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I have forgotten how to read (theglobeandmail.com)
195 points by prostoalex 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 98 comments



I don't know why he writes so universally.

>"digital technologies are training us to be more conscious of and more antagonistic toward delays of all sorts."

Indeed and this is why I read: I just don't have the patience for video, much less (shudder) audio. With a book there's no gap between word and image, and the book flows at the speed I want (I can always skip ahead, or linger, or jump back to that previous spot). While a video is forcably linear (not to mention all the buffering, startup delays, and ads).

A tweetstorm requires so much cognitive overhead to follow (since each one is a discrete sentence or two with a large gap to move your eye down to the next one). You have to maintain so much context from the previous tweet while searching for the next one it's hard to actually absorb anything.

Frankly the biggest problem with reading is bingeing. You come up for air hours later with a crick in your neck and wonder where the day went.


> Indeed and this is why I read: I just don't have the patience for video, much less (shudder) audio.

Both video as well as audio can have a function but neither of them replaces written text. Video can be useful as an addition to written text in the same way that a practical demonstration adds to a lecture. Audio fills a niche all of its own since you can listen - or half-listen - to it while doing other things. As long as these sources are used in addition to a written original or base document nothing of value is lost. If video is the only source I tend to assume that the narrator does not have that much to say and skip it. If audio is the only source - as often is the case with lectures or panel discussions - I sometimes listen to it while I prepare food or build on the house or do something else which requires partial attention. I might skip back in the audio stream every now and then to catch something which went by half-heard the first time but as this is much more tedious than re-reading a paragraph in a written text the format is not a replacement for it.


Agreed on all counts. I generally skip "it's all in the video" unless it's a very high quality production.

For tweetstorms, threadreaderapp.com is a life-saver.


What is it you are hoping to find in a tweetstorm that you would want to read through all of it? There is rarely any outcome worth digging.


Not true. There are several people I follow who post long threads of 50 or more tweets and the cumulative content is often excellent. It's annoying, however, because the content would be better presented, more easily consumed, and far more permanent/substantial if they would just write it in essay form and post it to Medium or some other blog. I don't know why they persist in misusing Twitter.


Fair point. I mostly get to these because someone I trust has pointed to them. I don't go through my feed (ever, really), but certainly not to find worthwhile tweetstorms. Life is too short.


In case it helps—there are browser extensions, at least for Firefox and Chrome, that allow you to make videos play faster. I use "Video Speed Controller"; it has hotkeys to increase/decrease speed in units of 10%, to jump back and forth by 10 seconds (and all the above numbers and keys are customizable), and more; I think it works on any HTML5 video, including Youtube. The audio speedup is well done; I don't think it makes it harder to understand except insofar as I have less time to process it. I often view videos at 1.4x to 1.8x speed, and I have friends who say they go faster.


YouTube itself already has speed controls, if I'm learning technical content I generally watch at 2.0x.

Unless the presenter has an accent I don't hear often, in which case I usually need to slow down quite a bit. Or if they're not a very good presenter, with mumbling or odd pacing or issues like that.

With text I don't have to slow down as much to correct bad spelling/grammar, since I've seen so much of it. You lose any emotion or emphasis but you gain resilience when communicating across cultures.


AFAIK YouTube doesn't have single key shortcuts to jump to fixed speeds. You can speed up and slow down with '>' and '<', which I find less convenient because it's easier to set the wrong speed. You can also skip back and forward by 5 seconds with the left and right arrow keys, which is convenient when you're watching at 2x speed and you miss something.


> YouTube doesn't have single key shortcuts to jump to fixed speeds.

True, that would be nice to have.

> You can speed up and slow down with '>' and '<', which I find less convenient because it's easier to set the wrong speed.

Really? Given the two options I would rather have relative controls rather than absolute for playback speed. 2.0x with Speaker A might sound like 1.6x with Speaker B, due to their different cadences, accents and mannerisms.

> You can also skip back and forward by 5 seconds with the left and right arrow keys, which is convenient when you're watching at 2x speed and you miss something.

This is definitely available on YouTube by default. Don't know the skip length off the top of my head though, it might be higher or lower.


