Will YouTube’s New ‘Jump Ahead’ Destroy Our Attention Span Once And For All?

Is it the future or the end of the mind?
Published: 9 April 2024

Not to be all doom and gloom, but it appears we (and by we, I mean the tech bros running YouTube) have finally nailed the coffin shut when it comes to keeping the human brain focused for more than a mere handful of seconds, if not less.

YouTube – which is not just the new competitor against Netflix, but basically every single platform striving for human engagement – is experimenting with a new feature called “jump ahead”, which will allow members to skip to the ‘best’ part of the video. As if YouTube reels, three minute videos, nevertheless TikTok, weren’t short enough, this new feature will allow time sensitive or simply attention lacking individuals to skip ahead to the juiciest seconds of a video, and then move on to the next one. This evokes an image of the downloading sequence in The Matrix where Neo is plugged in and ‘kung fu’ is downloaded into his brain in a matter of seconds and voila, suddenly, in the words of Neo himself, “I know Kung Fu.”

This “Jump Ahead” feature may just be a “small experiment” to the tech giant, which is owned by Google, but its potential reach is gargantuan. Last month, YouTube surpassed 100 million Premium and Music subscribers, a number which includes those participating in a free trial. YouTube Premium, which is basically just ad-free YouTube, costs SGD 11.98, and as a standalone, YouTube music costs SGD 9.98.

Although many still view Netflix to be the undefeated champ of online streaming, YouTube does have more usage, although not more paying members, as Netflix has 260 million worldwide. Still, YouTube made more than SGD 41 billion last year in ad revenue.

Based on a recent study from Nielsen, the global leader in audience insights, data and analytics, YouTube represents 9.3% of TV and streaming viewership as of February 2024. Netflix came in second at was 7.8%, and Hulu and Amazon Prime Video tied in third place. But what is perhaps most surprising of all, is that standard, TV is still the most popular place to watch shows and movies at home. Streaming “only” made up 37.7% of the viewership pie.


Considering the “jump ahead” feature, one must also bear in mind that many YouTube videos contain 90% fluff, especially the guaranteed inclusion of “and don’t forget to like and subscribe”, which can become repetitively annoying, so the intentions behind this feature may not be as mind zapping as they initially appeared. For example, amongst YouTube fitness channels, many videos can reach up to 30 minutes with a title Best Bicep Workout.

As any avid gym goer can tell you, training your biceps does not require thirty minutes of explanation, and for those who subscribe to such channels, in recent years, many fitness YouTubers are making contrasting, shortened videos that get to the point much quicker, which isn’t due to lack of attention, but rather a more succinct explanation. And if you read the comments section, you’ll see an influx of reactions like, “thank you for immediately getting to the point!”

Depending on how you view the “jump ahead” feature, it can be seen as a force for good when considering the type of content you are watching, i.e. informative fitness channels. And with Elon Musk’s Neuralink raising eyebrows and interest across the internet – will it expand the possibilities of human cognition or destroy the human mind? – one thing is for certain: attention spans are dropping faster than interest in a Robin Thicke concert.

Originally published on Esquire ME

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