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How Clip Thinking Affects Reading

Author of the article: Tatiana Zhakova
Journalist, linguist, teacher of storytelling with 10 years of experience
In 2015 she created and promoted her project about Nizhny Novgorod,, after which she created a course called "Storytelling: How to Tell Your Story" based on it. Over 4,000 students have taken the course.

A linguist by education, she quickly masters new areas. Now she is actively studying screenwriting and storytelling in movies/serials, and writes about it in her project's blog.
Generation Z, and millennials in general, are often accused of being unable to concentrate, absorb large amounts of information, or focus on anything where the frame changes less frequently than once every 3 seconds. The reason, of course, is Tik Tok and the general boom of other social networks with vertical videos. I've never thought of it as anything of an upsetting factor, but...
Recently I sat down to read a book. And I was amazed at how hard it was for me to concentrate and how often I wanted to distract myself. All in all, I was glad already to want to pick up the book and start reading, because for a long time I didn't even want to (but that's a topic for another huge article).

And so, I open this 300-page book and every page I want to see who liked my post and how many Tic Tac subscribers I got in those 5 minutes. And then it becomes much more interesting to look at other people's cats and dogs than to dive into the new world of Planet Arakis and figure out who the Freemans are.

After all, the latter requires a lot more effort.

And I wondered: why is this happening?
Had all those vertical videos already affected my brain that much?

What used to be

Remember that feeling as a child, when a book pulls you in so hard that you can't close it and fall asleep until you find out if Tom Sawyer gets out of that cave or not.

When there weren't so many cell phones and not even TVs and VCRs in every house, reading wasn't seen as an effort, but as one of the few opportunities to escape into another colorful world and experience a lot of positive emotions.

What about now?

Gradually, with the advent of the television, the VCR, and the availability of movies, reading lost its position.

I attribute this rather to the appearance of music videos on MTV and Mus TV.

Cinema as an art has existed since the end of the 19th century and did not seek to replace reading. And the pace of films from the early to mid 20th century is much slower than it is now. Try watching Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights" or "It Happened One Night" or even "Casablanca"-with a fast-paced plot, the pace of the narrative is much more relaxed, encouraging reflection.

But when the '90s saw the advent and mass distribution of music videos, that's when the "clip editing" came in.

By the way, a film edited according to the "clip principle" in the 20s of the 20th century failed miserably.
Clip editing is a change of unrelated frames every 1-10 seconds (3 seconds on average).
Because of this rapid frame change, the human brain has no time to focus deeply on anything, and we don't have to think at all about what is going on. The visuals simply lead and lead us on, entertaining us and giving us "mental chewing gum.
Movies have also become much "faster.

Now you can't find a scene for more than ten seconds, it's not Tarkovsky anymore. And for all their visual power, the same Fight Club or Marvel movies are simply entertaining, in no way setting us up for a meditative sequence.

We don't have to make any kind of cerebral effort to watch them. And what we don't make an effort for is much less enriching.
In 2010, the Russian philosopher and culturologist K.G. Frumkin identified five main reasons for the emergence of clique thinking:
  • 1
    The development of modern technology, and, accordingly, an increase in the flow of information;
  • 2
    The need to take in more information;
  • 3
  • 4
    Accelerating the pace of life and trying to keep up with everything to keep up;
  • 5
    The growth of democracy and dialogicality at different levels of the social system.
A new round of faster content consumption came with the development of Tik Tok.

Let me remind you that this is a social network with short "sticky" videos.

And although you can pour there video 1/3/5 minutes, the recommended length - no more than 15 seconds!

Because further the viewer's attention is scattered.

It turns out that in those 15 seconds Tic Tac Storyteller needs to cram

- the lead-in,
- action,
- the climax,
- the denouement,

and at the same time tell and show the whole story in a way that makes sense. Even with a 3-second montage, that's only 5 frames.
So basically every frame lasts 1 second, or even faster.

Why Tic Tacs are so "sticky"

Have you ever opened a Tick Tock feed? Or Reels, or VK clips, YouTube Shorts, or any other social network that has built in the ability to post vertical videos?

Once you've finished a couple of videos and liked a couple more, it's impossible to get right out of there.
Because this feed works so that you are immediately shown clips similar to the ones you like.

It's a very easy pleasure, very accessible endorphins that your brain will always choose instead of consuming something useful and developmental.

That kind of guilty pleasure.
So if in 2015 I created an urban magazine with a lot of longreads, now I would no longer risk doing so. And it's not even that I have become worse at writing or that I am no longer interested - it's just that with the widespread appearance of "vertical video feeds," readers are used to a different kind of content on social networks. And therefore concentrating on something "long-form" is harder.

By the way, the concept of "clip reading" appeared back in 2014.
Clip reading is a fundamentally discrete, fragmented reading. In clipping thinking - and reading - "the world around us becomes a mosaic of disparate, unconnected facts. A person gets used to the fact that they constantly replace each other, like in a kaleidoscope, and constantly demands new ones" [Feldman, 2014].

What are we reading now?

There is another problem. There is a huge amount of information noise around us now. And if 7 years ago you could count on the fingers of those who wrote large texts in social networks, now every second person writes sheets of letters.

And in terms of meaning, as a rule, there is no uniqueness in these texts, because they are all a rewrite of texts already existing on the Internet.

To accumulate life experience at least one really unique and high-quality text, you have to go through a lot of trials. This I tell you as a writer. And social networks require our daily activity, otherwise they relegate us somewhere in the annals of the feed. So we end up "publishing for the sake of publishing".

Moreover, as soon as you finally publish something really important and therefore complicated, it is very often poorly perceived by an audience whose brain is used to simplification.
So. We have a huge amount of republished texts that come out of all the cracks.

And you read them anyway you want. Accordingly, the time that your brain could consume quality reading, it just consumes low-grade copywriting from a copywriter working for a blogger.

Yes, there are always exceptions. I'm rather talking about the general masses.

And it turns out that we read these texts, as we used to switch channels of TV. We thoughtlessly flip through post after post. Story after story after story.
To summarize:
  • With the advent of faster and faster clips, our brains are learning to concentrate on more complex information where effort is needed.
  • And when in all this mess of information noise we get texts that are not of high quality, while taking away our resource and creating the "illusion of reading.

    (Spoiler alert: you're unlikely to remember at least five posts you've read to the end lately.)
So what to do about it?

If the problem is clear, how do you solve it?

How do you keep your brain from switching over to information-only "fast food" and keep it toned down?
I think the way out is very simple.


First 10 minutes a day, then 15, then 20. That's just putting the phone away in another room, putting blockers on social media, creating "informational silence" for yourself. And immerse yourself in a book.

Actually, though, it can be more than just reading. You could play the piano. Or doing yoga. Anything that allows your brain to concentrate on one activity for a long time and go into one abyss without switching.
That's what I think I'm going to do today. And I recommend that you do the same.