How many things does an average person read on a daily basis? One answer would be loads, if you take into account every sentence on every page, platform or other. Or it could be very little, if anything at all.
It depends whether you have to remember something in order to have read it (properly). Whatever you think, let’s say it does mean that for a moment. As of 2015, our species apparently now claims an average attention span of just over eight seconds. We are staring but often, beyond the first few words, not really taking anything in. Instead, we’re thinking about something else.
And then something else.
It has become the basis of an almost unintelligible conversation between the media and people. One that invokes rhetoric at 12 midday the morning after the night before nobody bothered to get on it other than you and one friend. A kind of grunting as content is racked up, followed by a mutter of acknowledgement as a weary eye is cast over the offering and it is consumed. Repeat. Both sides want to go to bed, each is convinced the other definitely wants them to stay up.
We have created a civilization that, in wealthy nations at least, isn’t defined by necessity but possibility. Take beef cat food for example. A domestic cat would struggle to kill a cow. So, had it not been for human intervention the likelihood of cats regularly gorging on cow meat would be slim to none, and cats would be none the wiser. Nevertheless, because it could be done we did it.
Put simply, nobody ever said ‘I wish we had information being passed out 24-7, 365- yes even on Christmas Day- and rolling news and non-stop updates and an endless number of pages to fill. That would make everything better and less stressful’. Yet because there was an opportunity to do it, we did.
Perhaps that’s not the real problem, though. Perhaps the actual cause of our current waking content nightmare is the person who then added ‘yeah and the more they create the more successful they can become, regardless of how good what they create really is’. A ridiculous idea for running any ecosystem.
Nevertheless, we are rewarded for being loud and prolific, rather than skilled. In a few instances first prize goes to those most deserving, but on the whole it’s about who can do loads fast. And, a lot of the time, even when something is deserving the pressure of recognition demands further things are created at ever greater speeds, potentially ruining whatever originally made the first thing good.
In some ways it’s amazing to think we have opted for life governed by mass everything, when you consider how unsatisfactory anything with ‘mass’ in the title usually is. A little of what you like won’t kill you, but a lot is likely to cause at least a nutritional imbalance, if not severe health problems. When that ‘lot’ comes in the shape of articles, videos, images, GIFs, and general digital noise, it’s a surefire way to finish us off properly.
So what’s the solution? We could try and avoid bullshit altogether but sadly someone worked out how to write clickbait headlines so well it can be hard to differentiate between trite and something you should probably know about until you land on the page. Worse still, the powers that be consider everything you click to be indicative of personality traits. The more bollocks consumed, the more bollocks served.
Should it fall to the media then? Is there a responsibility at the production end to have some kind of basic standard when it comes to what constitutes a post that deserves to exist, for more reasons than hits, shares and likes gained from people already thinking about something else?
I don’t know, which threatens to hurl this entire article in the same pit of eternal damnation it complains about. Judgment likely depends on personal taste. And whether you also feel like a human in The Matrix human farm, but the wiring has gone wrong so rather than a virtual life filled with false hopes, fake dreams and pre-determined paths, all you see in your mind is a blur of features about the rise in sex party culture, podcasts by yet another one to watch, and live Twitter Q&As with European crime authors. Occasionally an article of genuine importance will fly by, but trying to remember where the hell it was in and amongst all the other stuff is near-impossible.
Still, at least we can laugh about it.