I have a lot of reviews to catch up on, but I was intrigued by an article in today’s Washington Post, and wanted to get readers’ opinions. The article says that the way we read online, basically scanning bits and pieces, is making it more difficult for us to read novels in a linear, focused way. A 35-year old graduate student says that “It’s like your eyes are passing over the words but you’re not taking in what they say.”
My perspective is a bit different, because as a reader I’ve always had that challenge. Often when I read I find myself mentally racing ahead, and then I find I haven’t paid enough attention to the details. I can focus when I need to, but it’s a conscious effort. That’s always been the case, long before there was an Internet.
Since I’ve entered my 40’s, my ability to concentrate has definitely diminished. I used to be able to read anything, anywhere – standing in line, listening to music, or on a crowded bus. Now, for a serious literary novel I need silence.
Scientists know that the ability to develop new neural pathways is much different for young children than it is for older folks, which is why kids can pick up technology and languages so much easier. Their brains actually re-map themselves. So it makes sense that younger people (now I sound really old) will be more impacted by reading online than older readers. My brain just isn’t changing as much.
So, if you’re in your 20’s and 30’s, have you seen your ability to read change over the years? Do you have a harder time focusing, reading in a linear, focused way?
And what do you think about the idea of a “slow reading” movement – do we need to put more emphasis on slow or “deep” reading, give ourselves the chance to really savor the words on the page?
I still love reading long, complex novels; they just require a little more work than they did when I was younger. I attribute that to age, not the Internet. Then again, I could be wrong.