I give this my vote for one of the ugliest acronyms in the indecipherable sea of txtspk brevity: “Too Long; Didn’t Read.”
The first time I ever saw it was in regard to an article that was, admittedly, longer than one typically has time to absorb during work-day downtime. However, recently I’ve been seeing it with more and more frequency, sometimes in reference to pieces that dare to be more than the length of a tweet. And that greatly bothers me.
I’m old-school in a lot of ways when it comes to words. I see beauty in words the way many see beauty in a Van Gogh or a sunset. Words unlock my imagination in ways that no amount of CGI manipulation ever will. Want to not hear a sound from me for an entire day? Place a stack of books on one side of me and a fresh supply of coffee on the other. You’ll forget I’m even there. The best part? I’ll forget I’m there, too, because I’ll be in myriad other locations and times…wherever those beautiful words lead me.
Sometimes, I feel as though I am a dying breed…that I’m the awkward, bloated blog post in the room full of fit tweets, all silently judging me for not shedding my verbal lumpiness and joining them in their snappy bon mot runs every day because I’m too busy gorging myself on wordiness.
Other times, however, I feel as though I am succumbing to the wordless void. It’s so easy. Open up your social media account. I’ll bet one of the first things to pop up in your feed is going to be a photo or a video posted by one of your friends—probably something they’ve shared from one of the innumerable sites out there, designed solely to produce “share”-worthy photos and videos. Sometimes, they have cultural, political, or social merit. Sometimes, they’re designed to tap into geekdoms or childhood memories. Sometimes, they’re just stupid. But you click. And then there’s “you might also like…” and you click that…and click…and click…and before you know it, you’ve spent the better part of the evening binge-watching cat videos.
Don’t get me wrong. I tweet. I post random photos or videos to my social media pages with nary a word of description. I understand the appeal. Sometimes, you don’t feel like writing a treatise on that random Captain Janeway photo you came across or that snippet of some horrible 80s flick you enjoyed as a child.
I also acknowledge that part of why language is so beautiful is because of its mutability. Txtspk is simply another variation on a theme. So is the transformative influence of Web trends on modern language, which has left us with so many feels. Because teh Interwebz.
I suppose what bothers me is the fact that, for some, “TL;DR” is becoming their standard response rather than the occasional “Sorry, I couldn’t get around to reading that article you sent me, but I’ll try to make time later.” Instead, it’s a simple dismissive not just of saving it until later but even of the concept of reading it at all. I’ve encountered a few people who have sprung a variation of the phrase “I don’t read” on me with spurious pride, some even looking at me as if I’d asked them if they think Yetis like twerking.
I know, I’m being curmudgeonly and paranoid. People aren’t all going to stop reading. Still, we’ve seen in the past 20 years a virtual demolition of the newspaper industry. Even once-esteemed papers such as The Washington Post highlight online content that is top-heavy with photo galleries and cutesy videos but lean on actual news. Add to this how once-stalwart news magazines have shuttered their shops, and we’re left gleaning our information from Upworthy videos and cable “news” channels that are nothing more than cesspools of unfiltered vitriol and unsubstantiated bile. Why use actual facts to discuss topics when you can just insult your co-host? Because YOLO.
What’s the point of all this? Well, I suppose if you’ve made it this far, you’ve at least not deemed my latest rambling rant “TL;DR.” For that, I thank you. I also suppose that my point is merely a plea for MOAR READZ. Even if it’s just perusing Yahoo News or maybe picking up a copy of Entertainment Weekly to read about some of your favorite movies or television shows (you know, they even do book reviews in there, too!). Even better, track down a copy of the book on which the latest (or possibly next) hit movie is based. I hear rumor that, almost always? The book is better.
Whatever you read, just read. Expand your mind, engage your imagination, tackle philosophical ideas, wrestle with theology…but just read. Because while a picture can be worth a thousand words, a thousand words can be priceless.
#Read. Because words.