The Challenge of Meaningful Reflections in a Sound Bite World

Posted November 15th, 2022 in Business Culture by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco


We live in a world where we have been conditioned by quick
sound bites. On radio and tv, it’s in ten words or less! No
matter what the medium, we insist on top line highly condensed information. We even learn speed reading…many advertisers go so far as to blast us with what I call “motor mouth advertising”…Look at Twitter, with its mandatory 140 characters.

Because of our hectic lives, our subconscious frequently cries out “spare me the details; I don’t have time for anything else!” We tend to view quiet time as either a luxury we can’t afford or an undesirable waste of valuable time. Even worse, we may have become so intellectually lazy we do not want to be challenged! 

So what do we get from the quick sound bite approach to life? For starters, we get more time for more quick sound bites! More significantly, we take a whole lot of risk when we let others tell us what we should think, feel, do. A meaningful example would be how we get information needed to make intelligent decisions about important or meaningful matters in our lives.

In our work lives, many if not most have grown to prefer top
line or bottom line results over details. Since executives, managers, and supervisors set the example of what good looks like within business cultures, it doesn’t take long for subordinates to behave in kind within their work environment. “Spare me the details” becomes a lifestyle up and down the organization, ultimately leading to meaningful dialogue becoming a thing of the past within our work and even home environments.  We just don’t know how to find the “off switch”. No wonder so many have difficulty falling asleep.  

Another place to look at when thinking about our sound bite world is the world of contracts; computer applications and cell phone services contracts are most often encountered by people worldwide. They go on and on, written in language specifically designed to encourage the consumer to go to the “I accept” button quickly. We value short, crisp language, and these contracts are anything but.  And then there is the legalese language of insurance policies, mortgage agreements, tax codes, or contracts of all sorts.  Very few consumers are prepared to understand such documents.

There is also the example of how we consume newsin video or print formats.  I had a friend many years ago who was a foreign correspondent for a prestigious and particularly well-written international newspaper.  This was just prior to the days of CNN.  I remember how appalled David was with the popularity of the new USA Today because its format was a collection of brief bites with catchy titles.  Because it had almost no in-depth reporting, he called it “a ten minute read on a good day”!

In an ideal world, news should be information distilled and
interpreted from hundreds, thousands, and maybe even millions of bits of data. Our passion for getting to the point and “spare me the details” has all too often led to information passed off as News with little or no supporting data. My friend, David, was prescient about what this would lead to. I was not, at the time! Far too many societies/individuals have drunk the cool-aid of the unchallenged mind, and have grown to like it. In more recent times, it has even led to the shameful idea of “alternate facts”.


Thomas Jefferson wrote: “a society
that wishes to be free and yet uneducated
expects what never was and never will be“. 


Jefferson was obviously calling for an informed civil society, but it has a wider application. We need to make room in our lives for meaningful reflections based on a lifetime commitment to personal education…finding enough data we can translate into information…immersing ourselves into other points of view, all leading to informed decision-making.  

Health gurus have long written about the value of physical
stretching throughout our lives. This is a call for intellectual
stretching. Start with meaningful reflections. The minute we
stop learning for whatever practical reason is the minute we
become the manifestation of Eric Hoffer’s 1963 admonition:
learners inherit the earth while the learned find
perfectly equipped to inherit a world
that no longer exists

All of this cries out for a change on our part.  It won’t be easy, but it is necessary!  The bottom line is to never stop learning, whatever this means for you. 

Create a daily environment of peace & quiet


Meaningful Reflections!  

Dr. Bill DeMarco 


[2022 update of an earlier article]