Ready for normalcy

After one year of the COVID-19 pandemic, fatigue is setting in

I don’t know about you, but I am over this COVID-19 thing. Give me one more Zoom meeting, and I might lose my mind (more than I already have). It is a tiring method of communication, and I can stay focused for maybe an hour. Push me to two hours, and you have pretty much lost me. Digital media has improved our lives, but in many ways, it also has consumed them. I feel like revolting against the whole thing.

I was in a seminar the other day about the growth curve in digital media. The use of digital media surpassed traditional media in 2018. During the seminar, we were told YouTube is now the world’s second largest website after Google. I am uncertain what this says about our society, but I believe you can glean some insights from the most successful posters.

Brevity matters. Although I can hang in there for a Zoom meeting for an hour or more, if a YouTube video is longer than five minutes, I am much less likely to watch it. Sure, some folks are good enough at content and production that I might sit through a 10-minute video. Yet even if I am interested in the subject, if the video is more than 10 minutes long, I am less likely to click play. What does that say about me? Or where we are as a society?

Let’s admit it: We have short attention spans. In a blog entry titled “The science of audience engagement,” Noah Zandin writes: “The attention span of the average American is short—and getting shorter. Research suggests the average adult attention span is now only five minutes, down from 12 minutes just a decade ago. And on the web? It is six seconds, one second shorter than that of a goldfish. Blame the iPhone, Facebook, Twitter … point fingers wherever you want, the reality is the same. We just don’t focus like we used to.”

It’s good to know I am not alone! And if this is true for most people, how do we reconcile this short attention span with the ascendance of digital media? Do we assume folks never see the end of a presentation? Or just not comprehend it? Either way, we need to change.

Because of the increase of digital media use, I have had a major push in place to improve NRCA’s digital footprint. During the past few years, we have expanded our efforts on the most frequently used platforms, namely Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Our audience has expanded exponentially as a result. Four years ago, we had just over 4,000 people like us on Facebook. Now, we have more than that on our Spanish Facebook page and four times that amount on our English Facebook page. We have seen similar growth on LinkedIn, as well. Entire new communities of like-minded people are getting together online.

But does this mean the end of traditional learning? We all are wondering whether things will return to normal. I believe they will (albeit with some changes) because face-to-face relationships still matter. People are anxious to see you smile in person … no mask, no 2-inch square computer image.

Although we have gained a lot of efficiencies brought about by the pandemic, we also have gained a reappreciation for relationships. We need each other in a way that transcends a video conference. And this is a good thing.

NRCA staff is as anxious as anyone to again engage with you face to face. As public access to the COVID-19 vaccines increase, that day will come soon. Hang in there for just a bit longer, and we will meet again soon.

Reid Ribble is NRCA's CEO.

This column is part of News + Views. Click here to read additional stories from this section.



Be the first to comment. Please log in to leave a comment.