Is Reading Online is Making Us Stupid?

There is an interesting article in The Atlantic about reading and our changing reading habits, thanks to the Internet.

I think the author has some great points: internet has changed the way I read, and that’s why I’m feeling a need to really read deeply right now.

In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive. …

In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading, as Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking. If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture.

What do you think? Is reading on the Internet making you less able to read?

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. certainly not! although I will say that there are different KINDS of reading. But I still read as much (books) now as I ever did. What about you?

  2. For me, it depends on the day. Some days, I can curl up with books for hours and not even think about the computer. Whereas on other days, I feel a constant compulsion to check my blog reader, my e-mail, maybe play around on Shelfari…lol

    But I don’t think that the internet’s the cause of my restlessness, just an outlet for it.

  3. @Heather Johnson: To me, the article seemed to focus on how we read, although it also touched on how much we read. While I go through phases where I read many books, I’ve been feeling lately as though my reading has been superficial, and part of it is because I’m very distracted by blogging, email popping up at every hour of the day, and visual distractions on the web rather than the text of an article or book.

    @Eva: I need to be able to step back from my blog more, and that’s what I intend to do. I’ve been so wrapped up in getting this blog started that I haven’t been reading as I used to before I started blogging. I’m glad it’s an outlet for you; that was my intention, but it’s kind of taken control of my life!

    @unfinishedperson: That’s the thing: we’re so used to “quick” things that it becomes harder to approach the longer, deeper things. I try to make sure longer books are ones I like; if I don’t like it, then I won’t finish it because 300+ books do take a lot of time to read! and we only have so much time!

  4. I’m sorry I’m not following you. I had a hard time reading this. 😉 Actually, though, yes, I tend to find it hard to read books over 300 pages, because my attention span wanders. Right now I’m reading a 522-page book in Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe and it’s taking me forever.

  5. Two years ago I chanced the focus of my blog towards reviewing the books I read. It has increased the amount of reading I’m doing and the attention I’m paying to what I’m reading and of course later writing about. Yes, reading other blogs can be a distraction but I see these blogs also as a tool for research too. I don’t think I’ve become stupider for reading blogs.

  6. I really wanted to read the answers to this post so I subscribed to the comments. I had to drop in again to say that I totally agree with pussreboots. My blog started out as a way for me to keep track of what I read (just for myself) but once people started reading it, I became committed to reading more and writing better. I read other bookish blogs to hear about new books, or what people think about books I’ve read as well.

    One thing though … I love really longs books (good ones, that is) but I find myself reading shorter ones so I can get my reviews up more quickly. I’ll have to stop that!

  7. Oooo, I love this discussion! Thanks for weighing in, everyone. Keep sharing!

    @Sarah: I’ve noticed that blogging and reading book blogs has also increased my reading too. @Heather J.: Same thing here since I started blogging two months ago. I also feel “committed to reading more” and I find myself wanting to read faster. But for me, the fact that my reading habits have changed so that I’m reading faster is evidence to me that YES, the internet is changing how I read. And for me, I don’t think I want to change in that way: reading faster is not reading better for me.

    I think the author of The Atlantic article was a little overboard in saying it’s making us “stupid” but I definitely think the Internet mentality the author talks about (jumping from one thing to the next, reading email while reading the news, skimming rather than reading articles) makes it harder to read long books or articles: we’re too impatient to do so, as you say yourself, Heather J.!

    All that said, I love reading blogs and I love reading book blogs, and I love keeping a blog, etc. I just want to make sure I read books as they were meant to be enjoyed and not just so I can blog about them. That’s my downfall since starting blogging.

  8. Yes I agree I hate reading on the internet and I think schools should force students to use books more for assignments!!!

Comments are closed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}