By Philip Yancey

The Internet and social media have trained my brain to read a paragraph or two, and then start looking around. When I read an online article from the Atlantic or the New Yorker, after a few paragraphs I glance over at the slide bar to judge the article’s length. My mind strays, and I find myself clicking on the sidebars and the underlined links. Soon I’m over at reading Donald Trump’s latest tweets and details of the latest terrorist attack, or perhaps checking tomorrow’s weather.

13 thoughts on “The death of reading is threatening the soul

  1. I use to try to limit my time with the powerful screen taking a toll on the eyes. Now one of the cats lets me know when she thinks I’ve been on too long. We go read a book together…

  2. The virtual world has apparently taken toll over the real world of ours.
    Even I am guilty of the fact that before reading anything, I, mostly, check the length of the article/ write-up first.

      • And I am so bad in it, in writing something short. Writing less is just not my forte; it either has to be huge or nothing at all; I dwell in the extremes, I guess. I don’t even like to try something short- short for me means anything lesser than 800. 😀
        Punctuation- well some try to compensate for the disobedient behavior of many. 😉

      • I have no problem with writing longer projects. I write short stories, poetry and have published one novel and a non-fiction biography. Writing short short stories – like 50 word stories – is a discipline in its own right and one I admire because I think it can stimulate the imagination. The real issue today is whether we’ve lost the ability to allow our minds to be stimulated by the written word? Do we need visual stimuli now to fire our imagination and do words not cut the mustard anymore? Things change, after all. Moving pictures are less than 150 years old. The use of computers and smart phones has altered our perception, too, never mind how we communicate. We can must ask ourselves what gets lost in the change, though? For example, emojis, really? Or when people started using email first, there was a general consensus that writing with CAPITALS amounted to ‘shouting.’ That consensus was part of a communication etiquette. Now look at how many capitalised posts you can read on Facebook. If a language loses its structure than surely its ability to communicate is diminished too? Sorry for going on about this but it is a pet subject of mine.

      • Oh no problem!
        All of us have our pet subjects and I am glad, even though unintentionally, I touched your touch-me-not nerve; otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to read this.😃
        Writing short-stories (50-100 words) is a task for me. I had tried only once for a competition and luckily crafted 3 100-word stories. They were fun and work at the same time. In fact, I learnt writing short is tougher than writing long. You have so much to say but word-limit has the leash.

        For me, written words still act as the stimulator. They do a big time.
        Of course, with time a lot has changed and a lot will; some for good, some for bad.

        But emojis, if used properly, are the saviours of today’s world. As those who aren’t good with words (and we have to agree that many aren’t) have emojis to their rescue. Though a lot of them are pissing too.

        As far as language’s structure is considered- not every change (I know you have written losing structure) is a disaster. Is it? If done right, maybe that change turns out to be an evolution (in a good way.)

  3. Eons ago when I was younger, comic books were read by all. Then all of a sudden a ban was put on them. They were bad for the mind. We would never understand other words only “pow, bam, ouch. They will never learn to read. They can only read books. And that was the start of generations loosing interest in reading. Now a days when you pick up a comic book you also need a dictionary on some of the words. If a you are interested in reading a comic book, a book with pictures and words, a book of poetry, etc why stop them! THEY ARE READING!
    Now I will get off my soap box!😏

    • I agree entirely. I read to my daughters when they were six months old just as my father read Mickey Spillane books to me when I was five years old. There were comics called Classics Illustrated when I was a kid and that’s how I read about Hiawatha when I was four and almost got arrested, when I was 12, because the Chinese government sent me a crate of The Quotations of Chairman Mao Tse Tung when I was 12.

  4. What an interesting reply. Anything that allows people to express their thoughts is always commendable but to allow emojis to compensate for illiteracy is hardly and equal distribution. Previous ages sufficed by communicating with pictographs but they were self devised. I suppose I’m suspicious of anything devised by computers, since they are now the device that can determine our needs, wants and wishes, perhaps even before we conceive of them. That, if anything, is the root of my ‘touch me not’ nerve, as you’d so eloquently have it.
    Short prose is a rigorous discipline.
    My professional training has been as a journalist and 15 years of that was as a freelance. To use a nautical phrase, one learns to trim one sail to survive. So, when 100, 1,000 or 5,000 words are required, you deliver precisely to order.
    Equally, if you can say something in five words you’ve already written in ten, lose those useless five to tell the story better.
    Poetry, I find, is a medium I use that can better express my feelings and with fewer words since they are chosen more carefully.
    Fiction prose is the vehicle of my imagination. Short or flash fiction prose is both a stimulus and a discipline. Have you ever engaged in a collaborative creative writing project?
    I conducted one in my blog, prompted by a book I found in a charity shop, a book of children’s poetry by Shel Silverstein. In the inner sleeve there was a curious message and a collage of images. I invited people to write poetry, prose or post a picture, inspired by this book and message. It was fun and interesting. I called it Flax Golden Tales. Look it up. I had a thought I might do the same with a 50 word story. Written, then passed on, it’s up to the next person to add to it. Now if the group participating is say, five strong, then by the time it returns to the original author, it’s 250 words long. Do you think a story can be told this way?

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