If time travel and/or prognostication were truly possible, and someone had given me this article when I first started teaching English—way back in 1990—I’m fairly certain I would have had no idea of what it speaks:
“Can you concentrate on Flaubert when Facebook is only a swipe away, or give your true devotion to Mr. Darcy while Twitter beckons?
“People who read e-books on tablets like the iPad are realizing that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks.
“E-mail lurks tantalizingly within reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through a quick Google search. And if a book starts to drag, giving up on it to stream a movie over Netflix or scroll through your Twitter feed is only a few taps away.
“That adds up to a reading experience that is more like a 21st-century cacophony than a traditional solitary activity. And some of the millions of consumers who have bought tablets and sampled e-books on apps from Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble have come away with a conclusion: It’s harder than ever to sit down and focus on reading.”
This appeared in The New York Times this week; and though it has received its fair share of flak for being “a day late and a dollar short,” the concentration of terms was not lost on me.
Facebook. Twitter. E-books. iPad. Tablet. Kindle. Netflix. Apps.
In just 22 years, the face of reading has changed and inspired a whole new vernacular.
A tablet, despite all its promises, does not invite you to linger, to get lost—which is exactly what you hope for your child when he or she turns the pages of a favorite book.
A tablet almost commands you to multitask, to move quickly, to get in and get out. It tempts you to find something else to do if the book you’re reading ceases to please—or becomes too challenging. A tablet contributes to our rapidly shrinking attention spans. It may even be one of the causes.
All this makes me wonder why our world is such that we no longer do just one thing at a time–why we don’t want to, why we can’t.
And it makes me want to keep putting paper books in front of my children for as long as I can—because I know technology will always be there. Sadly, I just don’t think I can say the same thing of books–which, in my humble opinion, are probably one of the few antidotes to our collective inability to focus.
So, yes, in this photo (which was not staged), you see a 1950’s desk, an abacus, and an actual book.
We’re not old-fashioned. Just like with everything else on this journey we call parenthood, we’re hanging on by a thread.