I read news. I write news. I’m constantly in exchange with my close friends in texting conversations that may have never ended. I watch television, listen to music, use snapchat filters, emojis, online banking, email, all of it. I am whole-heartedly a consumer in the age of information.
I never saw this as a problem. I was participating in the world as it was laid out for me. I was an active and engaged member of both my own community and the world. I would retweet things I agreed with, liked YouTube videos that made me laugh or think.
But I have noticed a shift, in myself and in others. There is something different, about the world we are living in during this period of time, and I know, I think that is such a cliche too, but I don’t know if you feel it because I certainly do. I think the way we are consuming information isn’t necessarily the right way.
There is so much content and media — begging, luring, and demanding the attention of the audience’s views, shares and likes. For websites like The Odyssey, it’s their entire business plan: make content that is shareable. The Odyssey is maybe more noticeable because their writers are younger and more novice, but for every other website that is now the market strategy: make content that is shareable. The media’s intention as a consumer good feels more present. And it doesn’t seem right.
I recently read The Circle by David Eggers (which will be turned in to a blockbuster movie later this year, because of course more content).
Anyways, the book follows a young and idealist girl named Mae Holland as she starts a new job at the internet/tech company called The Circle. The Circle acts as users main interface to the web, its a social media account, a huge platform for shopping, and their main search engine.
Critics have said that Eggers’ novel missed the mark for how humans interact with social media, and in ways I agree with that criticism, but Eggers’ The Circle provides a fable for discussing the complicated and overwhelming entity of social media that is encircling and engaging within our daily lives more and more, and whose is encroach is confusing and intimidating.
In the near distant future world of The Circle, participants are willing give up their privacy, freedom and humanness, steps at a time believing in the company’s mottos that “secrets are lies,” and “privacy is theft.” Company execs promote “completing The Circle,” or living in a world where every humans life is broadcast publicly and nothing is unknown, and those who resist either succumb to the influence of the company or are driven out.
In The Circle close to everything becomes public information, accessible to anyone at any time with 99 percent of public information actually laying untouched completely. For Mae and the other characters in Eggers’ world access to all of this information, really too much information makes them anxious, antsy, and glued to their devices always wanting more but never grasping nourishment.
Those feelings are all too relatable.
For one thing, this article itself will join the void of hundred if not thousands of others exploring the same concept.
But there is a natural craving for information and story, but our attention is being pulled in millions of different directions. Streaming has opened the door to an endless amount of television, in addition to millions of online videos, books, multiple social media platforms with even more content plastered all over begging your attention. It’s daunting, and exhausting.
This desire to gain reader attention, also means content producers need to invoke some sort of emotional response to gain your attention, your compulsion to share, and in the end your time and money.
Data shows content that evokes a high level of emotion such as awe, anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, humor, or wonder will likely gain our attention, get shared and go viral.
This can be exhausting for your emotions to be sent on a roller coaster each time you are on your Facebook feed, but it also means quality content can be passed up for the viral content. Stories shouldn’t have to be relatable or likable in order to be enjoyed. News shouldn’t have to be catered for its audience.
Because of my own frustration, the feeling of my own attention span diminishing and my own heightened sense of anxiety I have decided to go on an information diet.
Just as I encourage myself to eat healthy meals with nourishing and filling grains, vegetables and proteins I am going to try do the same with my content consumption. No more binging on junk food content that leaves me only hungry and guilt-ridden.
But, I admit my thoughts on this topic are still incomplete, so I am opening up this post as a platform for conversation.
I have been dwelling on the ideas of content, media and information all in the age of technology for weeks now and I feel like I have created more questions than answers.
Below are a few articles, videos, and what not that I recommend engaging with if this topic interests you or if you need other thought points. But I really want to hear your opinion. What are the merits to technology? Is technology encroaching too seriously in to our daily lives?
And of course, David Eggers’ The Circle.