Earlier today I found myself listening to the latest podcast of one of the many shows I frequent, perhaps Real Time with Bill Maher or Intelligence Squared or some other similar discussion/debate oriented programming. What program it was doesn’t matter so much, though I’m sure whichever it was it more than likely was terribly fascinating. However during the program in question, a comment was made in passing, one which was given little if any attention save for a snarky response, and yet it nonetheless stuck out to me.
If I recall correctly, the comment had to do with the notion that unless its less than 140 characters, the majority of Americans won’t pay attention to anything written. I believe the discussion in question was revolving around a recent article or book dealing with the current financial crisis and how said piece of long form writing possessed a great deal of insight regarding the aforementioned event. Why exactly has it become so difficult for Americans to take a few minutes out of their day to read something of genuine worth? I’m not saying that everyone should be fully informed on all the important topics of the day though I wish that were actually possible. What I’m getting at is the ever shrinking attention span of the general public.
I know people are busy, I know people have lives, but don’t you think you could maybe take half an hour or an hour out of your daily intake of Jersey Shore or Americas Next Top Model or Dancing with the Stars to read a little bit of something to do with current events or at least SOMETHING to expand your mind? What is happening to our country when college educated individuals are complaining to me that a three page double spaced essay or a five paragraph blog post is too long to read? A blog post! Seriously people, where’s the curiosity, where’s the thirst for knowledge and the desire to better ones self through the exploration of ideas? If college educated individuals are this bad I can’t imagine its all that much better in the general public.
This is why I hate Twitter, it epitomizes this notion of quick n’ easy and applies it to knowledge and information. Twitter is brilliant at getting peoples attention to things, but so many people stop at that thinking they’re informed because they read a couple tweets. If you’re lucky they might turn on the 24hr news machine in the background for a few minutes but I think we can all agree that’s not much better. The culture of instant gratification via twitter (and similar products) and tawdry reality TV could be pushing long form journalism along with writing in general towards oblivion in this country if we’re not careful.
My message to you, do a bit of reading, current events would be great but even a piece of fictional work is better than nothing. Also don’t be put off by something that looks complex or might be a few pages, its really not as scary as you might imagine and if you apply yourself you can probably understand just about anything. Whatever you do though, don’t allow yourself to be engulfed by this new twitter culture where instant gratification is king and the world of terrible reality TV or your mind could atrophy along with the collective intelligence of this nation.