Is anyone other than me fed up with seeing every article title proffer a numerical list?
>> 5 Keys to being Single and Miserable.
>> 17 Reasons being Passive-Aggressive is an Effective Strategy.
>> 10 Reasons to Stay in a Bad Marriage.
Okay, granted, these aren’t the typical examples. Most articles bait you with golden tips that will lead you down the yellow brick road to improved health, success, and nirvana.
I notice I’m sounding a little cynical. Maybe just irritated. I just wonder who decided that readers won’t read an article if it doesn’t promise a quantifiable list or bear resemblance to a PowerPoint presentation? Is it a millennial phenomenon? Have publishers and editors discovered that attention spans are so short that readers can only be lured into reading lists?
Did this “list genre” emerge in response to the rise of ADHD? Or is it just indicative of the malaise of a tech-centered modernity with ever-increasing demands on our time and attention?
I’m relatively new to reading online articles as I have historically felt that my concentration is less when reading things on a screen. (Perhaps I’m the intended target audience for this list genre.) So it was new for me to see that articles have an estimated read time. And even though I risk sounding like a Luddite, I’ll say it anyway: It’s a sad commentary on modern life that we have to parcel out life by minutes.
It seems that for so many of us, life has been whittled down to a race against time. Will someone have to invent an app to remind us to go outside and stargaze every once in a while? (It probably already exists.)
In this text and tweet-centered communication world, have we lost the ability to listen or focus for longer than a 140-character tweet or a three-minute read?
If that’s the case, I should really get on with my list of nine reasons why you should not read this blog.
- I lied. I never really had any intention of giving you nine reasons. I just did what the unwritten rule tells me to do: attract you with a list.
- Do readers really hold writers accountable for the number they promise in the title? If I promised you 13 strategies for coping with an Italian mother-in-law, by not-so-random example, would you send hate mail if I only delivered 12?
- For reasons 3-9 see 1.
I suppose this is the moment where I could provide a more substantive read for you by demonstrating some research on the average attention span in 2019, versus two decades ago, or the numbers diagnosed with ADHD, or all kinds of fun data so that this 1.5 minute read would feel worth your precious time. But that would take all the fun out of my random rant. And what’s more—I lost my train of thought.
See you on Twitter.
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