Forgetting how to read

It’s ironic, but it took me a while to read this article titled, “I have forgotten how to read.”

If you have a chance, I strongly recommend you go read it. But if not, here’s the summary:

Michael Harris, who has written a couple of books (that I haven’t read), thought that because he grew up reading books before the digital age, he’d be immune to the barrage of media dictating how we consume. He was wrong – and reading has become a challenge for him.

I…I relate pretty hardcore to that.

Look at this:

I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures. Online reading is about clicks, and comments, and points. When I take that mindset and try to apply it to a beaten-up paperback, my mind bucks.

Useful. Anything not useful – or, at least, useful to me – is ignored.

In fact, I’ll take it a step further: lately all of the books I’ve been reading – nay, listening to – have been self-help nonfiction. Anything fiction has been in movies or TV shows.

I was not always this way. I used to be the person holed up in her room, re-reading Harry Potter for the 5th time. I had to be coaxed out of my room – and not gently, might I add. Thick tomes didn’t scare me – I bragged about reading Les Miserables and The Count of Monte Cristo.

My parents wanted me to keep the habit, too. “As you get older, you read less,” they told me. “Your siblings don’t read as much anymore, so I’m glad you still read.”

loved my identity as a reader. I owned it. And I didn’t think about whether or not it was useful, I just did it because it made me happy.

But then I got older. I went to college and started reading things with purpose. I experienced a lot of life changes, typically ones that mean “building toward a future” and has no time for anything not useful.

Everything I consume now has to be useful to me. Will this further my career? Will this help me with my relationships and interactions within my network? Will this help me save money? If I don’t read this, am I missing out on knowledge that will benefit me and generations to come? Am I missing out on hidden income, on hidden opportunities? How can I get an edge on my competition?

The irony is, I get stuck in an information overload feedback loop. For all I learn, how much is actually applied? Am I just feeling good about the idea of “learning” things without practically applying them?

These are things I’m chewing on – and I’ll write more about it tomorrow.

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