Jason Wright: Too much fluff, not enough substance
Go check your feeds right now.
What did you see?
Let me guess.
“This Man Ate a Chocolate Donut the Size of a Tractor Tire. What Happened Next Will Horrify You!”
“Woman with Flu Sneezes on Crowded Bus — Video Goes Viral.”
And don’t forget those clever clips that hook you in with time-code bait. “This little girl sings happy birthday in Pig Latin. At 45 seconds you’ll weep like a waterfall.”
Maybe you’ve noticed the approach that the gang at “http://BuzzFeed.com” target=”_blank”>BuzzFeed.com made popular. “19 Reasons Rats Are The Absolute Worst.”
You mean one reason isn’t good enough? They’re rats.
Here are a few more cut and paste gems.
“23 Moments ‘Boy Meets World’ Got Way, Way Too Real — Prepare to cry all over again.”
“53 Thoughts Socially Awkward People Have At Parties.”
“12 Celebrities With And Without Their Eyebrows.”
Really? I’m glad my eyebrows aren’t celebrities.
Perhaps it’s the 140-character era in which we live. As we scroll our phones for news, we honor a social contract that friends, family and the media have exactly three seconds to impress us. If not, we’ll let our fingers do the walking.
I get it. Headlines have always been about drawing readers. But once readers moved from the big font to the little one, they got value and substance. Too often today’s headlines point to junk food journalism that might taste good for a split second, but don’t have much nutritional value.
And why? Because it’s not all about the bass, it’s all about the page views. Blog, news and post teasers rule the day. As long as you click, who cares if you actually read the story?
(Which reminds me, are you still reading?)
Maybe we all have short attention spans because we’ve made life so bite-sized. Everything we need to know about our neighbors can be found online by scrolling our news feed, so who needs to actually stop them on the sidewalk?
“Hi Mrs. Jehoshaphat. I’m glad to hear your dog is better. But do me a favor, would ya? Put it in a short Facebook status update and I’ll be sure to ‘like’ it while sitting at a traffic light in a few minutes.”
It’s as if we get our news from a drive-thru window. “Yes, could I get a clip of a talking cat, 10 ways to lose belly fat and a viral video of a grandma in a clown costume breakdancing at a barbecue?”
“Our pleasure. Would you like to add an inappropriate Willy Wonka meme for just one more click?”
No thanks. Maybe I should ask for chicken and a egg. As in, which came first? Was it the short attention span or the short, but high-fat content?
I fear we’re getting exactly what we want. Our fingers point to shorter stories, shorter videos and shorter opinions about all of the above.
But I also have hope. I have hope it’s a fad we’ll grow out of, like Chia Pets and Silly Bands. I have hope we’ll tire of the endless treadmill of trashy videos, mindless lists of useless trivia and false advertising.
Listen, I like to be entertained, too. And I know there’s value in taking a break. Everyone has a right to turn off their brain and enjoy some fluff.
Still, more often than not, don’t we deserve better? Can’t we be trusted to read more than 100 words and debate more than just celebrity facial hair?
We do. But until we demand it with our mice clicks, I think we’re stuck with rat stories.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including “Christmas Jars,” “The Wednesday Letters” and “The 13th Day of Christmas.” He can be reached at email@example.com or http://www.jasonfwright.com.
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