Perspectives with Michelle Haines Thomas | June 17

I’ve always been a big reader.

I don’t mean to talk myself up. In fact, I wonder why some people would even think that could be a boast. Reading is not a moral act. It’s not feeding the poor. It’s not standing up to dictators. It’s not even going to the gym.

I’ve even been worried, on occasion, that it’s been something of a harmful addiction. My offspring have all survived childhood (so far), but not necessarily thanks to me, as I may have, now and then, been unable to put my book down while they climbed trees or crossed roads.

But – and I never thought I’d live to see the day – things have changed.

My reading has declined. From a peak of a few books a week for, oh, the last 30 years, I’m down to a book a week, if that, and I think I know why.

I can hardly bring myself to say it...but it’s got something to do with the internet, specifically Facebook, and that smart phone you may be holding in your hand right now.

I think I’m losing the ability to focus for the long stretches that novels require.

I may in fact be losing the ability to focus at all. I’m very easily distracted these days.

What nothing else could manage – babies, jobs, my husband throwing things at my head – social media has achieved.

It’s rewired my reading brain slowly, and now those ‘long reads’ you find on quality news sites are even a little bit daunting, let alone Dostoevsky (because I would totally read Russian literature for fun).

Now I – like, I suspect, many of you – require a dopamine hit every few minutes.

Update! What’s new? Scroll up!

I find myself in a Catch-22 (See! Literary reference. It won’t be long before we don’t know what they all mean...).

I need to stay on Facebook for work, to run my daily life (how would I know if soccer training was cancelled, or what was new on the Buy and Sell site?), and to keep up with friends near and far.

Not to mention being directed to excellent newspaper articles.

But I’m not sure I can live with the neurological consequences...

Wait. What were we talking about again?


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