[responsive][/responsive]We’ve forgotten how to read. Or, more precisely, we have lost much of our ability to comprehend what we read, thanks to our online reading habits.
Digital media, by its very nature, is designed to make us dig deeper, but not in the linear fashion that enhances comprehension. Rather it’s created to be as interruptive as possible, with links, banner ads, graphics, product placements, native ads and so many other distractions.
According to The Washington Post, “serious” reading has taken a huge hit from online skimming and clicking.
“Humans, [cognitive neuroscientists warn], seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online,” writes Michael S. Rosenthal. “This alternative way of reading is competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia.”
And with time spent online expected to rise (according to 2013 eMarketer research), the problem is likely to get worse.
To put the problem into practical terms, Rosenthal quotes one of the world’s top experts on the subject as she relates her recent attempt to read a Herman Hesse novel after a day filled with emails and online work.
“I’m not kidding: I couldn’t do it,” said Maryanne Wolfe, a cognitive neuroscientist at Tufts University. “It was torture getting through the first page. I couldn’t force myself to slow down so that I wasn’t skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself.”
I’ll admit to having the same trouble when I’m attempting to digest something that’s more than a couple hundred words.
What’s the solution? According to one industry pundit, pick up something printed for a change.
“A plethora of studies have shown our brain is designed to read in a linear fashion, so whether it is diving into classic Hemingway, leisurely reading the New York Times Sunday Edition or breaking out the guilty pleasure of diving into old Green Lantern comics all these things allows us to pull away from the distractions of our modern world,” writes Clark Hudmon in Komori.
“So while I appreciate how technology has helped make our lives more convenient, it is that step back to print that really allows us to form that bond with what we are reading. I can imagine you are juggling reading this blog with however many other pages you have up on your screen. I just hope we all remember to get lost from all the distractions and instead of opening a new page in Internet Explorer, we take the time revel in the printed page of whatever captures our curiosity,” Hudmon notes.
We couldn’t agree more.