We’re All Changing Our Thought Patterns To Fit Our iPhones

Two days ago, the Editorial Board of the Washington Post published its position on iPhone use by children. It strongly supported the attempts by major Apple shareholders to compel the firm to address excessive use among minors.

By why did the Post limit its focus to children? After all, we’re all changing our thought patterns to fit our iPhones. You can perceive clear evidence of the trend in this very online publication.

Consider last week’s blog posting, for instance. It addressed UPS’ decision to ask hundreds of its accountants and other office workers to sort and deliver packages during last month’s holiday gift shipping season.

A few years ago, I would have headlined that piece with a brief, humorous, and curiosity-provoking title like Accountants At Your Door or Accountants In Brown Shorts. But today’s online search engines prefer titles that are structured like long sentences that directly summarize the contents of the piece.

That’s why the Post titled its editorial Apple shareholders want the company to keep children away from screens. Good. And that’s why I chose to title my piece If UPS’ Accountants Can Deliver Holiday Packages, Human Capital May Be More Flexible Than We Expected.

Of course, one may argue that readers are better served by a long summary sentence than a brief, humorous, and curiosity-provoking phrase. Others may find the original style to be wittier and less ponderous.

But neither argument addresses a simple fact about title-writing. The discipline is not evolving in response to the intellectual preferences of readers. Instead, it is evolving in response to the algorithmic preferences of online search engines.

And as I condition myself to write in this manner, my ability to think in pithy and humorous terms erodes from disuse. Meanwhile, as my readers condition themselves to read in this manner, their ability to think erodes as well.

Feeling alarmed? Please don’t despair; you may find it relatively easy to implement a solution to this problem.

The next time you feel tempted to glance at your iPhone and read a few headlines, perhaps you can simply elect a different activity instead. Namely ….

Read a book.