By Anthony Pignataro
For those of you reading this right now, I would just like to say thanks. Seriously, thank you. There is a lot online competing for your attention, and it’s heartening to us here at the paper that you would take time to read us.
I mention this because on Sept. 12 Nielsen–yes, the media analysis firm that gave us television ratings–released their State of the Media: The Social Media Report. Just 12 pages and packed with colorful infographs, it’s nonetheless a sobering look at what people are doing online.
“Social networks and blogs continue to dominate Americans’ time online, now accounting for nearly a quarter of total time spent on the Internet,” states the report. “Americans spend more time on Facebook than they do on any other U.S. website.”
Social networks and blogs dwarf everything else online–including porn. According to the report, 23 percent of Americans’ time online is spent at Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, MySpace and a host of other sites (exactly how much time is spent surfing Internet porn isn’t made explicit in the report: “adult” matters fall into 35 percent that constitutes “other” on the breakdown of Internet time).
As for “current events and global news”–you know, how people like me make a living–that takes up a mere 2.6 percent of Internet users’ time. Meaning that if a person spends, say, five hours online in a day, a bit less than eight minutes of that time went to reading news.
And who knows how time is spent reading books online. Like porn, books falls into “other” on the time breakdown. Whereas porn is one of the more popular “other” Internet activities (just behind something called “multi-category entertainment”), books fall near the middle of the list, between “multi-category travel” and “multi-category home & fashion.”
Speaking of books, on Sunday, Sept. 11, The Maui News ran this front page story on that great disaster of our time: the publication of Maggie Goes on a Diet. I am–of course–being satirical: though the controversy over the book is now very much national news, Maggie is actually just a gentle tale (Self-published! By a guy in Paia!) of a girl who learns to love herself through the act of living healthy. Of course people are going to misconstrue it as an abomination, a cruel, heartless knife in the heart of all things good and God-fearing and American.
I mean, you could just read the book and find out for yourself that it shows kids the value of hope and self-esteem, but where’s the fun in that? It’s much easier to go online and be a troll and send one of the thousand mostly negative emails author Paul Kramer said he’s received. because that’s apparently what everyone’s doing online these days.
To be honest, I’m personally biased on this subject. As a newly minted fiction writer (my Maui novel Small Island is now available in trade paperback form at Amazon for the low, low price of $14.95!) I’m very sensitive to any talk about how Americans just don’t read very much anymore. The other day I walked by the now-shuttered Borders Express in the Queen Kaahumanu Center and actually shivered when I saw the shuttered bookstore–the last store dedicated to the selling of books left on Maui south of Lahaina.
You know, there is something lonely and terrifying about finally climbing the mountain known as “Getting Published,” only to find that no one in the village below really gives a damn.