A few years ago, I noticed that I really enjoyed reading on airplanes and wondered why. After a bit of reflection, I realized that it was because I wasn’t distracted by the temptation to check a device every now and then, allowing reading to be the kind of immersive experience I once took for granted.
Now I make a point of semi-disconnecting every night, sitting down with a novel and a glass of wine, with my computer and phone out of reach. I try to do the same thing when I’m reading for work instead of pleasure, setting my devices aside so that I can read deeply and really think about things, but it’s always a struggle. And I don’t think that I’m alone.
I’m not suggesting something as simplistic as books good, Internet bad. There’s nothing inherently good about books as such – Das Kapitaland Mein Kampf are both books with murderous consequences, and books that obviously did nothing to improve their readers’ critical thinking abilities.
But the capacity for deep reading and deep thinking is a valuable one, and one that is being tossed aside for no particular reason. As Fulford notes, “Universities report that students now avoid signing on for classes in 19th century literature. They realize they can no longer work through Dickens or George Eliot.”