Magary: Why it's OK to only skim articles on the internet
October 1, 2020 12:56 PM   Subscribe

If you’re like me, you’re not gonna read all of this article. Many of you will see the headline and that’ll be all you require to formulate your opinion and then hop on Facebook to be like, “Can you believe this a—hole doesn’t read everything he reads?!” I would castigate you for such hasty judgment, but allow me now to confess something that deserves to make me an eternal pariah: I barely ever read anything on the internet in full.
By Drew Magary.
posted by Lexica (26 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
I agree with drew mag
posted by Going To Maine at 1:00 PM on October 1, 2020 [7 favorites]


Same, but also for work emails more than a half-dozen sentences long.
posted by 3j0hn at 1:01 PM on October 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


The format of that article, at least on mobile, self-illustrates one of the reasons that is so hard to focus on a long read on the net. So much cruft is embedded into the text that I thought I reached the end several times before I actually reached the end.

It is not so much a SQUIRREL! mentality as following the many alternative paths that are literally right in front of me in the most deliberately distracting manner possible.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:04 PM on October 1, 2020 [17 favorites]


Please do read to the very end, if only for the link to another Magary Masterpiece: College Football Should Die Forever. And you should read that one to the end as well.
posted by niicholas at 1:04 PM on October 1, 2020 [7 favorites]


I didn't even click the link to this article!
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 1:04 PM on October 1, 2020 [34 favorites]


It takes me nearly a minute to scroll up to the top of all the tabs I have open on my phone, that I do really mean to read some day.

Some of those tabs are from April.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:13 PM on October 1, 2020 [8 favorites]


TL/DR: I dunno
posted by From Bklyn at 1:27 PM on October 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Haha I just taught my "skimming is not wrong reading" bit in technical writing this week...relevant.
posted by Tesseractive at 1:43 PM on October 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


I'm not even here typing this. I left a while ago.
posted by pipeski at 2:10 PM on October 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


I didn't even read the other comments in this thread!
posted by ardgedee at 2:16 PM on October 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Wait, you people click on the links in MeFi posts?
posted by signal at 2:50 PM on October 1, 2020 [5 favorites]


This article is a bummer for like sixteen different reasons that I would get into if I thought anyone would read them.
posted by mmcg at 3:03 PM on October 1, 2020 [7 favorites]


Just to be perverse, I read the whole article. And... he's right, about his own column at least. He makes his point, such as it is, by halfway through and the rest adds nothing.

Obviously we can't read everything, so that's fine. A better question would have been, when do you skim and when do you read in full, and the guidelines he offers ("my friends wrote it", "it's an art") aren't much of an answer.
posted by zompist at 3:13 PM on October 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


I read the whole article. Where's my trophy?
posted by medusa at 4:12 PM on October 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


I did actually read the article because it's short. And I too skim, though I read about two thirds of the Times article on Trump's tax returns.

But the research on eye tracking shows that reading on a computer is different from reading on paper because (a) most people read only the first computer screen of ANYthing and (b) of that one screen, people read screens in a rough upside-down "L" which covers the top of the screen and some of one side.
posted by Peach at 4:34 PM on October 1, 2020


Lifelong readers know what the fluff is, and how to skim until we reach the meaty parts. Sometimes we even realize that the fluff has purpose, and go back and reread. We also can tell when a writer is being paid by the word. Reading and scrolling on a computer is definitely different than reading print, but that adaptation has occurred to readers, even if it hasn't occurred to writers.
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:36 PM on October 1, 2020 [10 favorites]


I also skim, which makes me wonder WTF I'm doing all day.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:03 PM on October 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


In journalism school they taught us to write articles in the inverted pyramid style, which means you cram all the most important details into the first sentence of the first paragraph (the who/what/when/where), and then the next-most important details, and then sort-of-important details, and then background and flavor. This is so that people can stop reading the article at any point and still get the most important information. Skimming is literally built into the fundamental structure of news writing, and has been long before the internet existed.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:43 PM on October 1, 2020 [16 favorites]


Reading and scrolling on a computer is so physically unpleasant it's a wonder anyone actually reads to the bottom of articles in between ads, popups, exhortations to subscribe, banners, fuck it I'm not even finishing this comment
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:10 PM on October 1, 2020 [5 favorites]


In middle age, I really love reader view. I can make the text nice and big, eliminate all the distracting background nonsense. I have the feeling that reader view is like eating dinner at 4:30 though, lame. I'm going to lean into it though.
posted by gladly at 8:50 PM on October 1, 2020 [5 favorites]


I cannot tell if this article is serious or not?
"No, what I did was peep the beginning of that article to get the $750 chestnut, and then I simply waited for a source I trusted to give me the TL;DR version."

...

"I’m very choosy about who I get my truths from, and skimming is a way to help me glean the thrust of a story without having to eat my vegetables in the process. EVERYONE WINS."
Isn't this why and how we're all in this whole social media exacerbated, attention hopping, filter bubble tribalist mess to begin with? I mean the author admits this in the article later on, but also excuses it in a few flippant paragraphs, and offers precious few tips to cope.
"If I read a movie or album review, I skim right past the intro and hunt for the graf that tells me if the thing is good or not. If I read a recipe, I skip right past the storybook intro like everyone else does."
Both of these examples are not the same as the news example. In a movie or album review, you may or may not want to know why something is good or bad, for valid reasons. In a recipe, the storybook intro is worthless (to you, the person who just wants to get to the damn recipe) SEO fluff.

I guess the author is just venting?
posted by theony at 9:10 PM on October 1, 2020


I guess the author is just venting?

Yes. Maybe it’s because I’m familiar with his work but I went into this from the beginning expecting to read one man’s feelings about why he personally does a thing, rather than some kind of mass call to action or something.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:49 PM on October 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


I generally skim through an article until the point where the website blocks me from reading with a popup. In this case SFGate gave me a popup after fifteen seconds, so I saved a lot of time, I guess.
posted by Umami Dearest at 10:11 PM on October 1, 2020 [3 favorites]


I used to skim because i felt compulsion to read everything, but like the writer, I never felt satisfied. I decided to just instead be super aggressive about not even skimming stuff i ultimately don't care about, even if it sounds like it might be interesting or funny. There's enough interesting material out there that I actually do care about.
posted by WeekendJen at 4:17 AM on October 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


I'll skim if it's a bunch of generic words, like most texts are. I'll read every word if it's interesting and well-written. MM Carrigan's essay about fast-food buffets in the next post was a fairly interesting essay, for example.
posted by ovvl at 3:17 PM on October 2, 2020


In journalism school they taught us to write articles in the inverted pyramid style, which means you cram all the most important details into the first sentence of the first paragraph (the who/what/when/where), and then the next-most important details, and then sort-of-important details, and then background and flavor.

The bastard child of this is the tabloid legal style, which makes massively lurid textual and editorial statements about the things they can defend in court, implies but does not quite state whatever then can get away with, and then puts any legally mitigating statements the lawyers require in as dry a way as possible at the very end of the article.
posted by jaduncan at 12:30 AM on October 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


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