Nicholas Carr, in The Shallows, argues that he has transformed from an English Major who found comfort in libraries and books to a middle aged man who finds it difficult to concentrate on a long-form news article. He states that all this on-demand succinct information, courtesy of the internet, has transformed the wiring of his brain to require that on-demand nature of all content consumed. He quotes disparaging lit professor who can’t get her students to read full books anymore.
Two things. First, since when have students ever read everything cover to cover? Yes, Wikipedia and Spark Notes have made it easier to avoid the work. No arguments here. But it’s a Hallmark of students everywhere to do as little work as possible to yield the most results. Second, I found myself frustrated Carr’s assertions. As an English major myself, I spent an inordinate amount of time studying diction and craft, poetry and fiction. That’s not to suggest I’m never guilty of occasional skimming (like I said, it’s a Hallmark, plus I’m a notoriously slow reader), but I like words. I like taking time to process what I’m reading. I appreciate a tight, gorgeous sentence. (How you doin’, Shakespeare?)
Concentrating can require work. Generally, I need to have classical music playing to drown out distractions so I can dive in, and once I do, I can get properly lost in what I’m reading. Of course, now I have to wonder if I’m just the exception to the rule.