Saturday, February 9, 2019

Digital Crack Challenges Book Reading

I’m annoyed at how often I check my iPhone, not because I’m constantly disrupted by the loud ping of a text received or the vibration of an email sneaking into my in-box – though both happen frequently – but because I’m addicted to checking it for signs I matter.  

I look online at the news to find something interesting, even outrageous.  I scan my emails, darting across a thick congestion of spam, and then, if I didn’t receive a text I spit one out and sens it to a few people, hoping to elicit a response, anywhere from a chuckle to praise to outrage, depending on what I shared.  

Why do I need to be in touch, connected, and so involved in the world in my digital box?  What validation am I seeking,? What need goes unfulfilled, where I feel drawn to spending many parts of the day with my mind lost in the various short narratives and witty exchanges that come into my narrow line of vision?

Like some gigolo or slut who has more one-night sexual encounters that one can remember, but who feels a sense of emptiness, maybe guilt or loss, when reflecting on his deeds, I too feel at the end of the day that I may have wasted my time and squandered an opportunity to do something better, bigger, or more rewarding.

And yet I’ll go back at it the next day, and the next, and the next, doubling down on the all too familiar habit of connecting to the world through my phone.  It’s no different than any other crippling addiction – is it?

So what’s the solution?  

How do we gaze our eyes off of the glowing, ever-changing computer in our pockets and look up to see the real world around us?  How can we stop reading trivial nonsense online and instead wrap our minds around a good book?  How do we move from viewing a lot of amateurish content and investing in the words of proven writers who research things, fact-check, and conduct interviews?

Don’t get me wrong.  The Internet offers far more good than bad, just as having television, newspapers, and radio make us a better society than without any of them.  But I fear that we’re in a Wild West period with the content that gets consumed today.  Too much is unfiltered, unedited, not factual, not well-written.  But we gobble all of it up, mixing everything into a soup of distracted thoughts.  

We go from a cat video to a blog penned by a nut in his basement to a New York Times article, to a You Tube health video to the tweets of Trump in a sweeping matter of minutes.  Can we properly process what is being fed to us?  Do we really understand the various truths being thrust upon us?

We’re on a steady informational junk food diet.  We’re addicted to searching, clicking, viewing, listening, and reading content from all types of sources on a wide variety of subject matter.  These bits and bytes are molding our brain like digital opioids.

All of this online data consumption comes at the expense of doing other things including the act of book reading.  If you spend hours daily or Facebook, podcasts, blogs, Twitter, email, news sites, and other miscellaneous sources, you can’t be reading books.  One would argue that reading a good book shall inspire, inform, and enlighten us far more than watching cat porn, reading celebrity gossip, or following the Twitter feed of an overpaid athlete.

One thing our handy phones provide that a book doesn’t is variety.  You can view anything – on the spot – at any time with your phone.  A book is but one thing.  Another advantage offered by our phones is that we can derive a quick pleasure from a two-or three-minute video viewing or blog reading.  A book’s payoff takes hours or longer stretches of concentration a lot more than the time it takes to read one’s Facebook comments.

Another big advantage a phone has is that it is interactive.  Read an article and forward it to a friend – or write the person who posted it.  A book has no such interaction.

Let’s face it, no one is choosing a book over their phone, not completely anyway.  We must learn to balance the two.  Books demand – and warrant – more of our time – but the phone keeps calling for our attention.  We must find a happy medium or we’ll lose ourselves inside the matrix without a clear way out.

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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