Declining Focus and Reading Habits among Millennials

Results drawn from a study conducted by McKinsey conclude that an average person consumes 72 minutes of information per day. A similar study was conducted back in 2006, but the average time of news consumption at the time was comparatively less. The most surprising conclusion of the current study was that it was based entirely on people below the age of 35 – the Millennials.

What does that suggest? Does that mean that Millennials read as much as the other generations or possibly more than that? If that’s the case, how come the common notion today is that Millennials don’t read or there are declining reading habits in Millennials? Is it a fair assumption or a presumptuous fleeting statement?

Most people would argue that Millennials read but their habits are rather different. For instance, the act of reading may not be on their priority list as university students or high school students but they eventually end up reading far more than the older generations.

Another interesting study has reported that people over the age of 64 tend to spend approximately one and a half-hour reading every day. In contrast, people between the ages of 15 and 24 spend 50 minutes. This is actually not as bad when you find out that people belonging to the age group of 25 and 64 spend merely half an hour.

But if they don’t read for recreational purposes, what and why exactly do Millennials read? Apparently, Millennials are effective scanners; they read with the sole purpose of acquiring information.

It may come as a surprise to some, but Millennials are not as interested in reading fiction as one might assume. They usually read about the things that interest them. Hence, it could be about space travels, volcanic eruptions, concentration camps, epicurean philosophy, and even movie reviews, etc.

Interestingly, this selective reading pattern suggests that Millennials are not paying full attention to whatever they’re reading. They want everything to be meticulous yet timely. Hence, you won’t find them sitting down with a book, absorbing all the information bit by bit and enjoying it. Instead, they’d rather be using their time strategically with the help of the internet to extract all the relevant information about a book.

This indicates a lack of patience as well as a craving for instant gratification. Millennials – the generation belonging to the age of social media – are not used to the virtues of waiting. In fact, their attention span gets smaller every passing day as they continue to be offered faster internet and their indulgence in social media increases. Moreover, smartphones have made things worse; they’ve brought information from all around the world to our very fingertips.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Millennials are built differently, as they live in a world that capitalizes on instant gratification. The generations before them were part of a world where waiting was sometimes the only option – they had to wait for a movie to release into the theatres but today, we can simply stream it on our phones with one click; they had to wait for their loved one to write them back or send them a postcard but today they can simply pick up the phone and give them an audio/video call or simply leave an instant message.

There’s another side to this picture, though. You can’t completely discredit the scanning skills of Millennials, as it could potentially offer them a wider frame of reference that is required to become a more learned individual.

Basically, some people argue that scanning comes with a much broader scope of learning. When you pay attention to just one sophisticatedly written text, you may master the craft of eloquence but it leaves you with little information about the world. Thereby, the older generations are more likely to have lesser information as compared to the Millennials today.

The Millennials are better equipped to tackle perceptual tasks and retain more information in their working memory. The digital mediums have empowered this generation with terrific scanning abilities, which has led to the development of superior visual skills. This group of individuals can easily filter out the information they need and discard the irrelevant parts.

Rapid Scanning and Purposeful Reading Beneficial for Marketers

What do marketers prioritize the most? They value the information that can engage the reader more deeply into content. Thanks to search engines and various social media platforms, identification of the kind of information that Millennials most seek has become significantly easier. For example, their preferences and interests can be easily gauged from the trending topics of Twitter or Google News.

What we’re trying to communicate here is that Millennials have surpassed expectations of the previous generations, as they can gather larger chunks of visual information at once.

However, it’s essential that these visuals be presented to them in an easy, digestible fashion. The younger lot tends to overlook poor writing, as they’d rather be stimulated with a better page and font design. Hence, the most prominent pattern observed among Millennials is that they don’t really focus on the meaning or, at least, as they’re capable of overlooking its significance.

Traditional Reading Habits

The media is hell-bent on proving that Millennials don’t read – research would tell you otherwise. In fact, some studies prove that Millennials are voracious readers and, statistically, the most common age group found in public libraries. On average, this age group reads five books per year and they are mostly found roaming around in book stores to kill time.

Statistics show that the publishing industry made $111 billion in the year 2018 and has since grown at least one percent every year. It has also been observed that young readers are more like hoarders, as they buy tons of books at a time and then it stays on their ‘To Read” lists for months and sometimes years.

When it comes to gathering information and researching, Millennials prefer to read and acquire a background understanding of the topic. The boomers or the older generations are much more inclined towards the TV, as you’ll mostly find them watching news broadcasts.

In 2015, research claimed that Millennials have set personal benchmarks and are more committed— than anybody else— to stay informed. In fact, this was the most prominent resolution that they committed to on New Years that year. The same year, 80 percent of the Boomer generation had made resolutions like saving money and exercising more.

Millennials vs Generation Z

It may not come as a surprise to you, but there’s actually a state of emergency regarding the reading habits of the Generation Z. Yes, this generation is bright and innovative, and they have developed all the necessary digital skills.

However, there’s a flip side to these traits: their cognitive processes are significantly poorer compared to the older generations. A lot of studies have emerged in recent years, indicating that Gen Z has little to no patience when it comes to reading dense material and texts of the 19th and 20th century. They don’t have the patience to apply reading etiquettes – they won’t pause or give importance to the syntactical demands while reading.

Hence, the upcoming generation doesn’t only have cognitive impatience, but they also have a limited ability to grasp a profound piece of knowledge due to their limited capacity to retain complex and lengthier chunks of information.

Thus, it can be concluded that Millennials— despite the stereotyped notion— are avid readers and great scanners as well. And also, this generation is more interested in being informed and has quicker cognitive responses

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