The ADHD Era
FrendTrend, a new social media startup that branded itself as “a fun, intuitive way to connect and share with friends online,” celebrated its long-awaited launch at 9 a.m. this morning, shuttering its doors later this morning at 9:45 a.m. As the brainchild of tech developer Greg Nesheim, 36, FrendTrend was designed to be a virtual community for friends and acquaintances to interact using live chat and photo-sharing features, a service the site provided for exactly 45 minutes before the company liquidated all of its assets. “The site just didn’t catch on, what can I say?” Nesheim told reporters...
While this little bon mot ran yesterday on The Onion, I suspect that I could have run the entire parody here today and a fair number of readers would have thought it all entirely plausible. Now that we live in what I call the ADHD Era, 45 minutes is an eternity -- especially if you measure your self-worth in terms of links, likes, shares and tweets.
In what now passes for journalism, what used to be weekly deadlines have turned into hourly deadlines, with real-time audience analysis reorganizing layouts and headlines to promote the most popular stories. Not the most intelligent, or insightful -- just the most popular. And probably the shortest, since we will only give it about 30 seconds of our attention, because we have to quickly move on, or miss something elsewhere more important.
Being a student of comments sections (which can often be more entertaining, if not more informative, than the stories above them), I am not certain that "the crowd" is intellectually equipped to decide what should be featured and what should fall to the secondary page backwaters. Similarly, Twitter seems to have evolved into a contest of one-liners, with the funniest stuff getting the most retweets. Not that I mind, since the folks that I follow are pretty damned funny most of the time. Still, it’s scary to think that they now have the agenda-setting function that used to be reserved for The Great Eastern Establishment Press.
It seems like everything around us is being carved into smaller, more quickly digested bites of information. You can now watch an entire season of a "TV" show in three-minute online segments. Text stories are shorter, ad copy has all but disappeared, bestsellers can now run under 200 pages. And in an hour of network TV, you are really only getting about 40 minutes of entertainment, while your smartphone-raised, text-addicted kids are less and less capable of sustaining a face-to-face conversation (and that is only if you ban the phones from the dinner table). Perhaps you are not setting much of an example: a recent study showed that 26% of people check their phones at the dinner table.
"A ton" of homework-assigned reading turns out to be 20 pages. TV series that used to last 13 weeks can be as short as five or six episodes, increasingly parsed out over a longer period of time (thank you, Netflix, it was a binge-full joy). CDs (for those of you who even buy them anymore) used to have 15 or 16 songs; now they have 8 or 10.
Meanwhile, everyone has grown more and more impatient. Being able to access information in nearly real time has raised everyone's expectations for getting everything in real time. So being stuck in a line or in traffic is just unacceptable. Ask any cop -- 45 is the new 25 mph. Click on a story and see that it has eight page jumps. Forget it! See a recipe that requires overnight refrigeration? Not on my watch. Ecommerce transaction take more than three clicks? Abandon cart!!
Apologies if you got this far -- you must be exhausted.