A lot of people below the age of 30 find it extremely difficult to read anymore. I mean read books, newspapers, periodicals. Even now, basic education up till college is still based on books (thankfully) so you have no choice but to read. But once you are past that stage, very few people actually read out of choice.
Since these days, all information and news and entertainment is available in the audio/visual format via the internet or mobiles or computers, that has become the default means of engaging with information. One would assume that with so much information and content available at our fingertips, we would all actually become smarter than the previous generation – but thats not the case. We are actually becoming less smart and mentally lazy.
The problem we have is not about “reading” , its about concentration. Technology around us is now designed to disrupt our attention span. We do not realize how much of our attention and concentration has been hijacked on a daily basis, until you actually actually start paying attention to the process.
We are bombarded with advertising and messages and news from the time we wake up till the time we sleep. Companies and media are fighting for our attention everywhere – our mobile screens, advertising on the streets, shops, hoardings, billboards, our browsers, our radio stations, the products we use and buy. Every moment our attention is being hijacked whether we realise it or not. As a result, we have unconsciously become used to our concentration being broken every few minutes and our minds have become habituated to it. So much so that if we dont find disruption in our attention span , we actively create it ourselves.
This is happening not just to adults but children as well. In a survey in which 7 year old kids were observed watching Youtube on laptops, it was found that most of the kids did not watch the video in full-screen mode. The reason was that while the video was playing they wanted to be able to scroll down the suggested list of videos on the right side of the page. This just goes to show that even watching a single video was too much concentration for them – they wanted to break that concentration by scrolling other videos.
Reading requires a very strong amount of concentration and mental effort for an extended period of time. It is hard work – at least until you make it a habit. But even after it has become a habit, if you give it up for a couple of months, you will find it difficult to come back to it, because it will again seem like a lot of effort.
So do we still need the ability to read in today’s day and age? The answer is yes and its not just about reading books but reading anything – even Wikipedia. Reading exercises your concentration and a host of other mental faculties. The mind has a lot of muscles and if you dont use those muscles they will become weak, similar to the muscles of your body.
The inability to focus and concentrate leads to impatience, boredom and shallow thinking. These in turn will lead to other mental and emotional problems. Your effectiveness as a human being is strongly dependent on both your mind and body functioning at an optimum level. That kind of effectiveness does not come out of making things easier for yourself. You have to find ways to put in effort and push yourself.
Technology will make you stupid and lazy before you even realize it. You have to take steps to not become a physical and mental vegetable. Reading is just one of the ways.
(Featured photo by Toa Heftiba)