I am not one to have New Year’s resolutions, but will generally consider things I may want to focus on in the New Year. A book I am reading has solidified an aim I already had…to go back to reading more print magazines and the newspaper.
The book I am reading is The Shallows, What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. You need to read this book! It has similarities to Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman – but taken to a different level – not only the move from print to TV back in Postman’s day but now the unique combination of media found on the internet. Plus, I’d describe Postman’s work as more historical and philosophical with keen analysis – while Carr’s is more scientific.
Neither Postman or Carr was/is advocating getting rid of your TV or computer but becoming aware of the weaknesses of the medium, and making some changes accordingly. I am only about 1/3 through Carr’s book though, so those are preliminary thoughts based on what I have read.
Back to my focus for the New Year. You’ll note I mentioned reading more print magazines and a newspaper. The internet has not affected my book reading, and I have actually read more books each year since the internet became such a presence in our lives. (For various reasons, book reading simply became more of a priority for me.)
However, I do see some of the effect of the internet on my brain as discussed in the Carr book. I have a harder time sitting with a book for as long of a period of time as I did years ago before the internet. Anyone else? With heavy internet use, your brain gets used to jumping quickly from one thing to another and craves that. It takes me longer to get into a book and move into “deep” reading.
But while I have kept reading books, my magazine and newspaper reading has suffered. Earlier this year, I read through a huge stack of neglected magazines! Over the last few years, I read so much news and articles online, that it essentially replaced my magazine/newspaper reading. In one sense, there is nothing wrong with this, but several concerns I have, at least for myself:
- We read differently online. I’ve blogged about this before, and the Carr book goes into deeper explanation, but we skim read, jump around, and can hardly read anything longer than 500-1000 words. Maybe I know a little about lots of things, but I am missing out on reading magazine articles which are usually longer and in-depth. Yes, there are long and in-depth articles on the internet but we skim read them.
- I read a bigger variety of articles in magazines compared to the internet. On the internet, I tend to click on links that interest me – so my bias is there. But with a magazine such as Christianity Today, I find myself reading more broadly as I peruse the various topics covered in an issue – reading about things that I definitely would not have clicked on while web surfing.
The newspaper is another story. I got away from reading the newspaper because the local city newspaper here…just…was not very good. I’d read it, and still feel uninformed. But I can start picking up papers like The New York Times, USA Today, or The Washington Post. In fact, just today I bought a copy of The New York Times. It was the first newspaper I’ve bought in a long time!
Finally, as someone who is middle-aged (how did that happen?) I need to keep my brain sharp. I will keep using the internet, but want to make a concerted effort to revert to past ways of reading the printed page.
A somewhat related past post: Modern tech…and hindered ability to grow in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ
And I just found this post from another blogger: A lot of us are alarmed about the state of America, and many are asking what they can do. Here’s my answer: subscribe to a newspaper.