Spoiler Alert: it’s not because the content is less than brilliant 😉
Yesterday, I had an errand to do which required me to take a short subway ride on the Red Line during the morning rush. I went from Harvard to Charles/M.G.H. – in other words from one of the world’s most elite institutions to another, stopping at a third (M.I.T.) on the way.
I started thinking that more than a few people in the car were certainly involved in solving the problems of the present, and also predicting and solving the problems of the future. And then I thought about what a lousy job of predicting things the “futurists” have done in the past.
The futurists of the 1950’s completely whiffed on so many of the things they figured we’d have by now: flying cars made out of Saran-Wrap, elegant dinners consisting of a steak pill and a potato pill and a vintage wine pill, jet-packs we’d strap on for a short trip, a geodesic dome over the city ensuring clean air and perfect climate for all, and a million other things. But, OK, it was the 1950’s – of course they were wrong. Everyone then thought DDT, radium-dial watches, and a carton of Lucky Strikes would make life better for everyone, so you couldn’t really expect much accuracy from their predictions.
But the people who were predicting how the future would be just ten years ago completely missed the most important, pervasive, and life changing development of all: the “smart phone”. On my brief subway ride, there were, I don’t know, maybe 150-200 people in the car I rode in, give or take. Not one was reading a book or (gasp!) a newspaper, and not one was just looking blankly at nothing or taking a nap. Every one of them was absorbed in viewing a 5″ screen one foot from their face. Every. Single. Person.
Get Off My Lawn is not very phone-friendly. Yes, you can read it on your phone and I know some of you do – but the format is different from what you’d see on a laptop or desktop. You may not see the “categories” links and you may not see the list of day-by day entries. There’s not much opportunity to select another article if you want to keep reading.
It’s rare for anyone to follow any of the links included in many GOML pieces. Clicking on links while using a phone is more cumbersome, and would take you to a different site from which it might not be that easy to return, rather just opening another tab or window as would happen on a desktop screen. And if you like what you’re reading, you are much less likely to email someone a link or forward it using the phone – cutting and pasting is out of the question, and even the usual “share” options are too much trouble. The “comments” that the regulars leave may not be seen on a phone without some determined effort, and you might not even think of leaving your own comment when using the phone.
But the real problem is the “long-form” nature of GOML. The reason people prefer Twitter to anything longer is partly that their attention span has been eroded by all the stimuli of our connected world, and partly because they’re busy and only read stuff on their phone while on the go. Long form + smart phone = meh.
Hell, I get bored just writing this stuff half the time – I totally understand why someone wouldn’t take the time to read it on a larger screen, much less a hand-held.
I had lunch the other day with an old friend from school days who said he’d been reading the blog and enjoyed it (Hey, Mouse, that’s you!). I asked him if he shared any of it with his wife and he said she was so busy that she hardly had time even to talk to him, and that something like GOML just wouldn’t fit in. It’s too much of a commitment for most people.
I’ve had people tell me “I don’t read much any more” when I’ve tried to interest them in GOML. I suppose that could just be a polite way of saying they don’t really care about my particular take on things, but I’d rather blame smartphones.
Anyway, I’m sick of writing this now – I think I’ll go flip through Twitter for five minutes.