Continuing with the social media overload theme in the news of late, Wasik's book examines the ever-shortening life span of stories in our culture - whether it's news, gossip, or the latest best-seller - among the onslaught of email, RSS feeds, blog posts, and Tweets. He describes a world in which we have become so accustomed to a constant stream of new information, and so wary of always-encroaching boredom, that we tell stories about our society and ourselves, even when there is nothing new to say.
Besides the information glut, shortening attention spans, and overall exhaustion this creates, the really good content gets lost after its fleeting 15 minutes of fame (if that). And despite the broader array of news and opinion available to us, we have not necessarily broadened our horizons, but rather self-segregate ourselves into smaller & smaller niches of like-minded individuals.
The same themes were picked up in a Financial Times article last week, which noted that for many, social media has become "a more personal filter to the infinite world of the Internet." Where people use to turn to traditional portals like Yahoo! or AOL as their entry point, they are now turning to Facebook or their preferred feed aggregator, reading just the news & information that comes in from friends or other trusted sources. Ray Valdes, a media analyst from Gartner is quoted: "We are moving toward a world of `snackable' news'that'can be shared like pieces of candy or a pack of gum...Unfortunately, we run the risk of losing substance and nutritive value."
Wasik closes his book with a brief look at some of the "solutions" to Internet fatigue. Among them:
* Writer & editor Jake Silverstein's proposed Internet Ramadan, where people go offline for a month
* NYTimes writer Mark Bittman's Secular Sabbath, an experiment in going offline for a mere 24 hours
* Chip maker Intel's Quiet Time, where employees are encouraged to go offline each Tuesday morning in order to think (and work) more deeply
Should we be concerned? Or is our fast-paced lifestyle just the new norm, and the attention-getting books & headlines just another example of the trumped-up crises we crave?