One of the things that is generally misunderstood is that dissatisfaction is not a personality flaw nor does it make you an unhappy person. But if you criticize the status quo or point out an inequity or declaim against corruption or whatever else is bothering you, a lot of people will dismiss what you say on the grounds that you are being negative.
I disagree. To be critical is to want things to be better and these days more than ever, I'll stick with this: if you're not angry, you're not paying attention.
Right or wrong in that, apparently, this week, I'm paying a lot of attention or, depending on your point of view, am having a bad week: Elder Tea Partiers piss me off one day, the anti-aging industry the next and today, it's the internet or more specifically, news websites and as a result, ironically, I'm paying less attention.
It has become impossible to read news online without developing something like attention deficit disorder or worse, stopping your brain from functioning altogether. Some examples:
Just try reading the headlines on the home page of the Washington Post. Suddenly the text jerks up or down and you've lost your place. The reason is that at the top of the left column, the paper rotates a series of photos with captions. Because the the captions are of different length, the switch pushes the column up and down, up and down twisting your brain like a pretzel.
Increasingly, at The New York Times and other media sites, the story suddenly fades to dark gray behind a full-screen ad that requires the reader to click the close button to return to the story. By then, you've forgotten where you were and, sometimes, even what the story is about.
On just about every media website, there are animated ads or videos on the right that keep jumping around at the edge of your field of vision making you feel twitchy as you lose your concentration on the story you're trying to understand.
Lately, there has been a large increase in boxes that crawl onto the screen from the left to cover exactly the paragraph you are currently reading. Most often, they are third-party pleas to take a survey (which is an ad in disguise) and because they hide the close button in different places each time and style it in such faintly-colored text, you can't possibly remember what you were reading by the time you find it.
Huffington Post is not alone, but they are the worst offender. They traffic in all of the above distractions and two others that are the most egregious on the web.
Just as you place your mouse on the headline of the story you want to click on, the page suddenly jerks up or down by four or five inches when they insert or delete a gigantic photo and headline at the top of the page. You've lost your place forever.
In addition, Huffpost republishes their home and section-front pages so frequently – sometimes several times per minute - reordering the stories so that it is impossible to find again what you were looking at. Often, the story is removed from the page altogether.
There is no excuse for these two practices except either disrespect for readers or technological incompetence. Standard practice elsewhere, as it should be, is to republish in the background and not change anything in the browser until the reader reloads the page. I've taken Huffpost off my handy quicklink list and no longer read it. It has become too stressful even before I get to the news.
There are more examples, but I'm sure you've become familiar with them too. They fry my brain so I am reading less and therefore knowing less, particularly those telling details that increasingly poor writing buries deep inside a story. (But that's a different rant.)
In the past couple of years, I've cut my print subscriptions to two. Much of what I read is published only on the internet anyway. A few days ago, The New York Times announced that at some point in the future it will end print publication and certainly all newspapers will follow along leaving us no recourse for information except the internet.
I'm no brain scientist, but these constant jerky interruptions cannot be good for our health. What does it do to our thought processes, to our understanding, our learning, our critical faculties, our concentration, our memory, our nervous system, our blood pressure?
And, as hard as it is on this old woman, what could it be doing to children's developing brains?
This is one of those issues that doesn't require an expert to confirm that it is unhealthy – to our minds, our bodies and ultimately, our participation in the public sphere - if we don't know what's going on, we can't make informed decisions.
I don't object to advertising; I just want it to stop making me twitchy.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, D. Sugar: Technivision