Most of you will agree, the internet has trained us to read a lot more. And while the frequency has increased, you may also agree we’re not reading the entire article, we’re just skimming.
This recent Onion satire got me thinking about that behavior. Is part of the reason we’re not reading articles through to the end anymore because we already know the story before we get to the end?
Let’s back up a moment. The horrible shooting that just took place in Colorado was reported on ad nauseam, as these types of incidents generally are. The Onion, a publication famous for its humor covered the story (very tactfully) by focusing on our culture’s reaction to the event versus the actual event itself.
While admitting they “absolutely hate” the fact they have this knowledge, the nation’s 300 million citizens told reporters they can pinpoint down to the hour when the first candlelight vigil will be held, roughly how many people will attend, how many times the county sheriff will address the media in the coming weeks, and when the town-wide memorial service will be held.
We’re over-exposed to news today. The world is arguably just as packed with newsworthy events today as it was 10 years ago, but because of the internet, we hear about it more often. And because we’re consistently being pounded with same types of stories over and over, it seems like when we come across articles in the same topic area, we switch off the part of our brain that is looking to absorb the entire narrative.
Maybe you could call it Minority Report-style reading, but my assumption is that many of us are just looking for key variables (people, places, and time) that differ within the particular news story we’re reading, and then we just fill in the details and move on.
The reason we’re quickly moving on and away from what we’re (currently) reading online is because social media has shifting our information consumption behaviors towards constantly finding “new” news. Things that are different, are worth sharing. As soon as we share those items, we start the cycle again. It’s not enough for us to have feelings of empathy and reflection anymore, we’re looking to ensure that others are feeling that with us. But you have to wonder if the former is deteriorating due to the latter.
The Onion brilliantly illustrated this state of affairs through the backdrop of a terrible tragedy. A story that certainly should stay top of mind and get a significant amount of our attention, may, “in two weeks…be over…like it never happened.”