It seems that journalism and what constitutes professional journalism has declined. Instead of articles with content, internet users prefer short video clips or listicles*. If it cannot capture a short attention span, then it is not worthy of time. Let me say that as someone with a love for journalism and writing, this is a travesty. I currently write for a video game-themed website where news and editorials are published daily. I absolutely love writing for the website, and people enjoy reading what I write… most of the time. The problem is that there’s this odd cycle going on that kind of started with a certain website (not naming names, let’s make up a website; I’ll call it “Bearfeed”). Bearfeed thrives on short articles, if they could be called that, and has played a huge role in popularizing them. This website has become popular enough that it is now considered a legitimate news site. It tends to set trends in social media news. It starts something, others copy it, and the sequence starts anew. This can be seen by taking a quick look at Facebook feeds.
I guess this travesty really begins with the problem of attention spans. According to several studies, the average person’s concentrated focus has fallen from 12 to 8 seconds, which is a second shorter than that of a goldfish. In a fast-paced society, people have been trained to focus in short bursts rather than spend considerable time on a task. Furthermore, most seem to be okay with that! People are told that they have short attention spans, accept it, and let it influence the world around them. Because of this, internet writing and journalism in general have taken a hit.
I can’t be the only one tired of seeing those headlines that don’t actually say anything. I’m tired of seeing “X does this, but the result will shock you/stun you/you won’t believe what happens next!” That’s not clever titling. That’s not proper journalism. That’s something known as “clickbaiting.” It tells almost nothing about the article; its sole purpose is to generate clicks, and, therefore, ad revenue. Now, while the purpose of the headline is to draw people in, it should also be to inform people of what the article is about. When I was the editor of my high-school newspaper, our articles had a standard of informative, yet succinct, headlines. Buzz words, or words that drew interest, were used, of course, but with purpose. Titles like “Grace Prep Weathers the Flood” followed by a picture of our flooded parking lot told everyone what they needed to know. If they wanted to know more, they could read about it. It didn’t force them to read it to find out that there had been a flood. If I had written “Rain pours down on school, you won’t believe what happens next,” then people would have only a vague idea of what the article was about.
While readers formerly adored short articles and lists, now, they’re not worth the time it takes to peruse them. Folks see those clickbait titles and ignore them because they know that clicking on them will lead to a website that is probably plagued with ads upon ads. Then readers have to cycle through the webpage in order to find the actual article, and it has become a much longer process than most would like. It’s a vicious cycle that is reducing the human mind to a text conversation. If the article has too many words, it’s not worth the reading, and that’s a problem.
Journalism is dying. We are in an age where people share random articles on Facebook, articles that have no facts behind them and are passed off as news. The reason? People just stopped caring. Somewhere along the line, too many just stopped caring about truth and facts and what is right. Men and women jump to conclusions before looking at the truth and then cry foul when the shot was clearly inside the lines. Online readers have become professionals at jumping the metaphorical gun. This is a sensationalist society with a short attention span, and it’s time for a change.
Today’s culture generally defines itself as ADD. Some people, including many college students, have a deficit when it comes to attention because everything is seeking attention, and many refuse to focus on one thing. It’s become common to treat a lack of focus like a skill and call it multitasking. Instead, readers should concentrate on regaining focus.
In art, there is a point in any given picture called the focal point. This is the center of attention for the piece. It is most easily seen when trying to take a picture on a digital camera that zooms in and out. There will be one ultra-clear spot in the photo, and the rest will have a slight fuzziness because there is supposed to be one main feature in the picture, not multiple. This is how people should be. Individuals need to focus on one thing and give it their undivided attention. When a student sits down to write a paper, he or she should focus on that paper alone, not the paper plus Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else is open on the computer. Doing this will train the mind to have a much longer attention span. An even better way to train is to sit down for long periods of time and read a book without distraction. Finding a quiet spot to relax and read will help create focus on something for a long period of time.
I know I’m an essay in a crowd of paragraph-length articles, but I really hope that society can change this trend. The written word is one of the most beautiful things used by the human race. People write poetry, stories, songs; individuals communicate with one another and keep each other informed. The public can no longer continue to debase what was once so beautiful. Everyone needs to push back against society’s expectations and lengthen attention spans, thus developing attitudes of care. Otherwise, the goldfish win.
*An article that is literally just a list.
Written by Alfred