There’s a good reason it’s called the information age. Communication has become alarmingly cheap. People get whatever they want published randomly for free. And we love to do this. There are always, always thousands of fresh Reddit links waiting every morning.

In contrast, it’s a little worrying by how much I (and, I’ll bet, a lot of other people in this generation) have lessened in-depth reading. Not everybody is good at producing long reams of text… and not everybody is good at absorbing them either, which is why tl;drs has pretty much become a reflex for anybody on online discussion boards posting more than a paragraph.

But just to focus on me: My intensive book-reading time has been steadily dropping for a long time. Perhaps a few years ago teachers would have this form where you had to read half an hour every day and fill it out, and I would find not doing it difficult. Now most of the time has been replaced by wiki-laddering on the computer. Well, recently my mom dragged me off to the library where I discovered the seventh Demonata book and some other arbitrary books, and I sped through the former last night, but the books like these I really get absorbed in are hard to find. I suck at finding good books in a library. I wish I could pin it on my tastes becoming more discriminative and critical (which is also true, I think), but of course I know most of it just because those Google Reader link-swarms give me more points of thrill with less effort.

I don’t know if, in itself, this is inherently bad. Clearly, it gives the reader the choice of choosing which articles to read deeply into after getting a feel for the general direction of each. To a lesser extent, this has always been how the radio and news stations work. There are many events that everybody should know about at least in passing.

And in certain places, shorter messages seem indisputably the better way. I don’t really see any benefit from writing a hundred words for every vague acquaintance’s birthday (except as an incredibly classy way to procrastinate.) There are always messages on any birthday star’s FB wall, in an amount directly proportional to the number of friends who the star has.

But personally, I would still rather have one devoted, long-ish message of appreciation from a friend than a thousand skin-deep sentences of congratulations from a horde of people most of whom I can just barely recognize. Thousands of one-sentence mentions concerning current events and obscure bits of trivia don’t make much impression and don’t allow much depth of thought. The shape of Pringles are hyperbolic paraboloids—or parabolic hyperboloids or something—very interesting, but hell if it will turn up again in my life while I still remember the fact. It would be entirely useless if the whole world only knew about a new extraterrestrial super-plague in passing. I need more big, scary text walls.

tl;dr: If you just skipped here then you have the same problem as I.


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