Distraction as a #tt on Twitter

Over the weekend the word ‘distraction’ was a trending global topic (#tt) on Twitter, meaning it was one of the ten most used words or phrases on Twitter at the time. It seemed such an odd word to be trending that I eventually gave in to curiousity and clicked the link. Amazingly it was not a group of Justin Bieber fans discussing how distracting the teen star is and instead I found myself looking at tweet after tweet after tweet containing a link to what is clearly a very popular New York Times article titled Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

The article itself is a well written piece looking at whether the current generation in high school (do we have an appropriate letter for them yet?) are becoming too distracted by a digital universe that offers them constantly changing sites and devices to interact with. As Matt Richtel puts it:


“Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.

Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.”

While the article itself is fascinating, there is more. This is the first time I have seen one article from one paper, rather than one story, make it to trending topic status. When Prince William and Kate Middleton were trending topics on Twitter last week, it was because they were featured in many newspapers and much internet discussion surrounded their engagement. If you’d followed that down to the tweet level you would have seen a lot of different links (for those tweets with links) relating to the royal engagement.

The major difference here – all links led to one article. One article that clearly had some push and power behind it because discussion and RTs led to it becoming a global trending topic. Working out what it had that pushed it from an interesting commentary to such a popular piece…well let’s save that for tomorrow.

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