I used to be a reader. When the internet entered my life the digital screen replaced the paper book. Now I scroll, scan headlines, look at pictures and read short snippets of text on my device. I am having difficulty concentrating and focusing while reading. I miss reading! Don’t you?
When was the last time you read – and actually finished – a book? For me it was a month ago. I read the biography of Formula 1 driver Kimi Räikkönen (I love biographies). Then I started a new book, Paolo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ but I haven’t read it for a few weeks now and I still have to finish it. Even though it is a great book and I really enjoy reading it.
I was a reader
If you would ask me to describe myself as a kid I would say ‘a reader’. Yes, I used to be a reader. As a kid I loved reading comics and when I was a little older I discovered books. I read them everywhere: in my bed, in the garden, in the living room, in the car and even on the toilet!
I read books for fun but they also taught me a lot. They taught me about history, the future, the world and the people in it. The books took me places I had never been before. Foreign countries, fantasy worlds and places of the past and the future. I remember standing next to Howard Carter when he opened Tutankhamun‘s tomb. I was one of the few people that survived the highly contagious ‘Captain Crips’ flu in Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ and started a new colony. The books told me stories and I participated in them.
Unfortunately the reading became less and less when technology entered my life. First the homecomputers, then the gameconsoles and later the tablets and smartphones. And with each new ‘technology wave’ the screen became more gorgeous and the reading became less. The digital screens replaced the paper pages. And with it they destroyed my imagination and made me lazy. I did not have to paint a picture in my mind anymore. The screen did it for me.
Okay, now I read on my smartphone and tablet. I scroll and scan headlines, look at pictures and read short snippets of text. When it gets a little hard or boring I just swipe it away and it is gone forever. When there is a difficult subject I look for a video on YouTube that explains it. I really have to force myself to read long articles from time to time. Let alone an actual book.
I miss reading
So, what is the problem? Well, I miss reading! I miss the books that tell me stories, take me to unknown places and introduce me to interesting people. I miss my own imagination, creating places and people. I guess I also miss the fuzzy feeling and the ‘flow’ a great book can get you into. And I miss the great feeling of finishing a difficult book.
Whenever I pick up a book now I struggle to read for more than ten minutes without distraction. My mind wanders and is constantly working in the background: thinking about things to do and wanting to check notifications.
The Google effect
Our attention spans have shortened. Staring at screens for long periods of time changed our brains. When we started using digital technologies, such as the internet we developed a reduced attention span. difficulty concentrating and focusing while reading.
The ‘Google effect’ also damaged our memories. Studies show our brain outsources the task of remembering facts, knowing that most information os only a few keystrokes away. We also retain less information when we read on a screen rather than on paper.
our brains are wired for stories
Retrain your brain to read
The good news is that our brain has a lot of plasticity. That means we can retrain it to make our attention spans longer again. Also, our brains are wired for stories. It is the way we think and learn about the world. We love a good story. In the stone age we told each other stories sitting around the fire. Then we learned to read books. And now we read on our digital devices. And we watch stories on Netflix.
Be a reader again
I want to be a reader again. From now on I will retrain my brain to read. I will switch off my screens and mute my notifications more often and pick up a book. Preferably one with a great story to get lost in.
Join me! Switch off your screen and make time to pick up a book from time to time. Read for yourselves and to your kids. Trust me, you will love it!