We Want Speed, But Substance Gets Left Behind
I must say, I was very satisfied to read a recent post by Seth Godin about how the Internet has changed our willingness to commit time and resources to learning. Because so much information is available, he writes, there is an attitude taken by many alleged decision makers on the web that the longer a particular article, the less likely that article is to be well received. It is simply, too long, so it was not read. Or to put it another way: Too long; didn’t read. TL;DR is the text meme for this expression, which rather ironically underscores the very problem. Seth observes this in his post.
This problem, this need to get to the skinny without delay, has lead us to become what I call an “over notified, under informed” populace.
The disdain for in-depth content, imbued by explosion of information on the Internet, is a symptom of a much larger problem, one I identified in October. You can read that story, called “My Life Is Not Bullet Points”, and understand quickly (relatively) that Seth and I are talking about a similar issue. That issue is that few people online or observing other media ever really attempt to understand the complexities of what they are reading, viewing or on which they are commenting. There are myriad nuances that compose real data and information, particularly when it comes to charged ideas and politics. We want highlights and bullet points. And we want it now.
The Over-notified, Under-informed Populace
This problem, this need to get to the skinny without delay, has lead us to become what I call an “over notified, under informed” populace. Most of us, myself included, do not want to take the time to delve into the human knowledgebase, because it may take too much time. Seeing long articles or protracted news stories or super-length ebooks or PDFs or videos, we eschew their contents. We have come to think of investing time as a risk, and we measure the potential losses, such as time and missing something new and, often, fleeting, as justifications for escaping the learning process in favor of gaining superficial knowledge that masquerades as insight. We ignore the potential gain.
How terrible for our species! My own experience, even when I ignore it, continually demonstrates learning the various facets of a topic makes it possible for me to define my own bullet points, to frame my knowledge around my own experience, to define the relevance of that knowledge for myself, rather than trust a search engine or some group of strangers who happen to “like” some clever expression, one that purports to be an aphorism.
I am not sure I have an answer to these conundrums of the human experience. I do know we are at least, more of us, becoming aware of it. Which is why Seth’s blog was so satisfying.