The Resurgence of the Pen: Digital Life is Killing Our Attention Span

"The pen is mightier than the sword"

- Cardinal Richelieu in Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

What a powerful quote we still use today. It carries a lot of meaning, indicating that communication is stronger than violence, especially in this day and age. Thanks to Bulwer-Lytton, we all know the pen is mightier than the sword, but is it mightier than the smartphone?


According to Microsoft, maybe not. According to a Microsoft study, "our attention spans in 2000 was 12 seconds, but by 2013 it was only 8 seconds (1 second less than a goldfish!)." Can you imagine having a lower attention span than a goldfish? Communication is getting harder and harder as our attention span decreases year over year.


In fact, in case I lost your attention already: can you believe we have a lower attention span than a goldfish?!


Out with the Old, in with the New

As we move towards a more digital world, the way we consume and interact with information is changing. When was the last time you used a pen over your smartphone or computer to take notes? What has become of the most natural method of collecting and tracking information for thousands of years?


It's 1322 and I'm still waiting for the Byzantine iPen?

Back in grade school, we were always told to write down anything and everything so we didn't forget. We slowly wrote down our notes, and read them over again and again to study.  But with the new generation of kids all owning some sort of smartphone, smartwatch, pc, tablet, notebook, netbook, macbook, and anything-else-book (except paper books), the way people are storing and writing information is changing.  With all these different mediums acting as pseudo notebooks, it's easy to get distracted by everything else that the piece of technology offers: Social media, texting, wide acces to the Internet, etc..


In fact, studies show that students are more likely to retain information if they hand write their notes with pen and paper than if they took notes via their computers like some of their peers. Take note! Maybe the pen might be better for your studies anyway.


30 & Up? Sorry, You're Still Trendy

It doesn't stop at the next generation either. Nowadays nearly 66% of Americans own a smartphone. I'm sure you've been in a meeting before where your colleague or boss is trying to subtly stay updated with the latest Blue Jays scores in the corner. Attention spans are decreasing due to the increased amounts of distraction readily available at our finger tips.


Moving away from the pen is making it harder and harder to retain information due to all these distractions. And although unrealistic to expect everyone to drop their sacred iPhone for the lighter and (slightly) less functional Bic Cristal, there are ways to bridge the gap between our digital life and physical life.


Bring Back the Pen!

Imagine this: instead of typing down notes onto your phone, tablet, or PC, you simulate holding a pen with your device and write with your natural pen-like motions to capture notes and thoughts. Although the technology isn't quite there yet in terms of accuracy, it's only a matter of time until a motion recognition company creates a library of motions with handwriting strokes.


Until that point, next time you want to write something down try to use a pen. Not only might you remember it better, but it's good to detach ourselves from the digital world to remind us of our humanity every now and then. Who knows, maybe soon your smartwatch will be able to make a digital copy of what you wrote down too.


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