Diary for 19 September 2021: Your shrinking attention spans annoy me


If there is any one common denominator to help explain the ever bottoming nadir of daily life in the industrialized (and desperately sick) world, it is the continual shrinking of human attention spans to the mere seconds required to scroll through images on platform like Instagram.

It is unlikely that our comprehension of complexity can be reduced to snippets mimicking flashes of a strobe light, but here we are.

My thoughts are by no means original, and were prompted today by a perusal of my social media feeds, which as you might imagine tend to be dominated by food and drink purveyors.

Just about all I saw today might be classified as gimmickry, which might be defined as excess to a ludicrous extreme designed to trigger photos displayed on the Internet, in the hope that among thousands of similar Hail Mary passes, a potential customer or two might notice and decide to spend money based on visual edible and potable pornography alone.

Much of it struck me as desperation, which of course can be explained in part by trying times, although I believe it goes further into something that has become deeply (and mistakenly) ingrained. In essence, there are fewer rewards than ever for being genuinely adept, for being good at something — for quality.

As I’ve noted 1,001 times previously in a context of good beer, as the contemporary beer market (“craft”, specialty, imported) grows, it gets wider and wider, and correspondingly more shallow. People sense they must ask for an IPA, but they have little idea what it means. There is an inevitability of gimmickry to this shallowness, and a dearth of authenticity. It leads to beer masquerading as fruit-laden slushies in cans that explode when not coddled.

As it pertains to food, it strikes me that plating artistry carries the day not for any intrinsic dining value, but for its efficacy in visual food porn. Again, not an original thought, just one that galls me today.

I’m never really happy unless I’m rebelling against conformity, thus my annoyance this morning. I hate what this trend has done to us. Looks obviously matter, but content always carries the day.

If a beer is good, one doesn’t need a three-foot-tall “tower” to serve it. If singers can sing, they don’t need auto-tune to robotize their voices. If a festival is truly communal, there needn’t be VIP passes, bells and whistles.

When I was a kid, flash cards seemed somewhat useful in mastering content, but I don’t believe the same can be said of incessant, kaleidoscopic images. They’re killing conversation and making us dumber, and if there’s any one aspect of existence that gripes my cookies, it’s the notion that know-nothingness is acceptable.

There are no conclusions. As the comic strip character Pogo noted decades ago, “we have met the enemy, and he is US.” All I can do is vow to continue espousing what’s real and true, and hope the like-minded find these authentic qualities of interest.


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