I have never been the most disciplined of readers. I read a lot for work, but still, less than I should and less than I would like. But lately, I have felt that I am losing the ability to read for joy and I am trying to work out what is going on.
I think it has something to do with the way in which I consume other forms of text, specifically, social media. I have perfected the art of skimming through words and lost the patience for slow reading, the kind of reading that demands that you paint a picture in your head and which requires you to start painting again if your mind wanders.
With social media texts, whether they are words, images, or videos, we are never compelled towards such discipline. We are, instead, nurtured to discipline our habit of continually scrolling through more content. If we stop, then we feel we are missing something important. When reading books, it is the opposite. If we don’t stop, we miss everything.
I have often been troubled by the idea that I may live my life having never read the world’s greatest literature and, even more, that my own writing always fail to do anything useful because it has never been informed by having done so.
I worry also that my capacity to experience interest in such works has diminished, as my skill of skimming through the world has grown.
These effects are the more troublesome consequences of our digital era.
The more time we spend scrolling through the world’s ideas, the less time and inclination we have to discover those aspects of the world that demand a completely different approach, an approach that used to be the only option