I’ve noticed not many people are reading my serialized version of “The Manhattan Project.” That might be because the writing is so lame or the posts are too long. But it might also be because we’re all losing our ability to focus on a long-form piece of writing for an extended period of time…our attention spans are being whittled away by all of this exciting social media, where brevity is not only encouraged, it’s enforced (like Twitter). I used to point fingers at my students and my friends who spent hours on Facebook and Twitter, reading the crucial information provided by their “friends,” like how much they drank last night or what they had for breakfast. Researchers have convinced me the more of that quick-hitter stuff we indulge in, the less we’ll be able to appreciate longer printed content. I noticed it in myself as I read the Sunday New York Times this week. I tended to jump from story to story, alighting on each one for a few seconds, maybe skipping through the later paragraphs in case some detail caught my eye, and then moving on. I came away with a very general sense of what was printed on the pages, but only a superficial sense of the facts and arguments being presented there. And now I’m writing a blog, where the managers of the system classify many of the posts I’ve put up here as “long” posts, as compared to the much shorter stream-of-consciousness content they encourage by posting questions for us to respond to, questions that can be answered in maybe a couple hundred words rather than a thousand (or more). Maybe it doesn’t matter, but maybe it does. If I can’t pay attention to the thoughts expressed by another human being for more than the fifteen seconds it takes to read a “short” post, I will, in the long term, be the poorer for it.