‘Instant Gratification With Bookmarking Can Replace Actual Consumption’

An interesting and nuanced piece from Chris Tackett at the Atlantic on how sites like Pinterest and Svpply might be reducing consumption, and which cites a Megan Garber article that prompted my recent post on lifehacking-through-Instapaper:

I don’t disagree some forms of conspicuous consumption are fading, but in the context of how we present ourselves online, I think we’ve entered a new era of hyper-conspicuous digital consumption. While the poor economy may be reducing our urge to buy an expensive car just to show we can, the new additions to our ever-growing arsenal of social-media tools are giving us new ways to show the world what kind of things we like, what clothing or jewelry we would wear (if we could), what kind of cars we would drive (if we could), what kind of homes we’d live in (if we could) and on and on. If there wasn’t a social element to Svpply or Pinterest (or Twitter or Facebook or blogs, for that matter) I think far fewer people would take the time to use these tools for personal organization. It is the overtly conspicuous nature of sharing the pretty things we find that makes these tools fun to use in the first place.

‘with sharing both intentional and “frictionless” — we can define ourselves not just by what we read, but by how we read.’ – Nieman Lab
‘We are seeing the twilight of conspicuous leisure, and of conspicuous waste and conspicuous consumption as well.’ – Rick Bookstaber





‘a click on a Read Later button is…an act of desperate, blind hope.’

As part of my never-ending quest to hack my life to fit more into 24 hours, I’ve been rethinking my Instapaper strategy.

Previously, my Insta-workflow went something like this:

– Favourite a tweet in Twitter + ifttt = add to Instapaper

– Sifting through RSS on mobile or iPad + “ooh, that’s interesting but a bit long and probably about something related to finance” = add to Instapaper

– Skimming aggregator emails à la Percolate’s Daily Brew or Jason Hirschorn’s Media Redefined  + 50 tabs open and Chrome yelling that I need to kill some of them = add to Instapaper


Result: crazy, crazy long Instapaper queue, which I tried to manage by viewing oldest-first, and by binge-reading on planes, trains and weekends.

Result: only a slightly shorter queue, and constant feeling of unease about not being caught up induced by the near-endless scrolling of said.

Could I ever read everything? No. Was I in denial about that? Maybe.

Which is why I found this piece by Megan Garber at the Nieman Journalism Lab (in my Insta-queue since December…) so interesting (emphasis mine):

…if my own use of Read It Later and Instapaper are any indication, a click on a Read Later button is, more than anything, an act of desperate, blind hope. Why, yes, Foreign Affairs, I would love to learn about the evolution of humanitarian intervention! And, certainly, Center for Public Integrity, I’d be really excited to read about the judge who’s been a thorn in the side of Wall Street’s top regulator! I am totally interested, and sincerely fascinated, and brimming with curiosity!

But I am less brimming with time. So, for me, rather than acting like a bookmark for later-on leafing — a straight-up, time-shifted reading experience — a click on a Read Later button is actually, often, a kind of anti-engagement. It provides just enough of a rush of endorphins to give me a little jolt of accomplishment, sans the need for the accomplishment itself. But, then, that click will also, very likely, be the last interaction I will have with these worthy stories of NGOs and jurisprudence.

This strikes me as a modification of the Gollwitzer premise – that there’s a gap between intention and action that is worsened by a (public) declaration of intent. In other words, saying you will substitutes for doing; in this case, bookmarking is a substitute for reading.

To quote Garber again:

The line between the aspirational and the actual is thick

I’ve since changed my bookmarking behaviour. Now, Twitter favourites go to Pinboard (via ifttt) where they are marked as unread. And then, when I have (set aside) the time I very deliberately go to Pinboard, choose some of these unread items, and send them to Instapaper for proper perusal on my iGadgets, or better, my Kindle*. 

Result: Pinboard now acts as a digital repository for all things I would-like-to-read (intention) and Instapaper acts as a platform for things-I-will-read (action).

And I find that while I might be skimming much less, I am reading much more.

The lifehacking continues.

[*Re the Kindle – reading on the Kindle is a much more immersive/much less distraction prone environment for me than reading on the iPad. The downside is the Kindle makes it damned hard to then tag/archive those articles in a way that fits into my metadata obsessed intensive workflow. Using the Instapaper app on an iGadget, for instance, I can easily email articles, share them on Twitter or add tags/comments and archive them to Pinboard. If I read an article on the Kindle that I want to share or tag, I have to fire up an iApp or my computer…breaking me out of the immersive reading experience]