I was recently in line at the Museum of Fine Arts for their Open House and Lunar New Year festivities. The power of my BU Terrier card extends to free museum admission, but I happened to choose one of the busiest Saturdays to go (when everyone was jumping on the chance to get free admission). The line at the Huntington entrance was ridiculously long, so we queued at the Fenway entrance, where the (somewhat shorter) line extended out into the street.
I’ve been waiting in line a lot. A week ago, I dragged my friend to the Milk Bar opening in Harvard Square (where we may or may not have waited in line for three hours in the freezing cold… just so I could get a soft serve to reduce my body temperature even more). Even just yesterday, I waited in line at the Beard Papa’s in Chinatown for one of their signature cream puffs/profiteroles/whatever you want to call them. (The verdict: they’re to die for).
These events pretty much sum up my experience at Boston University, in one of the greatest cities in the world. There are endless opportunities for enrichment and fun, little time to devote to things after you plan out your academic calendar of due dates and exams, and lots of waiting for events, whether it’s in the Panda Express line at the GSU at a peak hour or a cool city event where “free” means “wear comfortable shoes, put on three coats, and bring a couple of hand warmers.”
The full name of the app, on the App Store at least, is “Pocket: Save. Read. Grow.,” and it’s a very fitting title considering its features.
The idea behind it is very simple: you save articles from anywhere (really, anywhere…) and then, at your earliest convenience, you can read it (or listen to it, if that’s your style), “everywhere.” Even when you’re offline, your articles are available in Pocket, across all your devices. I’m a huge Pocket fanatic, so it’s on my iPhone, my iPad mini, my Mac, and it lives as an extension in my Chrome browser.
In light of the current layoffs wreaking havoc on some of the most influential media & journalism companies, reading and writing seem to be at an all-time low. Articles aren’t getting much traction, and even longer posts on Facebook feeds and lengthy Instagram captions are being scrolled past, in favor of the short, sweet, concise journalism we have learned to love — headlines that pack a punch, teasers that tell you everything you (think) you need to know, and news updates tweeted. We’ve even seen the success of apps like Quartz Brief, which delivers breaking news to you in a texting format. If you go into the “News” category of the App Store, one of the subcategories is “Bite-Size News.” We’re taking all of our information and content in bite-size bits now, like the fun-size candies of our childhood that we either loved or loathed.
The optimist in me, however, doesn’t think that our attention spans are getting so short that we can’t read full-length text anymore (especially considering the same students who scroll past posts longer than three lines are also the ones reading Brontë novels and 20-page criticisms in their English classes). I think it’s all about timing.
I’m guilty of scrolling past longer content. The “read more” option on Facebook posts entices me, but when I see text that dominates my entire screen, my interest immediately fades and I scroll past it for a shorter paragraph, or, better yet, a few words photoshopped onto a photo. But at the same time, I can read the New Yorker for hours. I’m one of those students in the Brontës class, reading ~90 pages of Jane Eyre, a book I’ve read just last semester, a night. I know I can sit myself down and read a longer text, but why can’t I stop myself from skipping the long pieces on social media?
The answer: you’re not in the mood.
When you’re scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or your website of choice, you’re in a browsing mood. You don’t really want to be immersed in anything, you just want to absorb as much interesting, important information as possible. You’re not in the mood to read about the politics of the Buzzfeed layoffs, you just want to know that it happened and that there are arguments of race in there. Apple’s fall to Microsoft is the end of the sentence — the rest of it, about how their stock is down 10%, or how Tim Cook’s letter to shareholders is “fascinating,” are interesting, but they’re not what you’re here for.
That doesn’t mean you won’t ever be in the mood to read. But by the time you mentally go back to the Apple news, the article is long gone. You’re interested, but not quite interested enough to search for it.
Saving articles to Pocket has been my long-time hobby. Just like how people like to spam likes on Instagram, I spam Pocket with saves. I’ll scroll through Facebook, or Apple News, or Buzzfeed, or whatever, and I’ll just mass-save articles. Pocket’s own feature, called “Discover” is great for this too.
Just now, as I’m writing this article, I pulled open Pocket and in the span of one minute, I saved half a dozen articles, ranging from “How Recapping My Days Changed My Life,” “Facebook is helping husbands ‘brainwash’ their wives with targeted ads,” and “Tom Brady Is Drowning In His Own Pseudoscience.” Not only does this let me collect all my read-later articles in one place, but it also allows me to branch out to other publications — ones I don’t usually read.
For instance, of the half dozen, articles are from Harvard Business Review, PickTheBrain, The Outline, GQ, The Daily Dot, and FiveThirtyEight. And I’ll be honest — I’ve only heard of two of the publications above, and I haven’t read any.
The functionality of Pocket, coupled with the fact that it works everywhere, has made it an essential tool for me. As a reader, the purpose it serves is obvious. As a writer though, Pocket goes above and beyond: it helps me organize all my sources/references in one area, recommends articles that double as inspiration for new pieces, and gets me reading and ensures that I’m up to date with the happenings of the world.