Twitter finished what the 30-second commercial started in the 1990s – reducing our attention spans from minutes to microseconds. The visualization of content hasn’t helped. It’s so difficult to get and keep someone’s attention these days that our political leaders are resorting to ludicrous visualizations to create hysteria, rather than clarity and reason.
Like two remarkably different personalities, Obama and Palin, we strongly identify with a message when we can see something of ourselves in the story. In fact, the story is the message.
Barack Obama is a great writer and orator. But since becoming president, he’s had to focus his attention on a slew of mind-boggling problems. So, except for foreign travel and the occasional campaign-like drive-by into the “heartland” – where he riles up “real people” at fake rallies about healthcare or “fat cat” bankers – he’s holed himself up at the White House with experts.
No doubt about it, the political climate of 2009 is hot. When policymakers on both sides of the aisle think nothing of accusing their opponents of lying, you know that discourse in the public sphere has reached an all-time low.
A major overhaul of our health care system. Financial regulation. Economic stimulus. The environment. Two wars. Lots of people say President Obama is trying to tackle too many problems at once. Some critics say he ignores the legacy of past presidents who maintained a more steady focus.
As a writer, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that it was in my best interest to assume that most people don’t read very much or listen very well. Short attention spans, busy lives and almost constant distractions create enormous challenges for communicators. It’s an undeniable fact that audiences bore easily.