Guilty Secrets or Information Overload?

November 29, 2011

Over my morning cuppa chai recently, I read an article that got me thinking. The article? “Nutrition Facts Labels Often Ignored: What’s the Fix?” It’s about a recent study that shows that people often lie about what they said they read versus what they actually did read (in this case, nutrition labels). I know I only skim labels at best and tend to go on instinct as I cruise up and down the grocery aisle. So this news didn’t surprise me as much as made me think on a much more global scale — what other items don’t we read that we lie about and say we do?

Off I went to a search engine and found a range of interesting articles on the subject — obviously the secret of what people really do read and not just say they do translates to megabucks for booksellers, newspapers, magazines, marketers, and now web designers. I remember saying “oh yeah, it was great” about a book I never read to impress a guy only to be busted when he started asking questions. I’m not alone. An article, “Our Guilty Secrets: The Books We Only Say We’ve Read,” about a U.K. survey a few years ago, indicated 65 percent of people in a survey admitted lying about classic novels.

Just out of curiosity, I did do a little online survey, asking people what they should read that they don’t, back to that “guilty secret” viewpoint. The overwhelming responses were those “terms and conditions for Internet downloads,” and others mentioned the explanations on prescription labels, user license agreements, and Knut Hamsun novels.

In recent years, the Internet explosion has created a mixed dilemma. For one thing, statistics show that “users will read about 20 percent of the text on the average page.” For another, the massive amount of information available, e-mails sent and received, tweets tweeted, blogs posted, Facebook ministories entered, and even YouTube videos uploaded is almost incomprehensible.

Do we give up hope that no matter what information we disseminate, people won’t make time in their busy days? Phew, no! Studies show mobile devices are actually changing reading habits. People are no longer chained to a computer; they can save anything to read later, and many are doing just that, especially with iPads. That gives me hope, for I know many women who still haven’t read key information about the current discrimination practices they still face, whether it’s equal pay, affordable health care coverage, paid family leave, or civil rights. Maybe they’ll make time now.

What guilty secret do you have — what have you not read that you said you did? What haven’t you read that you know you should?

Christy Jones, CAE By:   |   November 29, 2011

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