A transatlantic debate is currently raging about whether a decade of staring at computer screens, sending emails and text messages, and having our research needs serviced instantly by Google and Wikipedia, has taken a terrible toll on our attention, until our brains have been reconfigurated and can no longer adjust the tempo of our mental word-processing to let us read a book all the way through. ... The average-length novel is too much of a stretch for the time-challenged, multi-tasking, BlackBerry-prodding "entertainment consumer" to ontemplate reading, let alone the 700-page biography of VS Naipaul or Edith Wharton. Not because of the size of books, but because of the thought processes they contain.This piece by John Walsh in the Independent (pictured below) has been preying on my mind over the last week or so. Is it true that our internet us is shortening our attention spans alarmingly to the extent that we cannot read as effectively as we could before? (That reading skills are changing in the internet age is something we have, of course, discussed before.)
My page-hopping- hyperlink clicking-YouTube-downloading self wonders if it might be true ... and doesn't necessarily want to hear the answer.
These days I have to make it a point to get right away from the screen (which actually means leaving the house least my itchy fingers draw me back to the keyboard!) for extended stretches of time so that I can get some serious (book) reading done. I don't know why, but I feel that I am finding focusing on the written word off-screen harder ... hitherto I'd put it down to senility creeeping in! And I thought it was just me!
But in excellent piece (which honestly, you must read) called Is Google Making Us Stupid? in the Atlantic Monthly, Nicholas Carr writes :
When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon.So friends, how are your heads these days?