Ever since the first day the discrete alphabet transformed into a fluid language before my eyes, I have been obsessed with reading. Books shape my life.
Ayn Rand’s 1368 page magnum opus is my latest reading material. Something interesting has been happening that I feel compelled to share. Midway through online articles, I find myself stopping with a single thought – I would rather be reading about Francisco d’Anconia than this person’s fantastic speculation of my industry’s future plans.
At first, I laughed at this thought in my mind. But then I actually began to worry.
Not since University days, can I honestly remember the pull of a paperback overpowering what’s new on the Net. This was never something that bothered me before. It was easily shrugged off as a trivial consequence of our time. Digital citizens read digital words, I told myself. Kindle clobbers the hardcover, I wanted to believed.
But I can’t anymore.
Rand’s words came at me like a cold shower after a technological hangover. She forced me to reflect on my life. My values. What type of person I want to become. There is an old saying: “We are what we read.” I would take it a step further: “We are not only what we read – we are how we read.”
The time I spend reading on the web, negatively affects my ability to concentrate. Plain and simple. My mind is getting trained to take in information the way the web distributes it: as a swiftly moving stream of packets.
When I read online, I feel like my primary goal is to consume, “to catch”, as much information as possible. Real-time and efficiency is placed above quality. When I do find quality, after only a few minutes of sustained reading, I’ve lost focus. Even when I return to paper, too often, I find myself looking for Blackberry’s incoming message light.
Now that I’m conscious of this, I’m trying to combat the effects. Whenever possible, I’m reading thick classics (fiction) instead of the latest blogs. And when I do find something worth reading online, I use Instapaper to take it offline for monotasking. Ignoring my rational conclusion isn’t an option anymore: The depth of my thoughts are tied directly to the intensity of my attentiveness and my ability to focus.
I do believe that going offline matters.