Technology allows us a "read later" mentality. We don't seem to want it.
This morning, the save-for-later service Pocket (formerly Read It Later) posted some highlights from a year's worth of user data. Among the stats: Users -- who now number at 7.4 million -- saved 240 million pieces of digital content over the year (compared to 170 million in the span between the service's launch in 2007 and 2011). And they save that content at a rate of 10.4 items per second.
Perhaps you are one of those users, and perhaps your mouse is hovering over a save-for-later button right at this moment. Before you click it, though, let me just say one thing: Those numbers are remarkable. And not just because they suggest the growth of the save-for-later mentality, but also because that mentality also has the potential to shift, just a little bit, the way we relate to all the stuff -- the videos, the essays, the listicles, the treatises, the cats -- that crosses our paths every day online. A defining psychic feature of the Internet is its immediacy, its urgency, its implicit demands on our time. Hereisthisthingyoushouldseerightnow. Alsothatthingisacatvideo.
That one feature, Internet as scheduler, shapes the web as a social space. Because the same tendency that makes 20 minutes a long time to take to reply to an email, and two minutes a long time to reply to a tweet, also means that, generally, the content that lives on it has an extraordinarily short shelf life. And that's true not just of "content" as in news stories, the stuff that loses most of its value when the term "new" no longer applies to it. It's also true of content as a more general category: long stories, deeply reported narratives, richly researched essays -- stuff that aims to endure. The stock of the Internet.