I've voted nine times already today and I'm exhausted.
I've voted for my favorite news story of the day. I've voted for my favorite western movies—once for Shane, once for Blazing Saddles. Yeah, the campfire scene.
I've voted for my favorite James Bond—Daniel Craig—and I've voted about whether I favored the fine against Kobe Bryant, whether I'll drive less because of the price of gas, whether Will Ferrell did well on The Office, which I didn't see, or the way people voted for Paul on American Idol, which I also didn't see, but that didn't stop me from voting.
I voted for my favorite enchilada, and I clicked the Recommend switch above last week's essay, because we just don't want people to listen, read, and quietly reflect these days, but pull the switch that says Like.
As we say in Chicago, vote early and often.
I've reported from places in which people risk their lives to vote in democratic elections, and know that right is precious. That's why I sometimes get just a little queasy about all the casual, even gratuitous kinds of voting that's beginning to creep into our lives. Voting that's not meant to be deliberate and thoughtful, but quick clicks for a few grins.
Invitations to toss quick opinions, like snowballs at a rich guy's top hat, seem to wink at us all day. Should Donald Trump run for president? Do you think you'd like bacon candy? Can you identify Tim Pawlenty? Should the U.S. arm Libyan rebels? Do you believe in medical marijuana, the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA playoffs, and a Palestinian state? When did you last see a UFO? Should this woman lose her bank job for wearing short skirts? Look at these 10 pictures and vote yes or no! Click here for more pictures!
All these opportunities to be opinionated are not pure recreation. They create a rolling mass of information that people use to try to sell things, from toothpaste to politics. Influential people decide things based on clicks.
This week The Big Lead sports blog reported that the editors of USA Today are pondering a plan to pay reporters bonuses based on the number of page views their stories bring. USA Today's vice president of communications told the Poynter Institute that "nothing has been decided at this time."
If you were a reporter who worked for page view wages, what kind of stories would you do: deft, balanced explorations of budgets, issues, and ideas—or Top Tips for Six-Pack Abs?
I'll save you the click: the secret to great abs is no potato chips, lots of sit-ups, and don't get older than 30. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.