We have all been living in the scroll culture for some time now. There is so much content available online for consumption that our brains can't hold it all in or process it at once. We scroll through data and content at rapid speed using our fingers, the arrow key or a computer mouse.
Smart phones and tablets have expedited things, but this scroll culture has been around long before the invention of those devices. In 2010 Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that every two days we create as much content as was created from the beginning of civilization until 2003. This is a staggering number to wrap your head around, and I have a feeling this number has grown since that time.
Modern day email is a joke that is in need of reform, and it takes scroll navigation to get through your email without spending all day sorting through junk mail.
I fear that the scroll culture is giving us all attention deficit disorder. I make my living as a social media marketer, and I am switching between social networks all day long consuming information. I believe that social media is here to stay. We may change the name from time-to-time but it is just how people consume information and communicate now.
At the same time, I have noticed that it is much harder for me to focus on things, especially while reading long-form content. As a writer, I am also frustrated because it is creating a climate where people only read the article headlines and then, like, tweet, or share it and move on with a scroll. We are no longer getting the in-depth information that we used to get on so many important issues.
It has never been more important to set our own individual limits with our technology consumption.
The Origin of the Scroll Culture
The scroll culture most likely started with emails in the end of the 1990s. I remember when I got my first email account in 1996. I was a freshman at Bloomsburg University and was amazed at this new technology. There wasn't much junk mail back then, but soon it came and soon we started to scroll through our email on our desktops, ignoring the junk mail.
Things only got worse when social media networks and newsfeeds were created.
Consequences of this Method of Data Consumption
I feel antsy when I don't have my phone around and I know this is a problem that I need to work on.
I was recently at the beach playing with my daughter and scrolling through my phone and suddenly heard my mom pretending she was the baby saying, "Put down the horrible device daddy, you are missing precious moments of my life." That was pretty sobering.
No one knows the long-term medical effects of the scroll culture (if any), and most likely we won't know for decades to come.
The Problem with Modern Day Email
Someone really needs to fix the email problem. Take a week off of work and you will have hundreds or thousands of emails to sort through when you get back. How many of these are actually work related? And this is just your work email account. Add in your personal email accounts and it could take days to go through all of the unopened email.
How many important emails have we all missed by using the scroll method or holding down delete in our inboxes?
We need email with smart technology that can sort it for us. Gmail has made decent efforts by filtering email into categories of primary, promotions, social and others.
Hopefully someone out there is working on a smarter email network, which will eliminate these problems.
How To Cut Through The Noise
Brands today are finding it harder to cut through the noise to get their messages to their audience. We are not only competing with other advertisers. Today's brands now compete with pictures of grandchildren, our friend's wedding photos, and all other content produced by our friends and family. One finger scroll on my iPhone averages about 5 status updates on Facebook. Many people scroll quickly with multiple finger scrolls at once until something pleasing strikes a nerve in their brain.
Social marketers know that this means that we can't underestimate the importance of superior graphics. I believe bad, unoriginal, and outdated graphics can work in reverse making the user turned off from your brand. Companies today should put serious efforts into making strong visuals to grab the attention of our audiences.
Setting Limits on Your Technology Use
In 2009 some friends and I (Adrian Hoppel and Matt Tucker) had a conference call on creating a day called Unplugged Day. The basic premise was that it would be a day to get back to nature and unplug from using modern technology. We never got around to creating the day, but I still think about it often. Since then, others have created similar days designed around taking a break from technology. As a strong proponent of technology, I believe that it is crucial for us all to set our own personal limits on our use of tech to find balance in our lives.
Follow James Calder on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jimmycalder