It's a cliche that old enough to buy a drink now. How Baby Boomers complain how everyone has no attention span and with that, how reading is a dying art.
But have you seen thick genre books are?!? Let's take the current mainstay these days, Game of Thrones, also known as Song of Ice and Fire.
Of course that was written 10 years ago. How does the current fantasy hotness, Brandon Sanderson's latest book, Words of Radiance: Book 2 of the Stormlight Archive, this year compares.
That's no small puppy either. So what's going on here? If reading is a dying art why are thick books, and multiple such books still the way publishers promote a series? If anything, it seems that book series are getting longer, not shorter. On Goodreads, I rarely see someone complain about the length of a book they liked.
Truth be told most genre readers are the voracious type, and once they embrace a world that they want to live in, they can't get enough.
One of my workshop mates, a Baby Boomer himself, had an interesting slant, though, when I was batting around these ideas.
It's not that the average reader who enjoys reading has gotten a shorter attention span, it's that the pool of people who are forced to read have reached such a new critical mass that the statistical average for attention spans while reading have nose dived.
Before the Internet, being a constant reader was fairly optional. You could have a whole career without needing to really read that much on a daily basis as compared to tackling a novel.
It's not a coincidence that "Geek" was more insult than ironic before the 90s.
For several generations, there was only the phone and also the TV, a device that didn't have much variety and most of it was fairly formulaic. No overarching plots or potential deep backstory that came from previous seasons, comic books or historical facts.
That's changed, everything is reading. Text, email, web pages, and the way people stay in touch now, Facebook is all about reading. Even if you prefer to just watch TV, you have reviews, recaps and even historical research. And if you're not a fan of reading, I'm sure it can be exhausting and I wrap my head around that.
For example, I'm not a number guy, if I had to do figures all day, I'm sure the last thing I want to do when I got home is do more math on my off hours. I'd be mentally exhausted.
I even had a boss like this. If you sent him an email that scrolled past his Blackberry screen, that bottom half was never going to get read. I have to give him credit, though, it made me the master of the short, short email.
Thinking on that for a moment, it makes even more sense to me now how the Internet is the world's worst echo chamber. If you don't want to want to read, let the few places you do like going to do the reading for you. Boom! Instead of doing more reading, you're doing less and the Internets tell you want you want to hear. Unbiased research need not apply.
I'm a skeptic at heart, so my gut says that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, a bit of daily multitasking our technology wearing down on everyone and now a whole slew of people from all walks of life trying to cope with a skill they'd rather not be using. Either way, I think the non-reader factor is one that doesn't get looked at much.
And admit it, the headline doesn't sound sexy enough to cut, paste and share as a Facebook status.
TL;DR: Instead of blaming younger kids' attention span, consider all those folks who hate to read and now have to do constantly as they text and twitter. How much of an attention span do you think they'd have?
Heck, I love to read and I love tech, but I've cut down on my streaming life quite a bit lately. It's probably bad for business, but I haven't been on twitter for months. and Facebook is like a weekly thing for me now. Trying to keep up with all that on a daily basis was a productivity killer.
Personally, I'm not going to cast stones, 'cause when the Internet is replaced with the Mathpocalypse, you're going to have to drag my virtual soul kicking and screaming into the 22nd Century.