I find the best way to watch most movies is on 2X with close captioning enabled. this doesn't work that well on youtube, where most videos lack CC, and many web players don't support this either.


the quote was from Nicholas Carr though, from The Shallows. The point of that book was to be universal. It was to try and suss out the ways that digital technology is affecting us. He engages with quite a bit of neuroscience to do precisely that. I hate to be that guy....but you're kind of making his point for him here. The part specifically made about skimming and surface interpretation ( "His" being Carr's, and the point being from The Shallows).


There's nothing wrong with being "that guy" -- this is a discussion.

Regardless of Carr's thesis, Harris quotes two of Carr's comments, without providing additional context, to make his own point. And that point is made through broad quotes from Eric Schmidt, McLuhan (a more hopeful quote actually though Harris doesn't expand on it), Shirkey et al.

My point was simply that although his title was that he has stopped reading, and feels that he is now perhaps unable to read anything with any depth, his text tries to argue a more universal claim.


Indeed. I've been online for over 30 years, and I can still read. Admittedly, though, I've come to prefer Stover, Abercrombie, Morgan and other violence porn. But hey.

And I also don't have the patience for audio and video. I'd maybe like audio if I commuted. But I don't. And hard music is better for that, in any case.


I spend between 4-7 hours commuting a week and around 5 hours a week exercising. That's up to 12 hours a week I can use to listen to podcasts or listen to audiobooks. I find the type of prolonged reading incredibly unproductive.


Unless you're a slow reader ;)


Well true, I wasn't claiming universality (was criticizing the original author) and was instead saying things are different for me.

Sure, some people of course have physiological restrictions on their reading ability, even if they have 20/20 vision (e.g. dyslexia for reading systems that exhibit that). But it appears to be pretty well attested at this point that reading exploits properties of the early visual system as well as deep-rooted higher level functions like looking for regular convex forms (perhaps for seeking animal tracks). It also may be the case that interpretation of 3D scenes (including for people without stereoscopic vision in their early visual system -- about 15% of the population) is innate while interpretation of 2D images is learned, even (or perhaps especially) moving images. Which would seem to imply that the more you read the faster and more automatic it becomes.

It's not at all clear that a slow reader is any faster at absorbing and integrating/using information picked up in video.

Of course personal tastes come in here too. I'm not claiming one is inherently superior, just claiming there may be deeper integration between the brain and reading than your average third grade teacher is going to consider.


My thoughts can be summarized as follows: You'd watch a video on how to build a fire before you read a book on the subject. And you'd be smart to read a book at your own pace.

Like any art, the medium matters.


I'd read written instructions first, possibly including clarifying diagrams. I'd continue to a video if the written instructions were insufficiently clear. Video is almost never my medium of first resort; it's intuitive, but inflexible.


Anecdotally, I kind of agree with the author. I used to spend whole days as a kid just reading books, sometimes staying up very late to finish them. I don't know if its because my life has just gotten busier, my attention span has gotten shorter, or a combination of the two, but I'm finding it much more difficult to first pick up and crack open a book, then read it all the way through. I do this a lot lately: I will hear about a book I on a topic I find very interesting, Ill read about a quarter of it, amd almost always never pick it up again. Fiction, non Fiction, it doesnt matter the subkect nor the interest level, I inevitably stop reading it. I think it comes down to a few factors, though. The only times now where I can really read through a whole book is when I'm on vacation, usually a long ways away from my home and job. So I'm assuming the short attention span is probably stress/exhaustion related, and at the end of a day or on the weekends I just dont feel I have the energy to pick up and finish a book. And this goes on and on until Ive forgotten about the book I was reading. Anyone else feel the same way? (Sorry for any grammatical errors, I'm typing this from my phone.)


Or maybe your "wasted hours" reading a book have turned into "wasted hours" online. Who's to saw which is less wasteful. There is something unique about actually reading a book though, just like there's something unique about it being an actual book, not a ebook. Though these things are hard to classify.


> Who's to saw which is less wasteful.

Me, based on what I gain from each experience. Although of course in that case I'm only speaking on the wastefulness of what I do with my own time.


