Somewhere between my early and middle twenties, my attention span began deteriorating, as if I felt something physically cubical in my head dissolve at an alarming rate. Around this time, I had read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “This Side of Paradise” twice, a manageably sized book for a college kid whose priorities involved watching anime and playing video games, while performing satisfactorily in his creative writing classes. I was 22 then; I am 29 now and that is the last novel I have read. Although I no longer possess the endurance to read a novella, I still challenged myself by trying to read Adam Levin’s “The Instructions” and David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest,” both over 1,000 pages. I stopped at page 150 with Levin’s novel, and the page-length text with no paragraph breaks in Wallace’s tome exasperated my cognitive abilities.
YouTube became a presence in my life around this time. At first, I was cautious about visiting the YouTube website because I feared I would be partaking in copyright infringement. But my fears subsided when my best friend showed me the infinitesimal offerings of video game–related joy. The very first YouTube video he showed me was a 58-second clip titled “Street Fighter: The Beast Is Unleashed,” which had documented Daigo Umehara’s famous “full parry” comeback against Justin Wong in an Evo 2004 match of “Street Fighter III: Third Strike.” More “Street Fighter” YouTube videos followed. My friend hooked me on watching the 10-minute “Street Fighter Stupidity” videos showing bite-size clips of the awfulness of the American “Street Fighter” cartoon, one clip even showing a miniature Dee Jay.
Whenever I would watch “Street Fighter” related videos, one video that was always on the list to the right side of the screen was College Humor’s live-action parody “Street Fighter: The Later Years – Part 1.” I clicked on it and ended up watching all nine parts, which were each an average of four or five minutes.
I watch YouTube more than the regular tube. I can’t watch television as before. Commercials for products and services I have no use for annoy me, and I get further annoyed when I switch to another channel only to see another commercial in progress. Why can’t there be a list of recommended videos to my right? Or an option that says, “You can skip to video in…” followed by a five-second timer?
I’m all about immediate gratification. Getting what I want when I want it should be as easy as typing it in a search bar. I even have a short attention span when eating hard candy: I want that sweet, sweet flavor now! Ingesting media in small doses has conditioned my impatience.