone time the way they schedule work time. For intensive tasks, most people still return to their desktop or laptop (ever try building a financial model on a smartphone? I wouldn’t recommend it).

Likewise, the attention mobile devices claim limits the attention we give other activity. Again, consider the use of smartphones in meetings. How often do you see partial participation in meetings because smartphones are competing for a share of attention?

Smartphones have created a constant state of partial attention.

Partial attention to our phones and even partial attention to the environment around us.

Here are two implications for marketers of this new state of partial attention.

1. Shortened attention spans

Mobile is extending the always on, at our fingertips information environment. If Google was making us stupid before, smartphones are exacerbating it today.

As attention spans are reduced, marketers must move to shorter, punchier formats that grab and briefly hold our attention.

2. Reduced critical thinking

Without full and extended focus on information, our ability to consume, process and consider the full implications of information is reduced.

Marketers must deliver increasingly prescriptive information that requires less critical thought. Providing a hint and expecting people to grasp the conclusion is not enough. Today, marketers need to lead audiences all the way to the conclusion, quickly and convincingly.

Your Turn

Do you agree that smartphones have created a constant state of partial attention? If so, what other implications does this have for marketing overall and B2B marketing in particular? Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

About Eric Wittlake

I am a digital and B2B marketer with a background in online media and analytics. I work with B2B clients on media and integrated marketing programs. You can connect with me on Twitter at @wittlake or in the comments here on my Digital B2B Marketing blog.

3 Responses to Are Smartphones Making Us Stupid?

  1. Agreed! I find a similar need to schedule other activities as well, just so I can have focused attention. If you only give something partial attention, it is unwise to expect complete results.

    That is not to say that I strictly schedule phone time, because I use mine a lot through the day and find it very valuable. However, I do not let it become a diversion.

  2. Kevin says:

    Tools are tools. Apparently the honeymoon hasn’t ended just yet….

  3. All I have to say about this is… excuse me. i have a call coming in.

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