I used to read a lot as a kid too, and also into my teenage and college years. But after a certain point in college my reading diminished until the current point at which I won't even open a programming book anymore.


Weirdly, the same thing happened to me with video games.


Yes! Which (to me) reaches the article author's bewilderment about "cynical" / "utilitarian" reading: it's now very rare that I get immersed in a game. My now frequent attitude when gaming is more distanced, I'm not in the game but more observant of the game, sometimes judging it and often wanting to finish the game and be done with it, in a similar "utilitarian" way, rather than enjoying the experience. Which utterly defeats the purpose of the time-consuming experiences to be lived that games are, right?! It feels kinda sad.

One might say my interest for games may simply have faded, or that I now know what I like and what I don't, and am less tolerant about what I don't like. Maybe.


Do you read same-length books as you read as a kid? I was recently buying kids books and realized how short they are compared to the ones adults are supposed to read. Less pages, smaller size, bigger font, more space between lines all combine. Also, I read some old novels I downloaded from Guttenberg and generally speaking, they were shorter then more modern stuff. There might be some bias in terms of what I have chosen of course.

But yes, it is the same. Long book needs to be read without too much breaks and you need to read long stretches of time at once to really enjoy it. If you are tired from work, which you are unless you are slowly slacking on the job, you have less energy in the evening to absorb something long or difficult.


I usually got through 10-15 novels a year, reading before bed and during my son's naps during the weekend. It's mostly fiction, with some history thrown in. It's been a year or two since I last abandoned a book. I don't like doing it, so I usually muddle through anyhow.

But I definitely know the urge to drop it, forget about it, and find something else to do. On my most exhausted nights, I'll halfheartedly read a page or two (if I'm lucky) and put the book down.


What if it’s a function of age, rather than amount of tech we’re exposed to?

For example, I feel younger people are able to focus for longer periods of time on reading long form texts, and an older person may benefit more from finding specific sections from a longer work that they may find interesting or useful that they can read.

As you age there is much more repetition in things than you are consuming. Maybe it’s not bad to be filtering out certain repetitions while hopefully not filtering out things that go against any personal biases.

Furthermore, the books I’m interested in reading now I feel require more time, maybe even a year or two, whereas when I was younger I was really interested in reading massive amounts just for the sake of it.


As a young person (high school) I can assure you that this is most probably false.


Young adults read the most books, statistically. It is biggest market. They read less then previous generation used to read at their age, but they still read more then previous generation reads now.


In fact, the opposite might be more true - kids growing up these days with worse attention spans than the previous generation


Absolutely. When I was a kid, I'd skip tutorials, I'd skip text in RPGs. I just wanted to get to the ACTION.

As I'm older, I'm actually able to sit down and appreciate slower-form / long-form RPGs with lots of text that adds the real texture to the graphics--which only really form a symbolic / tactical representation of the world, and the flavors, the smells, all come from text. In many ways, the game mechanics of most games are all the same and the flavor is what sets them apart.

Exile 3: Ruined World for example. (And the two remakes Avernum 1 and 2 series.) Are legendary for their novel length text and story.

When I was a kid, I spent my time playing with character options, trying out new diseases (more diseases = less XP per level--neat idea) and skipping texts to explore. But then I'd always get stuck at some point because I missed a key piece of text when I skimmed

(That's actually one "game sin" I hate in many games. If you're going to have important text buried in tons of flavor text, COLOR or EMPHASISE IT. The last thing you want is a player who gets tired one night, skips ONE line that was important, and then hates your game because they're frustrated without information they should have had.)


The author is lamenting short attention spans, something people have been complaining about since the advent of radio at least. The author can read and write perfectly well, he just finds reading book boring. Conflating interest with literacy is at least a novel (no pun intended) way to make it seem like the author has something interesting to say about the world. I'm sure sitting too close to the TV and not respecting our elders enough will be the end of us all, too.


There's a more subtle point in the article about how digital media have trained us to be less tolerant of delays, more impatient for new information. How often have you gone to a website on a whim, but clicked "back" after waiting 2s for the page to load? -- Nevermind, it wasn't important... I haven't got all day, what's next in my feed?...

