It seems like the world is obsessed with breaking subjects down into a series of 'bite-size snippets', with 'top ten tips' about anything and everything emerging en masse, every day. Barely an hour goes by where I don't get confronted with some form of 'top tips' or a 'top five' list of 'interesting' things. It's a wonder that there is enough advice left in the world to feed the endless stream of digestible wisdom which is sent my way. Have we now reached the stage where the world has become incapable of processing information without some form of numeration to help them take it on board?
I guess it's no great surprise that on this modern, social media obsessed planet, expecting people to read a whole block of words and then pick out the useful bits of information on their own is far too much to ask. However, I can't help but feel that this current list obsession reflects badly on the world's collective intelligence levels. What's wrong with starting an article at the top and then reading it to the end... since when did that become a waste of precious time?
Soon people won't be able to comprehend anything which doesn't have a series of clearly marked out sections, comprising of of no more than 150 characters, each with a 10 second video clip for those who are too busy to even read a single paragraph. Our attention spans are on course to be reduced down to a capacity on a par with that of a goldfish by the start of the next century. At this point we really will be doomed.
Charlie Brooker declared this week that he had semi-retired from writing for The Guardian, owing to the fact that there were too many opinions out there and that the world had become 'a giant heap of blah'. When the irreverent columnists have become sick of the sound of their own voices you know there's something weird going on. I hope Brooker changes his mind, because despite the fact he is, as he says, contributing to the endless cacophony of opinions, I find his articles to be reliably funny and well written. Perhaps someone should write a 'top ten tips' guide about 'how to find the right kind of column to read'.
There is still plenty of great journalism and writing out there, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to find. The irony is not lost on me here, you may well think this article is a load of old twaddle - in which case you may want to stop at this point and go and find a book to read instead. I would be happy if you did... just make sure it's not a Katie Price 'auto'-biography, I beg you.
This repetitive use of the same format is the product of a wider problem facing the media in the internet age. There's simply too much space to fill these days, and journalists are being forced to turn around content much faster than ever before. In this age of 'churnalism' formatted materials, such as 'tips' and 'top tens', have inevitably become increasingly appealing to time pressured editors and webmasters - But whereas lists once provided a enjoyable alternative to the thousands of articles going live every day, they've now become so ubiquitous that they're now massively annoying in their own right.
Of course the problem is exacerbated by the fact that we are now in the grips of 'silly season'. With half the Western world away on their summer holidays there's a really noticeable dearth of important news to write about at the moment. On the BBC website last week, there were at least five articles (with accompanying videos of course, this is the 21st century, you can't expect everyone to have time to read!) about 'deadly heatwaves'. They're going on everywhere! There's one in the UK, Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, The US and China - where apparently you can cook bacon on the pavement... if you want to.
Now, I would venture that these hot temperatures might be a direct result of it being the middle of summer, when most places are at their hottest. Not much worth reporting there. However, in the absence of any real news, by adding the word 'heatwave' and providing some 'top ten tips on keeping cool', we have ourselves some 'relevant content' people - and that's what it's all about.
I guess it's just a question of cutting through the noise and finding the good stuff, and in a way it was ever thus - even back in those heady days when print ruled the waves, we still had to skip through to the right section of the newspaper. There's just a hell of lot more content to pick through these days and that's the web's fault. Bloody progress.