15 Mar Rachel Williams blogs; Are we becoming a nation of skim readers?
We are living in the age of information overload and thanks to the internet, countless articles covering any topic you can think about is published on the worldwide web every single day. There are countless uses for the internet, whether you want to learn about new things, voice your opinion or start a campaign, there is something for everyone. However, because of the volume of information, we run the risk of missing a lot. Many people want a number of sources when reading around a topic, but really, this is impossible. You can’t read everything – it simply doesn’t work. Well, let me re-phrase that. You can’t read everything well. Many people try to read almost everything, but really, how much information are you taking from these articles?
In University, the ability to skim read was deemed a gift and allowed you to get the exact information you needed to fit perfectly into your essay. But thinking back, how much information did you actually miss? In my own experience, I know full well that by skim reading, I definitely did not absorb the whole article and I’m certainly not the only person that does this. Maybe people attribute this to lack of time in today’s busy world and it seems as though digital is catering to our super busy schedules. But is this really good for us?
We don’t tend to read online in the same way as we might read in print. This tends to be because online as we scroll, our eyes constantly need to adjust more quickly. Also, the screen encourages more skimming behaviour and promotes faster reading. So many sources are now available to us that keywords are sometimes highlighted and can be found with a simple ctrl+F.
More often than not, we don’t even read full articles. More young people, 52% in 2013, prefer to read their news online, and this predominantly includes social media channels. Social media has become our way of getting updated on vital news stories quickly and skimming the titles somehow has turned into readers believing that they are informed and up to date with world news. Americans are particularly big fans of this with 63% of people getting their 2015 news on Twitter and 63% getting their news from Facebook. This has increased significantly in the past two years alone with only half of social network users claiming they used the sites to get their news.
Here’s what I like about getting news through social media: it encourages young people to have some form of knowledge surrounding global affairs and it allows people to have easy discussions around the news. In fact, according to a recent BBC survey, 76% of people believe that it’s now easier than ever to know what’s going on in the world. This is quite a positive high number but just because it is easier doesn’t mean people are taking full advantage.
However, studies are showing that more people are landing on an article and then sharing and commenting before they have even read the whole piece. In fact, referring back to the BBC survey again, 59% of UK users said they had only glanced at UK headlines in the past week with only 43% claiming they had read longer stories online. Slate.com also picked up on this type of reading style and researched how quickly people leave their page. They estimated that for the 161 people who land on one of their articles, 38% are gone from the page before even finishing the first paragraph. This is taking skim reading to a whole other level. Very few people even finish the online article but yet continue to share and comment.
We are all guilty of sometimes wanting a quick fix of news by skim reading or flicking between articles in our haste, just because we can. I’m not criticising this. I think digital will become the most popular way of getting news in the near future as its importance has clearly been evident and it is very accessible for a large number of the population. Millennials are leading the way on this trend. However, perhaps online content needs to be shorter and more to the point to ensure that their online audience is gaining all the information more efficiently. I say this as my blog hits around 700 words…