Struggling to read more than 140 characters – Ella Henning

Reading Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid” strangely hit home for me. For the past couple of years, I have found myself genuinely uninterested in reading anything over a couple hundred words. When I was a kid I loved reading books, but now I can hardly get past the second paragraph of the first chapter of anything. I’ve thought about how it could be attributed to general laziness or the fact that I have to read so much for school, but I never considered that the way I interact with technology could be changing the way my mind works.

I started using Twitter in the middle of high school, just as a way to keep up with what various friends were up to. I wish I could say that I wanted to use it as a tool to keep up with the news, but I usually just scroll past it. While I do follow a journalist from the Human Rights Watch, I must admit that I rarely actually click on the articles linked to his tweets.

Because I am under the age of 28, my father naturally assumes that I am a guru at all things social media. This summer, he emailed me asking if I could write a tweet encouraging University of Cincinnati students to volunteer at a summer camp for inner city kids. The president of the university would then tweet it. I formulated something along the lines of:

“Looking for volunteer mentors to help underserved boys at PNC Challenge Camp this summer in July. Info & sign-up at

140 characters. It fit. Job was done. Whatever.

However, I was not the only one included in this email exchange. My know-it-all mother (who in fact does know everything) quickly pointed out that you always have to start with the benefit or most important information “or else college students won’t take the time to read it.” Her recommendation:

“Want to help under-served boys? Volunteer at PNC Scout Challenge Camp. Give an hour, a day, or a week. Go to

Apparently there are short attention spans even on Twitter, but I realized she was completely right (ugh). When reading we immediately want to know the most important information (even if it is only 140 characters long).

My twitter is on private so I had to screenshot my “thick tweets:”



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