I can’t stop thinking about how technology is making me crazy. While riding the bus to NYC recently and thinking about my large, overwhelming reading list on my Kindle, it occurred to me I had to first check email, then look something up online, where I found an article I’d been meaning to read, which led to a twitter and Facebook check, and so on. Before long the tunnel is approaching and I’ve reached my destination without opening my Kindle. Sound familiar?
I know I’m not the only one who suffers from Technostress, a word coined by my client Dr. Larry Rosen in his 1997 book by the same name. Even back then, he writes “The constant stream of incoming and outgoing messages means that businesspeople end up spending more time trying to communicate than actually doing.” In his upcoming book iDisorder he looks into how technology really can dramatically increase the likelihood of exhibiting sometimes severe psychological symptoms related to the stress brought on by technology in our lives. Sure it makes a lot of things better, easier, more efficient and all that, but it also makes us distracted, disengaged, and often unable or unwilling to take a real break which is bad for our bodies and our brains. A piece by Nicholas Carr from The Atlantic a few years back called Is Google Making Us Stupid? talks more about what technology has done to our reading culture, and it’s not good and certainly hasn’t gotten better with time.
So, I’m wondering where your thoughts are as the reading public. Do you think people are reading fewer books because they are more distracted by technology, or are they reading more books because of the ease that technology brings to reading by offering books anywhere, anytime with the click of a button? Do you read more books now than you did 5 years ago? And if you do, is that because of the easier access technology brings to reading? Have your reading habits stayed the same and you still go out to a bookstore or library every time you want to get a new book just as you did before? Or do you read fewer books because, well, there’s just so much else to do? And what about book length? Has a compromised attention span made shorter books more appealing?
Personally, I struggle with it. I read a lot and have to for work, and instead of printing out manuscripts, I now read them on my e-reader, which is great. But, if there’s a new book I want to buy (and I do buy books, often), I usually order a hard copy to have on my shelf or my bedside table.
As far as actually reading the books, and how that’s changed, I am definitely more splintered in my attention and have to be disciplined in planning my reading time—a lot more than before. I think this is in part due to technology trying to draw me back in to the vortex of my digital devices, and in part because I have 4 little kids who demand my time and attention (unless, of course, we give them our iPad which keeps them quiet for hours!). I do my best reading after hours in the comfort of my bed when I’ve put my phone and computer to sleep and can focus on a book or a manuscript, or usually several at once.
I’ll sign off and go grab my Kindle. Manuscripts and proposals beckon; there are books to be read!