“Politics—heard it all before,” I grunted as my thumb got its nightly workout called The Scroll. “Someone cried over a Jeopardy answer—don’t care.” Scroll, scroll, scroll…
“Meme, meme, oh look—another meme!” I felt myself falling deeper into Facebook, and deeper into the couch. It was as though the cushions were cradling me, lulling me into a pit that crawling out of would-be exhausting, and therefore unlikely.
“Look at that, a picture of my friend looking very happy and she wrote two sentences above it. Perfect, I read about her life, and now I can keep right on scrolling. What’s this? An article on what Disney characters would look like in real life…intriguing. And it is mostly pictures, I don’t even have to read!”
It was that last thought that did it. I sat straight up on the couch. A sprinkling of goosebumps rose up on my arms as I rested a hand across my forehead in that characteristic body language that means a person is ill. The words fell out of my mouth in a somber whisper.
“I am becoming…one of them.”
Normally I Scroll Right by Memes, and I’m Not Looking Back
It just so happens that I like to write. Words mean a lot to me. I consider each one valuable, because every single one has power in it to convey meaning, and often, emotion. Words are wonderful because they exercise our brains by forcing them to look at the simple black text but transform it into a picture inside our minds. They are art, pure and simple.
I can’t speak for all people that like to write, but I find the rise in the social media trend of scrolling and not reading just a little bit irksome, and quite a bit sad. I find myself pitting people that write more than a sentence or two a day, against people that scroll. Maybe I am becoming a bit of a snob.
Let’s talk memes, for an example from my snob perspective:
While scrolling through local groups on Facebook I see a lot of articles that receive a little bit of attention from the minority that didn’t scroll by, and then I get to a meme—500+ likes. It took less than ten seconds to read the text on that little picture. Sure, memes are generally funny, and funny is good. But a person could read something that is funny in maybe five to ten minutes, and the fun will just keep going, well beyond that ten seconds the meme had you laughing. In the process of laughing during this five to ten minutes, you also unconsciously picked up a few new vocabulary words.
Yay, you laughed and you exercised your brain!
I Will Also Just Scroll Right by That Picture
Is anyone else out there bored with seeing amazing, perfect shots of an egret in a sunset, or an up-close view of a tiger staring down the lens? These photos are gorgeous, but the internet is saturated with what is considered exotic and dramatic, to the extent that I think the exotic and dramatic has lost its luster.
After a month of no internet, no videos, no electronic stimulation—and therefore no perfect pictures—maybe staring at my screen while looking into a tiger’s eyes would be awe-inspiring again. But probably only for a minute. However, reading a story—whether long like a book or short like a blog—about the adventure that resulted in this photo, or the fictionalized character that the tiger portrays would be much more likely to hold me.
The Happiness Factor
That ‘hold my attention’ factor I think is pivotal to human happiness. To me, scrolling over a slew of images becomes over-stimulation, and almost addictive. The attention span shortens, and therefore can’t handle anything more than scrolling. Meanwhile, there is a vegetative feeling that overcomes the mind. The eventual rise from the couch after an hour of scrolling through Facebook usually prompts thoughts such as: “Well, I didn’t really accomplish anything tonight.” Whereas reading something more involved does not result in the same thought process. There is mental satisfaction in having been focused on one topic.
Meditation has become a popular word in our culture—the silencing of the mind, and focusing in on it. Reading (or writing) is like a warm-up exercise for the greater things our minds can do, once they have learned to focus. And I think one of the greatest things our minds can do is just be happy.
So, Who’s With Me?
I urge everyone that is reading this to not flick open Facebook without a conscious effort to read something entirely. (You did read this entirely, right?) Sorry, memes don’t count. Feel that brain of yours growing, and calming. And give us word artists an opportunity to exercise our passion. Or better yet, open up Word and start typing.