(Cross-posted from Bungling Housewife)
As a teacher, I always used to tell my students to read as many books as possible. It was my answer to every dilemma: bored? Read a book! Need to improve your writing skills? Read a book! Want to impress someone? Read a book and expand your mind! Needless to say my students didn’t always heed my advice. In fact, they rarely ever did, only rolling their eyes at my oft-repeated ‘advice’ before going back to their tweeting/texting/facebooking. Reading actual books just doesn’t seem to be in fashion anymore, and God forbid that we should ever do anything that isn’t in fashion! And even if we do, we sure as hell aren’t going to advertise the fact.
It’s honestly depressing how few people actually read books as a hobby nowadays, but, to be fair, why would they with the much more flashier and easier-to-immerse-in medias such as video games, virtual realities and the internet available for our entertainment. Why go the long route of imagining a whole other world in your mind when you can simply log on to WoW or Quest and get a readymade world complete with landscapes, characters and stories and save yourself the hassle? Why read the book at all when you know the movie will probably be out within the year anyway? More importantly, why read a book when there are so very many entertainment options open to us nowadays? Before the proliferation of the internet, if you wanted to get away from the daily grind or immerse yourself in a make believe world, you picked up a book. Now, you pick up your iPad and sign in to your Second Life account to water your virtual plants. They say that video killed the radio star, but no one seems to care that the internet seems to be killing books just as efficiently and as incontrovertibly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as much an internet junkie as the next person and would probably have a panic attack if anyone took away my smartphone, but does all this growth of the virtual rabbit hole have to be at the expense of books? There are many benefits of the new virtual medias, yes, but there are some things that books can offer that the former just can’t. Readings not only allows you to escape into make-believe worlds, it also improves your writing skills, helps you in your schooling, expands the ways in which you think and improves your capacity to analyse and interpret.
Are people actually getting dumber? Is the proliferation of easier to immerse in media forms somehow downgrading people’s intelligence or at least their willingness to be more analytical? I don’t know but how else do you explain the rise of books like ‘Twilight’ and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’? These ‘books’ are easy to follow, with painfully simple plot lines and lack of any real depth which means you really don’t have to use your brain at all to read, digest and discard them. Back in the day, these so-called books would have been classified as trashy novels, not as best selling epics! But apparently, these are the ‘books’ that are keeping the book industry alive today. A truly sad state of affairs. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I for one miss the era of real books and hope that modernity doesn’t kill off books altogether, at least not yet. We as an intelligent species just can’t afford the loss such a death would entail, even if we don’t realise it yet.