This reflexive aversion to interruptions and delays make prolonged focus more difficult. Maybe you don't experience it, but I do, and like the author of this article I notice it most when I try to read a book.


I devoured books growing up but a couple of years ago I suddenly realised that I hadn't read a book purely for pleasure in a long, long time. I mean years long.

I set myself a habit of 30 minutes each night before bed of reading fiction (because to me it's more pleasurable.)

It's wonderful and I really enjoy losing myself in other characters and their situations. It's not as visceral as movies or TV but a much deeper experience.

It was a big struggle though, but the immersion did get easier with prolonged practice. If I miss a night now I actually feel like I've missed out. I stress that it was a conscious and deliberate effort over several months before it even started to feel natural and effortless again.


I have to agree with the parent poster. In my adulthood, as my responsibilities have grown, I found that I had no time or patience for reading anymore. As it turns out, I just needed to develop an appropriate level of discipline to make reading happen in my new context.

There have always been distractions and there always will be. Excusing ourselves as some kind of lost generation is incorrect and not helpful.


> [...] but clicked "back" after waiting 2s [...]

This is not a new phenomenon. 2 seconds is already well within the "users/viewers tapering off" band in the Nielsen thresholds.[0] The Nielsen study formulated the usability latencies in early 90's, but the effects of measurable delays have been known at least from the 70's.

The moment you're above 1 second, you're making your users wait for something to happen. Apply power law to get an estimate how many are getting annoyed and giving up.

To make things even worse, keep in mind how horrible the mobile internet latencies are for connection handshakes. It's not impossible to have a base latency of ~700ms for any new connection. That leaves you with no more than 300ms to actually serve the content. And for the mobile device to render it...

0: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/response-times-3-important-...


Except that phenomenon is far more attenuated by interaction and the complexity of the medium. I'd argue; to the point perhaps of being an almost new phenomenon.


I find myself disagreeing with you. You are right about this being driven by interaction, and humans needing to see that something is happening. But even if your application responds with "processing request", you have - at best - reset the timer.

If it takes longer than one second from the reset for the data to be shown, the user is again entering the "is this slow or broken?" time band.

The Nielsen thresholds appear to be fundamental to human nature, and I would be surprised if we have somehow managed to teach humanity to be less impatient over the past few decades. If anything, the dopamine-hit fueled online systems have taught the users to expect even more immediate feedback.


I have this exact distraction issue if I try and read on my iPhone or my iPad. I'm 99% sure I could avoid the issue if I read paper books but I very rarely do that; I've avoided it by reading almost exclusively on my kindle paperwhite.

No YouTube app, no Twitter/Slack/Email/etc notifications bothering me. No "I'll just go check the news/stocks for a second."

The fact that I have to physically put down the kindle to do anything else but read creates a physical barrier that I can easily recognize and allows me to mentally avoid most interruption.


>Author Nicholas Carr ( The Shallows) writes that, "digital technologies are training us to be more conscious of and more antagonistic toward delays of all sorts." We become, "more intolerant of moments of time that pass without the arrival of new stimuli." So, I throw down the old book, craving mental Tabasco sauce. And yet not every emotion can be reduced to an emoji, and not every thought can be conveyed via tweet.

I read for the reason the author says he can't read. I cannot stand wasting time and I read significantly faster than people speak. For this reason I prefer to read textbooks over watching lectures and I read books instead of watching tv shows. Written news is more accurate and faster to consume than televised news. The only exception I can think of is books that are adapted into movies but that generally comes at the cost of the movie being drastically different from the book.


I haven't. Neither has my 13yo daughter, she seems to do nothing but read. I tend to read on my phone, she reads mostly paper books. When I read on my phone I... read. I don't get distracted as the thing is usually in flight mode due to it being late, no bleeps or bloops, no silly animations, just black on white (day) or white on black (night) text.

Reading, and reading books, does not depend on actual paper books. It depends on the level of interest the reader has in doing just that, reading. Someone who reads to kill a dull moment might be easily distracted but that is true whether that person reads from paper or from a screen of some sorts. This was true back when the only option was paper as well, it is just that distraction is easier to come by for those who seek it.


