I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again…Before I Share

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We may all wish for a silver bullet to bolster readership, but it’s less a case of scoring a home run and more a case of getting singles on the board. – Regie Solomon (author and blogger)

Luckily, I am not blogging for money, because I do have a day-job. I’m not even too worried about the number of shares each post gets, although I do enjoy it, when it happens. I’m fine, just as long as my stats plug-in reassures me that the blog is not void of traffic. Whether pageviews are human, of course, is another matter. But, nonetheless, as long as I get regular pageviews, it’s good enough for me. Having read that you must spend 20% of your time writing a blog post, and 80% flogging it, that’s not my idea of fun.

If you love writing or making music or blogging or any sort of performing art, then do it. Do it with everything you’ve got. Just don’t plan on using it as a shortcut to making a living. – Seth Godin (blogger)

 

The number of pageviews, as I understand it, reflects the number of times the particular webpage that contains your post, has been requested. I don’t know about you, but every time I request a webpage, it is to read the content, or at least browse through it. And this is where the trouble starts. The question we must all ask ourselves when someone requests the beautiful html page that we have spent hours writing and editing, is how long will he stay focused on reading the post.

I first have to find out how time-consuming my posts actually are. To do this, I installed a WordPress plug-in, to estimate the time needed to read them. The time taken to read the latest posts appearing on my homepage, varied from 3 to 7 minutes.

The question now, is: how long is the attention span of the “average” (I hate that word) internet user, when faced with a written text? For Jakob Nielson, of the Nielsen Norman Group – specializing in evidence-based user experience research, Users often leave Web pages in 10–20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer. To gain several minutes of user attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds.” Quite depressing, really, because it means that only a fraction of you is reading these very words. “Well done,” is all I can say. Apart from, “I’ve started, so please let me finish.”

Microsoft researcher Chiao Liu has constructed a mathematical model, explaining how, if at all, readers become engaged to your content, and actually read what you have written.

 

The above graph shows that the first 10 seconds are crucial in deciding whether a reader will stay on the page. But, in any case, by the time I have finished writing this sentence, more people will have already left. Depressing, isn’t it?

 

Sharing posts on social media is an unavoidable part of blogging. If you don’t flog, you won’t be heard. But I am beginning to wonder if the fact that a post is being shared means that people will read it. Furthermore, do people who share posts actually read the post that they share?

On Facebook, I try to pick out a few salient lines from my post, as a bait to catch attention. From some of the comments I get, it is quite clear that a lot of Facebook users cannot be bothered to read the entire post, before commenting. They come up with, more often than not, aggressive comments that are blatantly wrong, and underscore the fact that they have not read the post. 

My latest encounter with such a phenomenon occurred with my last post, on Veganism. I was simply wondering why a series of attacks on butchers has spared halal butchers, and I quoted the reasons given by animal defence organisations. I was accused, in no uncertain terms, of Islamophobia, by someone who finished her comments with an insult. The Facebook thread, as all threads, ends without a fruitful conclusion, with the person who posted the comment disappearing into the social media wilderness.

And I have read the article, my issue is with your islamaphobic attitude. You said “Why this positive discrimination, I ask myself? Meat is meat, whether the animal is killed in accordance with Islam law, or not.”, and this is a call for protesters to attack Muslims. Your mother should be ashamed of you.

It just so happens that she just quotes what appeared on the Facebook post, and not the answer to the question that I was posing. The answer is, in fact, contained in the post, but that would have required reading the post. This sweet Facebook user just couldn’t understand that I was surprised that halal butchers should be treated any differently from others – “Positive discrimination”, I think it’s called. As for my mother, how low can Facebook jibes go? Well, pretty low, especially when people don’t read original posts. It rather reminded me of when Zinedine Zidane head butted Marco Materazzi, in the World Cup final of 2006, after Materazzi had insulted Zidane’s sister. Unfortunately I cannot headbutt without breaking my monitor screen. Instead, I wrote,

haha, they were attacking the butchers shops, not the butchers. You really don’t understand English because you don’t understand the logic in the sentences you have just written. Hopeless, I’m afraid.

Hopeless, indeed it is, but I’m not going to let my blood pressure rise because of twats on Facebook. The problem is with her, and not me.

It does seem that, for a lot of Facebook users, the short Facebook post becomes more important than the original post that you can read by clicking. For Joe Tuman, professor of communications at San Francisco State University, “It is the sort of thing that encourages this kind of rapid use without really thinking about what any of it means. A dumbing down, if you like, of people who have the brain capacity to do much more.”

 

On April 1st, 2014, the American media organisation NPR, posted a short post entitled, “Why doesn’t America read anymore?” It read,

Congratulations, genuine readers, and happy April Fools’ Day!

We sometimes get the sense that some people are commenting on NPR stories that they haven’t actually read. If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it. Then let’s see what people have to say about this “story.”

Best wishes and have an enjoyable day,

Your friends at NPR

Comments were quick to follow, with countless commenters claiming that they read all day long. It’s probably the sensational title of the post, that accounts for the extremely high number of shares it received, and the countless erroneous comments. 

The same applies to comments, with commenters applauding each other, as to who will post the most senseless and insulting comment. Any hope of debate is quickly extinguished by the ensuing silence of the commenter who posted the last insult. People who post want their contribution to be noticed. The more likes and shares they get, the better the feeling of having made a significant contribution to a rapidly evolving social phenomenon.

Whereas I can vouch that the comments I have posted have never contained PG rated language, I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t always fully read other people’s posts. But then again, I don’t always share, leaving that to those who much better than I am, at not reading posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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gskaye