Is The Internet Really Killing Off Reading?

Yesterday, I came across an article on Elite Daily by Lauren Martin titled Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With. Overall, I thought it was an interesting read. It explains why readers make great partners. Readers, particularly fiction readers, are said to be more empathetic than their non-reading counterparts, and can easily entertain the opinions of others without feeling that their own views are threatened.  

I love that the article references Raymond Mar and Keith Oatley’s studies on readers and empathy. (You can read more about Mar and Oatley’s work here and here.)

The only thing that bothered me in this piece wasn’t Martin’s writing itself, it was an idea from Time magazine’s Annie Murphy Paul, who, as Martin notes, finds that “deep reading”, the kind that allows us to truly invest in what we are reading, is dying.

What bothers me about Paul’s article is that while it may be true that we have lost some readers to the convenience of micro-blogging, social media, emoticons and continuous skimming of news feeds, the internet on the whole is not the end of the reading world as we know it. Readers and non-readers alike can enjoy the internet and all that modern technology has to offer without eroding their interest in reading books (in physical or e-book format). It’s not as if someone who enjoys scrolling through social media all day can’t enjoy a good book, or isn’t going to read one because it’s not sending push notifications through their smartphone.

Why do so many people assume that using any sort of technology to access whatever it is we want to read means that we are somehow less invested in the story or that we somehow aren’t “really reading”?

As both a reader and a writer, I believe that if I am reading something, good writing is what keeps me invested in the piece, not the format in which it is presented to me.

If it wasn’t for my Kindle, Goodreads, Book Bloggers, Booktube, Fan Ficition, Pottermore, Fandom websites and the countless other bookish web services, half my reading list wouldn’t exist. I have met so many wonderful people around the world and discovered new authors and ideas thanks to the internet. I will always love leisurely walking through a bookstore and finding a new book I’ve never heard of before, but I also appreciate all that the internet has given me in regards to accessing new books and readers alike.  

The idea that readers are the best partners is wonderfully romantic, and while I tend to agree that readers are more versed in empathy, assuming that those who would rather read on their iPad than turn the pages of a hardcover are less invested in what they’re reading severs that chance to connect over a shared love of learning, information and the written word.

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