For anyone else who gets distracted by the "famous study" mentioned: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/07/people-pr...


Well lots of people are still reading books.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/10/19/slightly-few...

The number seems to be holding steady in the low to mid 70% of the population reading at least one book per year.

Further, the MOST likely readers are 18-29 (as of 2015)

The follow up Pew study in 2016 showed similar trends.

Neat human interest/hot take, I guess? But the reality doesn't seem to match with the author's experience.


I find this silly to the point of absurdity. I spend far too much time online, read laterally as much as vertically, and have no trouble reading books. I spend 1-2 hours a day reading books of all sorts and have never noticed this attention gathering issue. My kids, who grew up online, also read books and do not seem to have this issue. My granddaughter, who interacts with the Internet mostly through voice at this point (yes, my son has one of those devices and it is interesting to ask her what she thinks she is talking to when she has a conversation with Google) is also quite able to sit down and read a book and spends about an hour reading to herself most days. I don't think any of us are special. I think this is an invented claim being used to make a polemical point.


I could not read the entire article to much filler to much jargon. For the same reason that my patience for books have gone down.

My patience for text that is not relevant to the message have definetly gone down.

I find that it is the same with video or really any media. make it concise and keep to the point don't try to impress me with words.


Reading is a skill like any other. Ignore it for long enough and you get worse as it atrophies. I read a book a month or so and a fair bit of longform text on the web. I'm as engaged as I was when I was young, going hours at a time if I need to.


I don't read. However I go on walks and listen to an hour long podcast or an audiobook the entire time. Audiobooks and podcasts are continually growing in popularity. Is this somehow worse than reading?


I'd say it's at least different from reading. A book on tape just plays generally, it's streaming information to you. It's kind of like UDP. A book on the other hand is more like TCP. If I miss a point, don't understand something, or am going through a difficult to understand part I can slow my reading pace, or just pause reading and let my mind digest this information. Of course you can hit pause on a podcast or audio book, but I don't think most people do this.


How do you make a note? Underline a phrase or mark a page? Refer someone to a certain passage of the book? When you want to find something, what's the equivalent of a table of contents or index or skimmint through pages? How do you return to the phrase five paragraphs ago that, hearing a certain sentence at present, you realise that you actually misunderstood, and now are confused about the story/subject/topic/&c?

Nothing wrong with listening to podcasts or audiobooks per se, but it's nowhere near reading when it comes to fruitful interaction with a source of information, and to transmission of knowledge. Written/printed/digital text is the biggest, most important invention, ever.


> Underline a phrase or mark a page?

It's so deeply ingrained in me that this is something you do not do that it feels like sacrilege or blasphemy when I see books that are defaced like that. It's not exactly rational, but it's almost impossible to shake at this point. I don't think even my college books have a line of highlighter in them, although there's more than a few sticky notes lurking.


Fermat tends to disagree. I prefer taking notes and quoting phrases on a separate paper block because I want my notes searchable and easily organisable, but I'm okay with writing notes or making marks on a book as long as it's mine.


The (article's) author was talking about Proust and friends: that kind of reading is something you really just want to wash over you. If you're taking notes you're either taking a class, teaching a class or not enjoying it very much.


I wasn't responding to the article's author, and the second affirmation of yours is completely subjective and myopic. I very often take notes from my favourite books, even if it's completely leisure reading. Sometimes there's a nice phrase I want to remember, or a mention of a very interesting thing that I want to know more about later.


Audiobooks are a huge win when commuting on the subway. When walking, changing lines, or not having a seat, you can continue to listen, whereas with a book you’d frequently have to stop.

And for all those driving cars they’re also a huge win.


You retain more when you read a book than listen to audio.


you appear to read HN...


I can still concentrate on written matter and read fairly normally as far as I can tell. I read a lot and I occasionally read something like a thriller novel in one 6-8 hour sitting, or maybe a 4 hour sitting + a 3 hour sitting, something like that. The biggest "problem" I have in regards to reading, is having too many books "in flight" simultaneously, and interleaving my reading. According to my Goodreads account, I have 31 books in the "currently reading" state right now. Of course some of those are actually in a state more like "started, set aside, haven't looked at in a year, will resume $ONEDAY", but I do flip flop back and forth between several active books. I sometimes think I'd be more efficient if I just picked one, read it to completion and only then started another.

