West indian literature

Internet: no substitute for good literature

In a world overloaded with information, Arianna Huffington* says we’re losing the art of deep reading – and that’s very disturbing.

Have you read any good books lately ? Read books at all? If you’re like a growing number of people, the answer is probably no.

A recent Pew Research Center poll found that nearly a quarter of Americans say they have not read a book, or even part of a book., in the last year.

It is believed to be a worldwide trend – at least in the so-called developed countries.

Finding the purpose and mobilizing our attention to read books has never been so difficult. It is deeply disturbing.

It’s not like we don’t take information. In fact, we drown in it.

However, the way we take in information – in loud, fragmented, random bursts – robs us of our attention.

It limits our ability to reflect and reflect deeply, to connect with others and with ourselves, and tap into our wisdom.

According to a Microsoft study, the average human attention span fell to eight seconds, one second less than the attention span of goldfish.

In our defense, however, goldfish do not use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — and… sorry, what was I talking about? I lost my train of thought.

Our new way of assimilating information results in our inability to focus and think deeply, as it also changes the underlying architecture of our brain.

As a professor of education at the University of California, Los Angeles, Maryanne Wolf writes in The Guardianin a world of digital reading and information consumption, our deeper thought processes fade.

“There’s an old rule in neuroscience that doesn’t change with age – use it or lose it,” Professor Wolf writes.

I love to read physical books. I can annotate them in the margins and highlight my favorite passages. As I do, it helps me remember them.

I know you can highlight books online, but for me, that doesn’t match the feeling of pulling a book off my shelves and looking at what I had highlighted maybe last week, maybe be 10 years ago.

It is what allows us to tap into our own wisdom, to connect with the wisdom of the past, to grow and evolve.

As Professor Wolf argues, reading in our noisy, shrinking digital world has made skimming the new norm.

When we skim, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, understand other people’s feelings, perceive beauty and create the reader’s own thoughts, she says.

Deep reading is what allows us to step into the lives and experiences of others, nurturing and expanding our sense of empathy – something lacking these days.

We are faced with a paradox: the technology that connects us to the whole world is the same technology that keeps us drowned in the shallows and disconnects us from ourselves.

Technology has been a lifeline during the pandemic, allowing millions of people to work from home and stay in touch with friends and loved ones.

At the same time, it has produced a “pandemic brain,” that combination of tech overload, stress, and lack of focus that we’ve all experienced for the past couple of years.

The answer to stealing our attention is to steal it back.

Padmasree Warrior, former CTO of Cisco and Motorola, founded Fable, a platform for online book and book clubs.

For Ms. Warrior, reading was her refuge during her childhood in India, but since then she has known how technology has accelerated the pace of our lives and made in-depth reading more difficult.

“Hungry for time and with limited mental energy, we are endlessly scrolling, constantly looking for ways to fill the micro-moments of our busy lives or distract ourselves from the things happening outside our doors,” she writes.

His solution is to “stop ingesting digital trash and start reading a book.”

She thinks reading books, especially fiction, can be “a powerful tool for mental well-being”.

There are even mental health professionals who practice “bibliotherapy,” using reading as an adjunct to other forms of clinical therapy for patients with mental health issues.

In the UK, the non-profit organization, The reader promotes a “shared reading movement” as “a tool to help humans survive and live well”.

The pandemic has been a forced break, giving us time to reflect on what we really value.

It allowed us to see the value of going deeper, of connecting with ourselves in a deeper and more meaningful way.

There is a collective desire to stop living in the slums.

Reading is one of the most powerful — and widely available — antidotes to our harassed and always-on culture of stress and burnout.

We may still not be able to travel freely, but with the books we don’t need to fly or test negative to be transported to another place or another time.

By allowing us to see the world from other perspectives, reading makes it more possible to come together and work collectively to address the great challenges we face.

So grab a book and, for a few hours, trade the shallows for the deep.

*Arianna Huffington is the founder and CEO of Thrive Global; the founder of The Huffington Post, and author of 15 books, including, most recently, Thrive and The Sleep Revolution.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.

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