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Living with ALS while adapting to 21st century social media

Written By | Aug 5, 2019
Cell Phone, Chat, Social Media

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CHARLOTTE, NC: Earlier this week my college roommate sent me an article link to, How tech ate the media and our minds and posed the question as to whether I thought it had any relevance to ALS. My initial reaction upon reviewing the story was that the two have no common link, but during a second reading, I discovered something I had previously overlooked that was subtly profound. The column had to do with how the massive proliferation of social media has influenced our lives in just the last decade.

We all see it. We all complain about. But you know what? We all do it.

Three young women sit down at a table in a restaurant, cell phones in hand and never say a word to each other.

In fact, the only time they might possibly lookup is to place their order with the waitress. So bad has the phenomenon become that they will actually text each other at the table rather than talk to each other.

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So here’s the sentence that blew me away (how I missed it the first time now scares me a little):

“The human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to eight seconds since 2000, while the goldfish attention span is nine seconds.”

How scientists know the attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds escapes me, not to mention that it’s a bit frightening in its own right, but that’s another story.

As co-authors Jim VandeHei and Sara Fischer point out in their story,

We scroll, click and swipe our days away, better connected than at any point in humanity — but not necessarily better informed.”

A decade ago people still enjoyed the tactile pleasure of reading a newspaper or doing the daily crossword puzzle. Those days have become modern-day anachronisms. Today a local paper is little more than a newsletter.

Consider the explosion in technology:

• 1.2 billion web pageviews, per Chartbeat
• Billions of Google searches, per Google
• 13.8 billion hours + of video shared on YouTube, per Google
• 13M audio/video calls made on Facebook Messenger, per Facebook
• 50 billion messages sent on WhatsApp, per Facebook
• 500 million Tweets sent, per Twitter

VandeHei and Fischer continue by adding “Google and Facebook are mostly to blame.

Nearly 60% of our media-consumption time happens in mobile apps, and a majority of that traffic is owned by those two companies. This paradigm has destroyed the business model for news publishers, creating perverse incentives for publishers to generate as many clicks as possible, creating a “crap trap.”

Ironically, though more than two-thirds of Americans get their news and information from social media, nearly 70% of them do not trust what they see, hear or read.

The resulting consequence has been the proliferation of “fake news.”

Difficult as it may be to realize that the world is now connected and interconnected better than any time in history, we are perversely gullible and uninformed.

“Case in point,” according to VandeHei and Fischer, “a 2016 BuzzFeed News analysis found that top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined.”

Simply put, that is a tragedy.

“So,” you ask, “what does this have to do with ALS? Where’s the link?”

It’s really not that complicated. You see, my world has become one of adjustments and adaptations. About the only thing my cell phone does now is ring. I am physically unable to answer in time to speak, much less use the text. (What a blessing!)

Therefore in order to accomplish a task, it takes me longer to complete it or sometimes even requires assistance.

In the process ALS has forced me to slow down. To pause. To reflect. To contemplate. And, to think about how to communicate.

I no longer must deal with the conundrum that there is more good information out there than any time in history and the added frustration of attempting to decipher it. I may not always make the correct interpretation, but, at the very least, it will likely be thought out and considered. My affliction has forced me into a somewhat antiquated lifestyle.

There are worse things in life to deal with, of course, such as our contemporary alternatives.

About the Author:

Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Read more of Bob’s journeys with ALS and his travels around the world

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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club ( and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.