Anyway, relative to what this article is talking about, I feel like what I've lost is my ability to watch movies (and to a lesser extent, tv shows). I think it's largely because I do almost all of my tv/movie consumption on a laptop, and the allure of the Internet is always right there just a browser tab away. I start watching a movie or something on Netflix and 5 minutes later I'm on Hacker News, or somewhere , surfing. Jump back to the movie for 10 minutes, then surf more. Then another 5 minutes on the movie, more surfing, lather, rinse, repeat. It might take me 2+ hours to watch a 45 minute episode of some show, or 3+ hours to watch a movie with a 90 minute runtime.

If I routinely read books as ebooks, on my computer, I suspect this same phenomenon would creep in with reading as well. But I still read a lot of offline, dead-tree books, which takes me away from the digital world for a while. I also do a lot of reading dead-tree books while soaking in the bathtub, so no laptop there - although my phone or sometimes a tablet is often within reach. I typically only grab that to update my Goodreads account though.


> In a very real way, to lose old styles of reading is to lose a part of ourselves. > Story continues below advertisement

But neat irony aside, I suppose he does have a point. My reading skills and general focusing is on the mend again after I ditched almost all social media and most of the general newsstream.


Apart from reading with no interruptions, you should take breaks and just daydream:

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180208-an-effortless-way-t...


That doesn't describe me at all.

I have been into tech ever since I was born, and I have read 5 books in the past 5 weeks... wish I had more time to read more of them... so much to learn.

Spending too much time on a tablet before I read a book does certainly distract from my reading, however.

I tried to swipe up a page in a physical book the other day that really bothered me on a surprisingly deep level, so I have just decided to put the tablet down more often.

I despise the idea of tech consuming my life, as confusing as that is considering I willingly and enthusiastically spend 24 hours of my day completely immersed in it.

Perhaps I am an outlier because I know of the trials and tribulations that too much screen-in-face-time (or whatever you want to call it) can cause first hand.


> wish I had more time to read more of them... so much to learn.

What are you reading? It sounds like a self-help book or something pretty easily digestible with a definite goal. I think (emphasis on 'think') that the author is referring more to novels or open-ended content that don't have a point. Less a manual more a story.


>What are you reading? It sounds like a self-help book or something pretty easily digestible with a definite goal.

The history of economics, actually!


You can learn a whole lot from fiction.


Is that good idea through? I think that one should be careful and avoid learning fictional made up points as if they were true.


I always had little patience for books that are not immediately gratifying. If I wasn't hooked after reading few pages then I couldn't read it at all. Words I laid my eyes upon just didn't transfer to my brain if the things they described were overdrawn and boring to me.

Hobbit? No, thank you.

Today, after decade of doing 99.9% of my reading on the internet I have even less patience for boring reads.

But if I find something like "Matter" by Iain M Banks or "A fire upon the deep" by Vernor Vinge you couldn't part me with my book even by using a crowbar.

So I don't think we forgot how to read. We just forgot how and why should we force ourselves to actively suffer boredom.


Part of this phenomenon is due to other people's expectation of us. I find it is very difficult to carve out 30 minutes of time where I am not interrupted by someone. If I turn off my phone and IM for that long people start to get worried.


Tell them to get used to it.


Interesting. I still enjoy reading old format books, but my eyesight and my time are not what they used to... not to mention that in the age of paper my allergies often forced me to decide between a book and a pleasant day.

However, thanks to technology now I enjoy books in audiobook format. I spend about an hour every day commuting with an audiobook, and I have discovered that I have good patience for good authors even in academic topics, like political economy. On the other hand, I miss paper books those times when I have to plow through/listen to particularly dreary fragments of a book ... with paper I would skip those so easily ...


Basically, while the communist block went through 1984 first, now we're globally going through Brave New World...

