Filling the gaps

10 04 2009

In the get it now and get it faster age in which we live, daily perusals — and I use the term loosely — of the news all too often is beginning to follow the same formula.

You see a list of headlines:

The … ship captain … held hostage by pirates … lifeboat bobbing in the Indian Ocean … unharmed… “The captain remains with the pirates on the lifeboat within full view of”— Oooh, glittery graphics!

And that’s the end of it.

It’s an increasingly disturbing trend but something that needs to be addressed; people have stopped reading.

Studies have shown that readers are skimming and skipping along to such a degree that more of the story is not read than is actually read.

Where once Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Tolstoy and Hemingway were conquered without blinking an eye, today it is considered a great feat of willpower and endurance to make it through a single article.

In the article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” Nicholas Carr makes the argument that the Internet has trained us and how we read. We are trained to look for headlines and skim for specific content.

“A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets’reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link.”

Apparently many people are experiencing this same problem. “The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing,” Carr said.

I think a lot of the issue comes down to information overload. In a lot of ways, Internet access is a lot like setting a kid loose in a candy store; no sooner do they grab the Sour Patches and Skittles but they see the candy bars. With so much to choose from, it’s hard to make up your mind about what your really want to spend your oh so valuable time on.

Back in the days when dial-up reigned supreme, you didn’t spent 5 minutes waiting for a page to load if you didn’t intend to read it. High speed allows readers to be click-happy lunatics who receive information more quickly than they can absorb it.

I consider my time to be just as valuable as the next persons, but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to slow it down and smell the roses — and try to cultivate an attention span that goes beyond four seconds.

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