YOLO

Toward Content Nuance

Colleen Jones Posted by

Jan 30 2013

Have you ever seen an SNL digital short? Whether you like them or not, you have to check out the one from this week’s Saturday Night Live, YOLO:

You only live once, indeed. And living with a bombardment of conflicting information and misinformation is enough to make us as confused or paranoid as Andy Samberg.

Now, I dig a wide range of media and content, from books to ads to journal articles to tweets, from gossip blogs to research to self-help to literature. (Or, maybe the range between gossip and literature isn’t so wide if you agree with Truman Capote.) But, one thing has become increasingly clear to me. We need help reconciling all the contradictions (actual or apparent) we encounter as we decide. We need more nuance.

Let’s say you’re concerned about the health of your kids. Sooner or later, you’ll run into conflicting guidance. And, of course, it doesn’t help to have misleading information out there, either. The connection between autism and vaccinations (or lack thereof) is still a point of confusion.

Even subtler and tougher to deal with? Recommendations that don’t seem contradictory but actually are when you try to apply them in real life. You want your children to be active outdoors so they get fresh air and don’t become overweight or, worse yet, obese. At the same time, you don’t want them to burn in the sun.  You want to protect your kids from harsh sunrays but not load them up with harsh sunscreen chemicals. Gah. And, that’s only a simple example.

We know a lot more now than we did before. There’s more to reconcile when we decide and, as a result, more need for nuance. The challenge? It’s not being capable of nuance. We’re better educated than ever. Most of us are sharp cookies and can understand it. But, understanding nuance takes time and mental energy. Many of us don’t have time. And, sometimes emotions like fear or stress can hijack our brains and make exploring or understanding nuance even more difficult.

So lately I’ve been thinking, does some content better lend itself to conveying nuance than others? This clip from one of my favorite shows, Portlandia, amusingly sheds some light:

I didn’t know every abuse of social media and every misinterpretation of how we read online could be captured in one skit. Now I do. While long form content alone might not be the answer, certainly repeating top 10 lists over and over isn’t, either.

Wouldn’t it be terribly ironic if the more knowledge available to us, the poorer our decisions? Or, worse yet, the stupider we become? Like the dark ages, except instead of sharing no information, we’re blinding each other with blasts of knowledge bits? I don’t want to live in the digital dark ages. So, what the hell, let’s find a way to convey nuance. YOLO.