Of course, to understand what I say one would have to read the book, and it may be too late to be able to do that :)


This is most like the most important thing I haven't read.

Aside - this is good stuff, I find myself in this 'mode' all the time. I used to read 100+ books a year, now it is like 5. But, I read all the time ...


One concern I have with losing the ability to read fast with comprehension is what else that ability is used for.

Reading is highly nonlinear using a parallel perception/cognition pipeline. Losing that skill for us technical folk is sad. Sure work involves analytical thinking but it's typically slower paced and rarely nonlinear to any degree. Day day is fairly rote.


I can’t read fiction as much as I used to when I was younger. But I work in publishing. I figured it was as much burnout as anything else.


I'm thankful to have my subway to commute to work, at least. On a good morning/evening, I can snag a seat and sit down, and sometimes get a chapter through if I'm lucky. I've finished most of the past few books I've read over the past few years this way. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten any further than 5-10. It's unfortunate.


Just because there are various styles to reading doesn't mean you should forget the other one...

I read on sites like this in an information gathering mode, skimming, searching, for something worthwhile...

I read a book, like I've always read a book, slowly, and without interruption.

I read research (i care about) with a highlighter and a pen.

You don't have to forget.


Habits are formed over time.

I began reading "books" again in 2010, after a 10 year lapse of mostly not reading books.

At first, the best I could do was 15 books a year. It took me three years before I "leveled up" to "80 books a year."

Technology isn't the enemy here. Attention span is.


But what if technology has deliberately attempted to undermine your discipline?


Technology isn't the issue. Technology gave me an ereader that lasts for a week on a single charge and lets me carry around a couple hundred books. It's a large part of the reason why I'm reading 80 books a year.

How creators and consumers of applications, websites, and content USE technology is the problem.

Many consumers spend zero time thinking about the outcome of their technology use. Too many creators spend all their time thinking about only ONE outcome of their technology use.

When someone identifies a problem, it's easy to blame "technology" and not the market and social pressures that created it. If people have "forgotten to read" it's their fault, not Instagram's.


On a slightly related note. My son was applying for his first job and I found out that he didn't know how to sign his name. He couldn't sign his own name in cursive. He said he hadn't been forced to write cursive since third grade....


Signatures do not have to be in cursive, although they commonly are. Just something that is easy for the person to do, but difficult for others to reproduce (or not! I know some people, 30+ years old who just print their name, but their writing style is somewhat unique).


I agree from a legal standpoint, but from a cultural standpoint, I think it sends the wrong signal, from a teenager, not writing in cursive. It seems to imply a certain level of immaturity.


I worry about reading every year or two, then I read some books, and then I remember that they aren't as interesting as they used to be - I think there are just better ways to stimulate my mind these days. Mostly I end up feeling disappointed.


> I worry about reading every year or two, then I read some books, and then I remember that they aren't as interesting as they used to be

I read a lot and while I strongly disagree with your comment that books are less interesting than they used to be I will say that finding good books is very hard once you have read all the well regarded, widely recommended classics.

I often try reading new releases and New York Times best sellers and they often leave me frustrated because they are never as good as people hype them to be.

One recent example that I read was called "The Traitor Baru Cormorant" where I actually skipped closed to 60 pages of the book near the end and still managed to finish it without missing any plot related details. That book has a 4/5 on goodreads...


Looking back at my post, I definitely overstated things. I still read occasionally, and some books I'm glad I read. There certainly is a lot more crud out there these days. Often my disappointment is when I read a good book and then it ends and I can't stay in the world any longer. I find that very frustrating.

Alastair Reynolds is one of my favorite authors, and he wrote a book set in a new setting called "Revenger" that was just amazing, and I loved the world. But I finished the book and there are no more and it bums me out :/


Maybe you're reading the wrong books? I felt like that through most of school. Then I started reading for myself, and I've been a lot more successful.

But even the best book has bad chapters.


It could easily be an age thing, honestly. I'm in my late 40s, and read voraciously in high school, college, and for about 10 years after college. Generally 2-3 books a week, sometimes more. My drop in reading has corresponded with my increase in Internet reading, but the correlation could be weaker than I think.

