A few of you including Roger von Oech have put this Wired Article on my radar. It talks about the "mini-culture" that has been developing in recent years comparing it to a pervasive "snacking type of behavior". This is nothing new as part of my job is to analyze and understand this and the role brands can play in this space. In fact, we used this same exact analogy when coming up with the GameTap site re-design where we transformed the homepage from a passive experience to a "bite sized" sampling of some select games and multimedia features.
The snacking behavior phenomena begs the following questions:
1. Is snacking all day bad for us?
2. Do we have time for "full meals" anymore?
3. Are we sacrificing depth for breadth?
Let's start here going with the nutrition analogy for a moment. Snacking throughout the day is only bad for us if we are taking in junk food while throwing discipline out the window. In fact, most nutritionists suggest that snacking on healthy items such as carrots or broccoli helps curb our appetites and eat smaller, healthier meals during meal times. One of the worst things we can do for our bodies is starve ourselves during the day and gorge ourselves in the evening before going to bed.
Think about this in terms of your own internet usage habits.
So let’s go with the assumption that snacking isn’t bad if you are smart about it. Now what? If we are snacking through the day—does this mean that we can’t appreciate an exquisite meal now and then? No, I think that a substantial meal can and will always be appreciated as long as you are a “smart snacker” meaning you don’t substitute your snacking for a good meal. If anything, you have more appreciation for it.
So are we sacrificing depth for breadth? Maybe. Again it comes down to choice. Certainly blogs, and other shorthand forms of communications which have surged in popularity tell us something about ourselves and our attention spans. But maybe there is a new reality of bite sized content being extremely effective. Sure, we want people to read our books and watch our hour long TV shows including all the commercials—but we can’t FORCE them to. If they want bite-sized nuggets it’s better than nothing. And maybe we should be thinking about how we can serve up healthy bite-sized content and experiences?
I recently finished Made to Stick. It was a meal, with generous portions and substance. It took me a bit to get through it. Is this so bad? Look at it this way—if I were to sit down at a fine meal that someone had just prepared, would it be good manners to wolf it down without conversation? Or would it be better to savor every last bite over some good conversation and a glass or two of Chianti.
So, what does it come down to. Does the “snack economy” mean were all becoming stupid? Well, I guess if we’re snacking on junk food—then maybe the answer is yes. But what if we are supplementing our diet with healthy snacks that help get us through the day? I don’t know about you—but after a really full meal I feel sluggish and can’t think clearly.
I don’t have a clear answer here but a suggestion. Our behavior seems to be changing. We’re becoming snackers vs. the predictable three square meal model. It’s almost inevitable that this happened given advances in technology. If this were not the case—there would be no need to support our traditional media offerings with blogs feeds,—or put our content into bite sized nuggets.
But, maybe all it comes down to is being careful not to spoil our appetites. Exercising some restraint and avoiding the "bad snacks" which taste good but have no nutritional value. If we can do this—we'll get more out of media whether it’s analog or digital. And how can you tell when something is “junk food”? That’s easy. You feel like crap about 5 minutes after eating it.
Oh, BTW in an effort to practice what I’m preaching, I’ve written this post during my lunch break so tonight I can avoid “gorging” on digital media. Maybe I’ll just have a light snack instead.