Reading past the headline

by Lyn Cheely, Staff Writer

In addition to the overall decline in reading societally, another issue has risen- one likely to correlate with the manipulative formatting of social media, and personal laziness.
It seems that recently, individuals of all ages are incapable of reading past the headline of an article. Whether this is a result of laziness in terms of clicking on the link to the article, or if it has to do with the actual “pull” of the headline, nobody seems to know for sure. However, it is apparent through the spread of misinformation and the extensive number of ignorant comments on online publications that assumptions regarding the article’s subject matter are made based off of the headline alone; rather than the article’s content.

The convenience of social media and it’s connection to online journalism is, in part, a reason for a decline in reading and interpreting articles online. For example, when using Facebook, an individual may scroll past an article with a link to an external website. While the article’s title and featured photo may be readily available, and seem interesting, the “inconvenient” aspect of having to physically click on the link to be redirected to a different website seems to significantly influence the reader’s decision to read onward, regardless of the topic at hand. The redirection to an external source while using Facebook on a computer (or using its phone application) is slow and tedious. Often times Facebook’s coding corrupts the original hyperlink, making the pursuit of the topic more tedious, and with that being said, “off-putting”.

Logic-based speculation would lead you to believe that Facebook has formatted external publications in this manner intentionally, as Facebook currently has it’s own version of an online news outlet that serves as a significant contributor to the diffusion of information across multiple countries. That means that Facebook will promote itself relentlessly by making it difficult to access online competitor’s publications. This results in knowledge of the article or topic’s existence, but many incorrect assumptions about what the article is actually saying. And despite the apparent “unavailability” of the actual article, the Comment section is readily available.

There, many individuals immediately begin to state their opinions regarding the topic; the argument they never bothered to read in the first place. This spreads misinformation like wildfire- and because a two sentence comment is more quickly and, dare I say it, “easily” formed, posted, and read, people choose to take the words of strangers on the Internet regarding the topic and purpose, rather than read the stories for themselves.

It is apparent that many agree that it is simply too time-consuming or difficult to access online publications in this manner. There have been a number of instances on Facebook and other social media where popular memes saying “Waiting for someone to post a summary of the content like-” and “Story too long, didn’t read” have flourished in the comments section, demonstrating the extent of laziness in reading articles online. The convenience of reading comments regarding the stories’ purposes far outweighs the apparent inconvenience of actually clicking on the story and reading it.

With that being said, in order to prevent the diffusion of faulty information, increase the number of people willing to read and interpret online journalism, and promote reading as a whole, there are a number of changes that need to be made.

To begin, social media websites like Facebook should, at the very least, screen information that they personally promote to ensure that it is accurate. In addition to this, they should make an attempt to increase the accessibility and availability of other publications that they promote.

Secondly, an addition to this first suggestion is one directed to news outlets themselves; please make all sub-headlines available to be viewed along with the article hyperlink so that individuals will have a better understanding of what your discussion or perspective of the topic will be about. Doing so is more likely to act as the “hook” that tips the “to read, or not to read” scale for a number of people.

Finally, everyone should give articles they find interesting or provocative a chance, and consider reading what the author has to say about the subject before voicing opinions.. or, for that matter, deciding to ignore the article completely. While clicking on an article seems to be a major inconvenience in the moment, it is important that reality is put into perspective- a few minutes of time may change opinions about important aspects of life, or provide readers with information about something they didn’t think they’d ever have interest in.

Online news outlets are a significant aspect of how we learn about what’s going on in our world- everything from current events, to interesting new recipes to try out for a special occasion. Taking a couple of minutes to learn something new or try out different perspectives on highly-debated topics can only benefit individuals.