I still enjoy some books, but not anywhere like I used to.


Well, I do agree, we are actually forgetting to read, especially in this age when you're getting a30sec video of any incidents.


i haven't, but i have forgotten how to hold a physical book.


This is the definition of clickbait. "I've forgotten how to read" does not mean "I feel like my reading habits have changed" or "I can not defend myself from the invasive world of social media and online content". Valid concerns these are, but easily dealt with: reflect on your usage, uninstall the app, delete the account, make a decision and apply it to your life. Nowhere near being unable to read. At this moment writing this comment I'm procrastinating too, but distractions existed since time immemorial. You decide to let them enter your life, you kick them out.

An example: on my free days I tend to stay up late and get up late, and when I wake up I tend to check some funny/interesting subreddits, losing lots of time. But knowing also that reddit is very useful at times, I remove the app from the phone, and restrict the subs I'm subscribed to to ones that are useful. I see that I'm checking my email too much on my phone when I'm bored, I remove the mail app for some days. All notifications except calls are silenced on my phone. I don't use any social media, except Reddit and HN, if we count them as such (reddit is definitely trying to be, which is annoying, but you can have your niche still). These are my solutions. Each and every life has many problems, and we try to fix them. Introspect, reflect, decide, do. No shortcuts there.


>This is the definition of clickbait. "I've forgotten how to read" does not mean "I feel like my reading habits have changed" or "I can not defend myself from the invasive world of social media and online content".

First, I think you confuse "clickbait" with creative title. Articles are not meant to have literal titles, and they have had metaphorical or poetic or puns or otherwise creative titles since before there were clicks to "bait for" -- including articles that were deep inside some magazine and not mentioned on the cover to attract attention. Writers and editors simply like to be creative like that.

Second, there's nothing wrong with this title. The situation they describe can very correctly be summed as "I forgot how to read" -- or even expanded to "we forgotten how to read". Forgetting how doesn't mean "being unable to" -- it just means forgetting how to read properly, or if you want, the "old way".

Heck, even a title like "I can't read anymore" would have been quite apt to describe such a situation. One would have to presume a very simplistic and imaginative audience to feel the need to spell it out more, to the point of the title being a simple literal description "Modern online media consumption has made my reading of books erratic".

>Valid concerns these are, but easily dealt with: reflect on your usage, uninstall the app, delete the account, make a decision and apply it to your life

That's like saying that we can end obesity easily if people just eat less. Or end violence if we make a decision to be nice to each other. In other words, it takes a complex issue, with many variables, and factors (from the pressures of modern life to changing ways of media consumption) and makes it into some character flaw or lack of discipline issue one can "easily" overcome.


Wrt the title, I disagree, there's nothing creative about it. Wrt the rest, I disagree again. Obesity is a disease that you physically have, and you can't decide to not be fat anymore. Violence is a problem of society and you can't decide that the society won't be violent anymore (that even sounds off grammatically). Consuming too much online entertainment or being distracted by social media is nothing like these, you have all the means in the same devices to cure it. I won't dismiss it can become some sort of addiction, but then again, it won't create new receptacles in your brain, not give you diabetes or heart diseases, you won't crave it and hurt people in its absence that a therapy in a dedicated building will be needed. You seem to like hyperboles indeed.


>Obesity is a disease that you physically have, and you can't decide to not be fat anymore.

Obesity is a state, not a disease (there are some diseases that can cause obesity, but by and large it's due to diet for most people).


If there's such scientific distinction between a state and a disease, I'd really like to know more. But I can't see how a disease is not just a particular state of being. And if obesity is not a disease, then still, that does not subtract anything from my point in the GP comment.


I don't agree that it's clickbait. It's simply a title with two potential meanings.

Perhaps you have forgotten how to read much as the author of this piece claims they themselves did. Perhaps I have as well, when I reflect upon the magic of human language.


You are right, of course. But I think it's disingenuous to call all hyperbole clickbait.


Did you read the whole article?


Coming to HN less and less with shitty clickbait like this on front page.


I buy books all the time. Haven't read one in a couple years because I'm too busy. Some day though....some day.




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