That's not a journey I can relate to since I have never felt the urge to read this humongous title, but I have tried to read big books in the past only to drop them after a few pages. The article is, however, more than about one person's struggles with a historically difficult book. Michael talks about how he used to be able to read for hours when he was a kid, but nowadays, he was not able to last five minutes without checking his phone. He was always looking for distractions - videos, Twitter, Facebook, emails, and he was plagued by a feeling of missing something if he didn't check his phone in the last five minutes.
Michael could have been writing about me, for all I know. It's frightening really, how much time I spend staring at this tiny piece of plastic, at dinners, at work, during commute, and even where surrounded by people. If my phone was a little away from me and I heard it ding, I would spend half my brain trying to tell myself that the notification could wait. And then, I would go check it right away. Even a delightful book could not keep me away from my phone's notifications, if I heard the telltale dings. I often wonder how long it would take me to read the Harry Potter books today, with all these digital distractions around me.
I remember reading each Harry Potter book in less than two days, and feeling very sad that the book was over. I doubt I could do that now. I remember those days of sitting up all night to finish a book - something I have not done in years. I remember racing through a book in less than a day and then sitting back and basking in the awesomeness of what I just read. I remember not putting my book down unless it was to get some food or use the bathroom. Even baths have been known to being ignored when an awesome book was in town, not that I should confess to this. I remember walking everywhere with a book and telling anyone I see that they should read it. I also remember not starting another book too soon after the last one, therefore having plenty of time after finishing a book to digest and absorb it well.
|The Hierarchy of Digital Distractions|
I am glad that I uninstalled the Facebook app from my phone. I haven't been on the site since, so that ploy is certainly working. Even though I check my notifications right away, I don't keep turning it on to see if there is anything new. I have somewhat learned to ignore my phone dings after I go to bed. I say somewhat, because some days are better than others. I have also somewhat learned to wait until I am done with my current task or chapter, before checking my phone. But I still browse a lot. I am reading some article or the other all the time, and while I do enjoy that a lot, I want to be able to go back to my carefree reading days of my childhood, when I started reading a book knowing that I will be able to finish it quickly if the book is interesting enough. I would have read (and finished) books like War and Peace in those days - size did not bother me at all then. Today, I avoid chunksters because I know I will get distracted soon by something else and eventually that big book will sit by forgotten.
But more importantly, I want to be able to lose myself in the book I am reading. I want to look up from my book and feel that hours have passed (and dinner taken care of magically, of course). I want to keep my distractions to a minimum and not go looking for other visual eye candy, when the best treat is right in front of me and just waiting for its pages to be ruffled.