I still read good old fashioned books, and I do it on purpose. One thing I’ve written about before is how social media and the internet have wrecked my attention span, and that seems to be a universal phenomenon. When we’re online, we’re inundated with content, ads, and images, and our brains get a little frantic trying to take it all in.
A great example is YouTube. If you’re watching a YouTube video, and you don’t have it on full screen, then you can see the comments and you can see the suggestions of other videos you might enjoy. So even though you’re watching one video, your brain is already thinking about the next video you could watch as well as the reactions to the current video. It’s a lot to process at once. Even when you put a video on full screen, links pop up on the screen for other suggested videos. So we can never fully immerse ourselves in the experience of watching the video without distractions.
The same goes for reading an article online. We get a paragraph of text followed by an ad, and then a pop-up ad, and then another ad in the side bar. It’s not a clean, simple reading experience. It’s a battle against distraction to try and take in the text.
Reading a book is a completely different experience. There are no ads, no pop ups, no suggestions, no distractions- just your brain and the book. I find that if I’ve just been on the internet, and I switch to a real book, it takes a minute for my brain to slow down. After a few minutes of reading, I feel my brain start to become less frantic, and I can relax and enjoy reading. But at first, it’s like my brain is craving more stimulation. It feels difficult to focus on one thing and digest the information.
I think it’s important to give our brains a break from the overstimulation. Being out in nature is one way of doing this. Another is by forcing our brains to focus on just one thing at a time, the way we do when we read a book. And that is why I still read real books in the digital age!