Seth Godin rightly observes that many web publishers have noticed that many web users have short attention spans and like to click on shiny, flashy things (“snackable content,” in the industry jargon). Seth bemoans the fact that web publishers appeal to this instinct (and try to survive) by providing shiny, flashy things for web users to click on. Seth suggests that, because of this, the Internet is dragging society down.
And we guess that’s possible.
But since the dawn of media, someone has always been bellyaching about how media is taking society to hell in a handbasket by providing content that people actually want to consume.
First, it was newspapers, which, until they became cash-gushing oligopolies that droned on about their critical role in society, were as lowbrow as today’s chat boards and blogs. Then it was radio. And TV. Every stop along the way, it has been alleged, the new media are dragging us into the gutter.
And, again, maybe that’s right.
But perhaps it’s time to float a new theory: We’re already in the gutter. What we click on accurately reflects what we’re interested in, no matter how much we think and protest and hope to the contrary.
We, for one, are glad Seth wrote a long blog post about this that lots of people will pass around and few people will read. Seth’s a brilliant guy, and sometimes complex thoughts can’t be articulated with a couple of sentences and a photograph.
Sometimes they can, though. And no one has enough time to read everything they want to read. And when you don’t have any time and there’s a shiny, flashy thing to click on, well, then, maybe one can be forgiven for clicking. (Something like Seth’s head, for instance. Which he urged us to click on. And which we did!)
And, in any event, since the Internet is about personal freedom, shouldn’t people be able to reveal their personal content preferences all day without worrying about whether that means society is going to the dogs?