My husband receives a theological magazine entitled Modern Reformation. In this month’s copy, “Wired and Tired,” all of the articles focus upon the state of our technology-driven society. At my husband’s prodding, I read over the list of this month’s featured articles. Interesting. I read an article. Fascinating. I read the whole magazine, all of “Wired and Tired,” cover to cover, in one sitting.
I read about our Facebook society, the shift from printed material to less tangible e-texs, and the general distraction of our society, where multi-tasking has become the norm. All fascinating. But the most interesting article I read was not even an entire article. It was a sidebar entitled, “Scatterbrains.” It began with this quote:
‘I don’t read books,’ says Joe O’Shea, a former president of the student body at Florida State University and a 2008 recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship. ‘I go to Google, and I can adsorb relevant information quickly.’ O’Shea, a philosophy major, doesn’t see any reason to plow through chapters of text when it takes but a minute or two to cherry-pick the pertinent passages using Google Book Search. ‘Sitting down and going through a book cover to cover doesn’t make much sense,’ he says, ‘It’s not a good use of my time.
With a sick turning in my stomach, I read on. The sidebar continued by describing “Generation Net” as people who have learned to scan and search rather than be absorbed by a text. This was supported by Professor Katherine Hayles of Duke University who said:
I can’t get my students to read whole books anymore.
Professor Hayles is an English teacher. Her students are Literature students. As horrified as I was upon reading this, I must confess I have seen the same in my own middle school students. A vast majority won’t read books even when they are assigned. They won’t read them, and they freely admit to their negligence as they tell me about the You-tube videos they watched the night before.
The magazine insert concluded with a quote by the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca, who said:
To be everywhere, is to be nowhere.
How well these ancient words describe our technological society. How pertinent. How sad.
This magazine has haunted me for days, now. How often, as authors, do we discuss ways in which to engage our readers? You must have an inciting incident. You must create memorable characters. You must increase the tension by leading the reader to ask questions. How much of our labors are lost to a society that doesn’t want to be engaged by books?
You can not truly enter Narnia with a simple scan and search of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. How do we bring our children to a place and a time and a moment when they are content to be nowhere?