Saturday, August 15, 2015


I'm an older guy (than Justin Bieber, and younger than Gordon Lightfoot if you want a very rough estimate of my age on the Canadian scale) so I admit I'm not always hip to the latest trends, especially when it comes to the on-line world.  Lately, I've been seeing increasing occurrences of the letters "tl;dr" during my on-line browsing, and I don't mind admitting that I hadn't the faintest idea what it means.  This was even more vexing given that I pride myself on usually being able to infer the meaning of unknown words and abbreviations from their usage or context but, in this case, I admit I was stumped.  So I turned to Google.

For those as un-hip as myself, I'm here to tell you that "tl;dr" is short for "too long; didn't read".  It's normally posted as a comment in response to long, wordy posts that the reader found too long and/or tedious to read.  Significantly, the comment normally comes from those who don't have the patience to read the original post in its entirety, but who feel compelled to comment nonetheless.  I encourage everyone to make any sort of comment, positive or negative, regarding any of the posts on this blog, but I do ask that the reader read the post in its entirety and give me a full, fair hearing before doing so.  Seems only reasonable.

Having learned the meaning of the acronym, I felt compelled to break my long blogger's silence and comment here, because this touches on an issue of some importance to me.  Along with being behind the times on some trends, I also freely admit to being verbose by nature; something which I hardly need to point out to anyone who has read more than one or two of my posts here.

I'm troubled by the trend of shrinking attention spans that I see everywhere these days, but especially on-line.  It seems to me that some people these days, especially the younger generation (at risk of making an unfair stereotypical generalization) don't have the attention span of a gnat.  It seems to me impossible to form any kind of reasonable opinion on any subject when those making any kind of argument or explanation have all of 30 seconds to make their case.  This seems even more bizarre given that this phenomenon is most often seen in on-line forums which, by their nature, tend to feature material that people browse in their spare time out of interest or for the sake of enjoyment; in other words, people who should not be in any particular hurry.

The phenomenon is by no means limited to the on-line world, however.  A few years back, I found myself unemployed and signed up for a job search seminar.  There I learned the critical importance of making the very start of ones' résumé attention-grabbing because most H.R. types just don't have the time to carefully read every résumé that crosses their desk.  So they tend to pick up each one and quickly scan it.  If they see spelling mistakes, any sort of sloppiness, a displeasing layout etc., the résumé is immediately discarded unread.  If they do begin reading it, the opening statement is of utmost importance.  If you haven't captured their attention by the end of it, they don't normally continue.

Nowadays, hard-copy résumés are increasingly rare as well, being replaced by e-mail and on-line applications.  In the case of e-mail, I learned that the average middle manager gets between 50 and 100 e-mails per day and, again, can't be bothered to read them all.  Instead, they scan the subject lines and sender ID's.  If they don't know the sender or the subject line is of no interest to them, the e-mail is set aside indefinitely or, more often, simply deleted unread.

In the working world, I can at least understand time constraints and work loads contributing to short attention spans.  It's an unfortunate side affect of an over-emphasis on multi-tasking; another subject high on my list of dislikes; but I'll save that rant for another post.  However, when reading for pleasure, I simply cannot understand peoples' impatience.  I've read the works of several renowned authors, from Tolkien to Tolstoy (including War and Peace) and, with the single exception of Herman Melville, I've enjoyed every one of their wordy, rambling works.  The reason, in fact, why their work is considered great is because they do more than simply relate a tale; they take the time to paint a story on a canvas of paper through the use of colorful words that bring to life the worlds which they describe.  That's what separates a work of art, like "War and Peace" from a straight historical account of the Napoleonic wars.

And so, I remain unapologetic about my verbose prose, just as I read most of the articles, posts and books which capture my attention slowly, carefully and in their entirety.  There's something to be said about taking in all of what the writer has to say, considering it carefully and then perhaps contributing to the conversation with one's own comments and opinions.  To those who have read this far, my thanks and admiration.

1 comment:

Tubes said...


(Just kidding. I read it all. Slowly.)

I agree with the short attention spans. I have the opposite problem to you in that I probably am not verbose enough.

In this electoral time I am equally frustrated with trying to read or listen to statements by politicians. You are hoping for info to make an informed decision. However, after several paragraphs or even pages, you stop to discover that they have not actually said anything yet!