Life doesn’t happen in 140 characters

Dan Fonseca

Life’s fast, reading isn’t

I’ll try to keep this short. This very statement is the issue at hand. The fact that you’re reading this may make you a minority. This is text that I am typing, it’s slow and demands that we delve into our scary, infinite minds. As we seemingly move from an age of limited information to one of information overload, scarcity is not a concern anymore. The problem is surplus. Which raises the question, how can we responsibly know what to consume versus overlook?

Pictures are easy to understand

Initially a very text based beast, the online web is shifting to a predominately visual phenomenon. We see this as images and video take up more and more of our internet broadband pipe. No wonder websites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Pinterest are growing in incredible popularity. They are optimized for easy, bite-sized, media consumption. For our fast paced life, text is simply just too slow. Give me the picture or the video summary because reading the article is simply not worth my time.

The “problem” is too much information

Our attention spans are shrinking and Google has become our memory’s extension. We know more about more than ever before. However, we know less about each individual topic we claim to know because we simply lack a deeper understanding of it. Even if we wanted to, it’s difficult to learn more because we’re constantly pulled in a thousand directions. Read me! Buy that! Share this! The incentives to delve deeper are just not there anymore. We’re living in an information culture shift. With the world’s knowledge at our finger tips, I don’t know if I should fight it or love it.

Is it really a problem?

Am I overreacting? Should I stop worrying and learn to love the visual web? What will happen to society as we make this shift to true information illumination? Or will it be information numbness? What will happen to our attention spans and our increasingly impatient, instant gratification culture? Will we miss out on important moments because we simply can’t take a second to look around? I just can’t believe life can happen in 140 characters.


*Note that I had to create a visual in order to promote this piece online. Without it, I fear no one would read it. I’d also like to thank my friend Mariana for the initial base photo. 

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4 responses to “Life doesn’t happen in 140 characters”

  1. Lorraine says :

    There are many different shapes, sizes and personalities who react to information differently. Sure, there are those visual folk who respond to pics but also those who respond to what they hear, read and feel. I checked out your post based not on what I saw, but on the statement posed. Yes, twitter fulfills an instant gratification for news, comments, thoughts to share but doesnt replace day to day conversations people have. If anything, I’d like to think of it as a stimulis for more in depth conversation possibilities with the folks I spend my time with. Often, an emotion or a personal promotion is expressed via “sound bites” but unless you devote all day/ night soley to your computer, personal interaction is also occurring every day. Rather than fear social media’s advancement, embrace it for what it is and adapt it to work in favor of your lifestyle because its here to stay and makes the world a smaller place, as a result. Pretty cool that we can talk to folks all over the world and reconnect with friends from childhood, then share that in conversation with our own loved ones over dinner at home, or a coworker at the office. Its a great tool to enhance, educate and keep current qickly, taking away the things that mean most to us individually and having the ability to delve further, just as we are doing here. :)

    • Dan Fonseca says :

      Exactly! Personal interaction will usually trump other exchanges. I just fear that we are increasingly consuming bite sized information bites and do not give ourselves the opportunity to delve deeper into thought and understanding. We live in such a fast paced world and are shaped by the forces around us. Not to mention it’s hard to reject how technology molding us. All food for thought. Thanks!!

    • vikingpet says :

      I think you are right with the different people and different reactions to media. You also have sites like Ted or Goodreads, which invites for more and deeper media. You also have different people like introverts and extroverts ( and people have different ways of learning too. Some learn best with visual consumption, some through reading or listening, and others through doing. You could say that people like Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus both were the learning-by-doing type. So perhaps the “new” people with short attention spans are just a new way of learning or being that has been neglected due to lack of technology. On the other hand I can understand when people seek censorship to guard them from the overflow of information. Though I must say it is futile, since it has been with us for much longer than the internet. Cultures around the world provides endless meanings of life to explore, the planet endless hide-outs to explore.

      • Dan Fonseca says :

        This is true. It’s funny that you mention TED as a “deeper” media. It’s still ultimately video even if it’s close to 20 minutes. I guess it’s a nice trade off from an episode of some popular rom com series. I like that you bring that up. And the culture point is important to note as well. What makes “sense” is generally framed within culture. Thanks!

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