The problem with the sudden influx of easily digestible information and the rise of the phrase TL;DR is a multi-faceted problem that cannot be easily solved. In my opinion, many authors on the internet tend to use a whole bunch of completely and totally unnecessary words in their posts in order to sound like they are actually really very smart. Or perhaps they are trying to fulfill a secret word-count quota that only they know about. In fact, this very paragraph could be edited to somewhere between a third or a half of its current length. With technical communication, wordy documents are especially grating since the real object of technical writing is to convey meaning in the most direct way possible. Many poorly written articles on the web are simply too long and deserve the retort TL;DR.
The flip side to this, however, is the unholy plague of listicles (an “article” in the form of a list) posing as real journalism. Seriously,stuff like this is quickly filling the internet, making it harder and harder to find anything of actual value to read. Now, I know what you all are thinking..”this old codger needs to get hip to the new and the now, we are young and we are leaving dusty old print media and anything over 140 characters in the dust.” I would caution against such a brash philosophy. Are there any scientific studies that show people who read entire books regularly are way smarter than people who read tweets and status updates all day? Probably, but I don’t need to reference any of them to tell you that that statement is 100% correct. (please note that the internet is awful and I hate everything. After a quick google search of “Do smarter people read more?,” the first twenty results were listicles. If you need information to be crunched into a list so that you can digest it, you should go back to preschool where your mommy and daddy will also cut your pb&j into triangles and remove the crust for you as well.
I can provide real data too, not just snarky conjecture. Apparently, all this googling and wikisurfing is changing how our brains process and store information. Instead of keeping all those interesting tidbits of “knowledge” in your memory, your brain creates a database entry point instead. What this means is that your brain does not remember the information that you went to look for. Instead, it remembers where you went to look for it.
The solution is simple yet also probably impossible. Everyone needs to set a higher standard for what they are willing to read. Buzzfeed isn’t rotting your mind, but it is wasting your time on, at best sub-par entertainment, when you could be doing literally anything else. As the famous philosopher, Drake said, “You only live once.” So why not make the best of our lives and strive to challenge ourselves intellectually and creatively every single day?