Tech writers are all a-Twitter over the recent launch of Vine, Twitter’s new video-sharing app, billed by many as Instagram for video. CNN’s Doug Gross cites a key concern being debated by the digerati: “As if it wasn't enough for Twitter to limit our bursts of inspiration to 140 written characters, it has now rolled out…a video-sharing app that limits your videos to just six seconds.”
Is this more evidence of the dwindling attention span of a superficial culture? To avoid rush to judgment, I checked out justvined.com, which fills your screen with rows of sample Vine videos. It’s typical YouTube fare: adorable babies, cute animals, celebrity rants, thinly veiled ads, and of course—food vids. Despite the compact length of the vids, the experience was mesmerizing, prompting me to ask, what can you really accomplish in just six seconds? Here’s what I found.
1. Form a first impression about a website
Website visitors take less than two-tenths of a second to form a first impression, according to eye-tracking research conducted at Missouri University of Science and Technology. Test subjects spent about 2.6 seconds scanning a website before focusing on a particular section. They spent an average of 180 milliseconds focusing, or "fixating," on one particular section before moving on. These findings are consistent with the oft-cited 8-second rule: if users have to wait longer than eight seconds to download a Web page, they will move on.
2. Create a first impression in a meeting
As reported by Carol Kinsey Gorman at Forbes, researchers from NYU found that it takes just 7 seconds to make a first impression. “The moment [a] stranger sees you, his or her brain makes a thousand computations: Are you someone to approach or to avoid? Are you trustworthy, competent, likeable, confident?” People make 11 major decisions about one another within the first seven seconds of meeting. Another big takeaway was that nonverbal cues have over four times the impact over anything you might say during that first encounter.
3. Show three quarters of a rodeo bull ride (in “real time”)
You don’t have to be a cowboy to appreciate how much action can be packed into just 8-seconds on a bucking bronco or bull. Ever wondered why competitive rodeo rides time out after 8 seconds? According to About.com, it’s more about protecting the animals than the riders. After 8 seconds the horse or bull’s bucking ability decreases because of fatigue, adrenaline loss, etc.
4. Select 1.5 potential speed-dating partners
We all make snap judgments about new faces, and to study the process, researchers at California Institute of Technology gave test subjects just 4 seconds to rate people’s potential as a romantic date. Volunteers were placed in an fMRI machine and shown pictures of potential dates (as many as 90 faces), which they rated on attractiveness and likeability. In a subsequent speed-dating event, they spent five minutes talking to some of their picks. Not surprisingly, good looks were the most important factor in determining whether a person got a date request. Nice guys don’t always finish last, though. According to the study, likeability is a tiebreaker if two people have equal attractiveness ratings.
5. Become a competitive eating champion
How many gyoza can you eat in 6 seconds? The current record holder is Joey Chestnut, who wolfed down 266 pan-fried potstickers in 10 minutes in Los Angeles last year (about 2.66 every six seconds). Chestnut is also the six-time champion of Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, N.Y., holding the record of eating 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes (about one every nine seconds).
6. Set the world record for puzzle solving
Watch this YouTube video to see Australian Feliks Zemdegs break the seven second hurdle in November 2011, taking just over six seconds to solve Rubik’s cube.
7. Influence a U.S. presidential election
How long does it take to ensure an informed electorate? A research paper from Mississippi State University last year plotted the shrinking size of the political sound bite, noting that in 1968 the average sound bite in presidential election news coverage was more than 43 seconds. By 1976 it dropped to 18 seconds. In 1988 it was less than 9 seconds. Since then, the average length has yo-yoed between 9 and 7 seconds. Caveat emptor.
UPDATE: A previous version of this post misstated the number of potstickers Joey Chestnut ate every six seconds. It was revised to reflect the true statistic, that he ate 266 potstickers in 10 minutes, or 2.66 postickers every six seconds. H/T to our guest commentator.