Reading is dead
What a bold assertion – ‘Reading is dead’? I’ll explain what I mean as I go on. Experiences in the last few years have led me to conclude that people actually:
- Don’t read
- Don’t find information to read of their own volition.
- Even if they read, quickly report ‘It’s confusing‘ or ‘I don’t understand‘ or ‘I don’t follow what you’re saying.‘
I’m not talking about novels. I’m talking about stuff that makes a real difference to personal and professional development. Oh sure, nobody has a problem reading novels!
Obviously if you have that dog to bathe or walk, or you need to have a pee, or you have food in the oven, or WhatsApp is pinging at you – what the devil are you doing up here on this blog?! There are more important things in life! You need to say, “I’ll read it later” – which you know you won’t.
What do I mean by ‘people’? As usual if I said that to any so-called friends in my circles, they would probably respond “I can’t read everything you send to me. It’s too much.” or “I’m hopelessly lazy.” Did I say or expect, that ‘they’ have to read everything I send them? I did not! Leave aside all that because this post is not based just on what I experience from so-called friends. As some will know, I have no friends and aim always to sack so-called friends.
My three points above are more based on interactions with people outside of personal circles i.e. professional circles and on social media.
The word ‘people’ will be used hereafter in the stated contexts above. It’s that ‘tide of people’ – and yes there will be exceptions who are not with the ‘tide’.
This relates to an interaction on one forum today 10/10/2021. See below.
X: I’m not engaged in any form of social media and only know about it from articles such as this one.
CW: This forum is part of social media – all forums are. Of course, people are entitled to believe or disbelieve what they want according to their own personal definitions.
X: There may be some positive apects to it but from my standpoint it’s like a sewerage system for the thoughts of humankind.
CW: Agreed. However, sewerage systems are part of the human condition. We may not like them. They serve a useful purpose. What’s that? To remind us of our imperfections as a species, and to do something about it.
And today again
X: I stopped using facebook around 4 years ago. Did me good 😊
CW: I was a facebook-junkie for about 4 years. I stopped about 7 years ago, and never returned to interact. (I keep an anonymous account only to see certain protected content – and I only visit for seconds to see that then I’m off it).
I was shocked about how hard it was to leave. It took about 6 months to build up to the point of cancelling my account permanently. There was this urge to peek and a sense of loss, which was hard to define. Some would frame it within an addiction-model for ease of understanding. Whilst it did become an addiction for a while, it was more than that.
The following is what I extract in retrospect:
1 – A fear of missing out on some big picture in this ‘sea of humanity’ where ‘everything was happening’ – as illogical as that sounds. And missing out on all the photos and videos of family etc.
2 – Not being part of the crowd of non-family.
3 – Being potentially thought of even by family as being an introvert and being odd.
4 – Habituation to gossip and what was the ‘latest’.
Thankfully logic prevailed. I came to conclude that it was causing me more disadvantage than advantage – and there was a wide gap.
I was wasting time up there, fighting moot points with a majority of people who knew not that they knew not and did not care. All they wanted was that 1 or 2 seconds of fame (aka thumbs ups or likes).
Obviously, people must be reading something if they’re responding on Facebook and similar platforms e.g. Twitter, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, MS Teams – wha’everrrr.
What does reading mean?
I guess one has to go back to basics. Most people would agree that reading means processing text on a page with the brain and extracting meaning from it in whatever language. But what exactly extracts the meaning? Is it the eyes? Is it the brain? Could it be the mind? Could thinking be involved? We’re getting there. Slow down. That’s the next problem with reading – people want it now; instantly. They don’t want to spend time thinking!
Tough – if some guru out there says differently. Information decoded from text goes into the brain. The mind does something with it. The process of decoding and transforming words in text form into ideas or thoughts is thinking. End of. I’m not debating it.
But wait! In an era of e-books which can be read by software on phones and computers, one has the option of a ‘machine’ not doing the visual decoding of words in text form. The software will transform the text form of words into voice. So reading could mean listening to words transformed from text into voice. The issue of what the words mean, is still left. That involves thinking and processing.
But wait! Once we get into words spoken aloud, that can happen in video presentations as well (without a book).
And what if you’re blind and deaf? There’s Braille, to transform text into dots which then gets decoded by touch into meaning (in the head).
So reading comes down to the utmost basics of processing words, howsoever they get into minds. In other words in a modern era it’s no longer about text from a page.
How dare I?
Back to the bold assertion that I made. I dare and I do! From my wide range of experiences over the last 10 years I’ve seen how little people read, which is ultimately thinking and processing of words.
I think the issue is growing worse. I have better things to do with my time than to engage in a scientific audit or PhD thesis on the point. In my later years I trust what I think based on my experiences, more and more. For those who don’t read, I did not say ‘I can’t be wrong.’
The true essence of reading as I’ve defined it, is about thinking stimulated by words.
What’s gone wrong
I can only say what I see, experience and what some of the evidence out there points to. No references on this. Do your own READING!
Social media over the last 10 years has risen exponentially. People are spending more time than ever across various platforms. There has been a fierce competition for their time. People experience this personally but have disproportionately given more time to social media than other things of traditional real importance e.g. planning their spending, careers, educating themselves, forming meaningful and productive social relationships etc.
In the competition for ‘time’, a version of ‘speed reading’ has emerged – which is really ‘speed thinking’. So, people jump to conclusions based on their ‘feelings’ rather than taking time for deeper thought or analysis.
The above has changed what would have been a more robust cultural norm, to a more dysfunctional norm. Norms – whatever they may be – are rarely challenged; simply because everybody accepts them.
What that means is that rather imperceptibly social media platforms have changed the ways people think and process information. (Note how I conceptualised ‘people’ as stated above).
I think this is dangerous to the health of individuals and societies. How? People are more vulnerable to silo-mentalities, and political manipulations. It becomes easier to polarise people and for ridiculous bandwagons to be formed. If you need a fine example, read up on ‘Insulate Britain’ – which is not the only example. If you need others look towards ‘Extinction Rebellion’. And if you know nothing about any of that, your name must be Rip van Winkle! Hold on – think. My saying anything about those movements, does not mean that I think their cause is wrong. Their methods are wrong – and I don’t need to be educated that some of their actions have put lives at risk, to say the least.
What’s next? You bugger off and do some real reading! Else back to bathing that poor suffering dog!
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