Have you noticed it? I find it happening to myself. People today are too busy, too tired and too distracted to read. I have a pile of non-fiction books, mainly on theological topics, which I want to read. I longingly stare at them on my bookshelf and promise myself, this weekend or during the next holidays when I have more time. Then promptly power-up one of my electronic devices and spend the next few hours watching YouTube or playing video games. If I read at all it will be a novel, something that helps me escape this world. I find myself to tired or to blasé, to grapple with the big ideas in these books.
However I am still reading and reading a lot. It's just that I'm not reading books. My default reading tends to be social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and short blog articles. Part of this is because it's my job to do this but during my breaks I'm reading short articles from my favourite websites. Content is being consumed and in large quantities but the content is casual, relevant and viral. It is generated by my peers, ambiguous and filled with slang and acronyms with which you need to be 'initiated' into net speak in order to understand. The punctuation is terrible or non-existant and the spelling is atrocious. I find myself consuming titbits of information, rather than 'well prepared meals' of information. My attention span seems to be decreasing and I am living in a culture of distraction.
In an article on the Desiring God website called Get Alone Undistracted the following comments are made which I find highly relevant to my situation.
The Internet is constantly working to make us highly impatient people. We want to go on to the next thing now, immediately. It cannot be too soon before we move on. We are allowing ourselves to be shaped by this culture of distraction.
We are losing the capacity for attention, by which I mean the ability to focus on something and to think about it.
The average person shifts tasks every three minutes. Half the time we interrupt ourselves!
How ironic was it that that after reading the preceding statement (in above image) I noticed a Twitter symbol and found out that by hovering over the symbol it offered you the ability to tweet the quote. Which I did and then promptly starting ripping apart the html in order to see how they did this, and then doing a web search on how I could add something similar to my website... Hah! It took me nearly 10 minutes to notice what I had done, where I had gone and sheepishly come back to the article to finish reading it.
One of the 5 remedies for this malady that is affecting us and making us highly impatient people is to discipline ourselves by reading books. "We need to keep exercising our minds by reading, because it exercises our minds to understand sentences and follow narratives."
If you take the time to read the whole article, which I hope you do, you will notice that even though it address how this culture of distractions affects Christians, it also mentions that this is not unique to Christians. The author and his guests go on to outline five takeaways on how to protect our time and attention to focus and help us survive life in this new Technopolis.
I highly recommend this article, I found it profoundly insightful.
You can find the whole article along with the 5 takeaways here: desiringgod.org/articles/get-alone-undistracted