It’s not difficult to see why people today, especially—dare I say—Generation Y types, have a hard time focusing on one thing for an extended period of time. You could trace this back to the first media culprit that destroyed our minds. MTV. With their quick camera edits and rapid fire scene changes, it did something to our brains’ capability to focus, apparently. And over the years it’s only gotten worse. Twitter tells us that 140 characters is the ideal length to hold someone’s attention. People write articles in the form of lists because they appear shorter and are quicker to read. Short form essays are all the rage. Even I’m guilty of scrolling and scanning if an article appears longer than three paragraphs. So I’ll keep this short.
Not only has our social media evolved to mirror and satisfy how we pay attention, but now literature is doing the same. An iPhone and Android app called Wattpad is beginning to publish writers’ stories serially, like Dickens did in the Victorian age. Dickens’ works did very well because people were eager to buy the paper each week for the next chapter of his novels. It’s the cliffhanger technique that keeps people needing to know what happened next. Perhaps Wattpad is hoping for the same success. Readers can follow writers that they like and be updated every time a writer uploads a new segment to their story.
It’s not a novel idea, but it has a greater significance to our generation than it did to the readers of Dickens. Because the installments are short and serialized, each piece is short enough to hold our attention but long enough to leave us wanting more and waiting for the next chapter. This method builds on reader anticipation and it could also improve our attention span, even if it caters to the fact that we only want to read so much at a time. By allowing readers to become invested in a story, the story and the idea itself holds our attention over time. It holds our attention until the next segment comes out and the process starts again. It will never become the only form of publication and hopefully, a good novel will never be available in only this format. But this just might be a happy medium to keep people reading and to exercise our ability to focus.
Photo Source: zimbio.com