"Kids these days," said Karl, rolling his eyes at me.
What'd I do? I asked.
"I said 'kids,' not middle-aged men," he cackled.
Whatever, King Old Fart, I said. Karl is my 60+ year old curmudgeon friend who calls me Kid, since I'm nearly 20 years younger than him. We were at First Editions, our favorite literary bar, where Karl was supposed to do a reading of one of his short stories. He liked to have a couple drinks before he read, because he always got stage fright at his own readings. The biggest bag of wind I knew could talk at length about any topic, whether he knew anything about it, yet he still got stage fright reading his own stuff.
So what put this burr in your saddle? They running amok on your lawn again?
"No, nothing like that. I was talking to my grandson last week, and I asked him if he had read my last short story." Karl often tried to make his 15-year-old grandson read his works in the hopes that it would spark an interest in literature in him. Or reading. Or breathing through his nose.
"He said—" Karl closed his eyes and shook his head at the memory. "He said, 'No, what's the tl;dr on it?'"
"Yeah, do you know what that is?"
It's hipster Internet slang for ' too long; didn't read.'
"More like 'too lazy; couldn't be bothered.'"
Yeah, it doesn't speak too highly of the people who use it, I said. They usually use it when an article is over 500 words.
"Or 'too long; didn't understand it.'"
"Or 'too long; too stupid to—'"
Karl, I get it, I said. I waved down Kurt the bartender and asked for two more beers. So what did you say to him? I asked.
"I asked him what it meant, and he told me the whole background, complete with the semi-colon. I said, 'it would have taken you less time to just read the damn story.'
"He said, 'You have to understand young people these days, G-pa—'"
G-pa? I said.
"Who knows. Anyway, he says I have to understand that Generation Y, whoever they are—"
People between the ages of 17 and 27, I said.
"I know who they are! I'm old, not an idiot." Karl took a big drink from his beer. "Anyway, he says, 'Gen Y gets most of its info on mobile phones. Anything longer than 300 words, and we can't be bothered. If we have to swipe our phones more than twice, then we give it the ol' tl;dr so everyone else knows they shouldn't bother.'"
Wait, so they encourage laziness?
"That's what I said. 'So you tell your mouth-breathing friends to avoid anything that might tax their tiny brains?' That's when I noticed one of his slacker friends sitting in the corner. Little punk said, 'Well, I've never actually read any of your stuff either.'"
What did you say? I asked.
"'That's not surprising. I use a lot of big words. Your lips would get tired.'"
I laughed at that.
"Poor kid didn't know what to say. 'Too dumb; couldn't respond,' I guess."
Karl finished his beer, wiped his mouth, and plonked the empty mug on the bar.
"The problem is, we're not encouraging intelligence and learning in our kids. Smart people are looked down on and ridiculed. You're considered a nerd if you read more than one book a year, and even that's pushing it!
"We had a president who took great pride in not only not reading, he had his secretary of state read briefing reports to him because he couldn't be bothered. We spend more time teaching kids math skills, to the point that literature takes a backseat, while art education is nonexistent. And this Generation Whine—"
Y, I said.
"Whatever. Generation Y seems to think that being illiterate and dumb is a badge of honor, as if possessing limited intelligence and knowledge is something to be lauded. We should encourage reading of longer works, sending people to Longreads.com to see some real writing."
So what does this have to do with tl;dr? I asked.
"It's a symptom of a bigger problem. The people who say tl;dr are proudly broadcasting their laziness to the world. The L shouldn't stand for long, it should mean 'I'm a lazy slug who can't read anything longer than 500 words without needing a nap.'"
What are you reading tonight? I asked Karl.
"The first chapter of my latest book."
Just the first chapter? That's like, what, four pages?
"Yeah, I don't want to be up there that long."
The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
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