First, a link to NPR’s article on Digital Overload: Your Brain on Gadgets. According to the article, The New York Times reports that the average computer user checks 40 websites a day and can switch programs 36 times an hour. “It’s an onslaught of information coming in today,” says New York Times technology journalist Matt Richtel. “At one time a screen meant maybe something in your living room. But now it’s something in your pocket so it goes everywhere — it can be behind the wheel, it can be at the dinner table, it can be in the bathroom. We see it everywhere today.”
Richtel’s series, Your Brain on Computers, also questions whether the information overload and the accompanying signals are addictive: When you check your information, when you get a buzz in your pocket, when you get a ring — you get what they call a dopamine squirt. You get a little rush of adrenaline.” he says. “Well, guess what happens in its absence? You feel bored. You’re conditioned by a neurological response: ‘Check me check me check me check me.’”
I know that removing myself entirely from my computer, phone, and anything that beeps or talks to me leaves me in a completely different mood, though I don’t know that I’m conditioned to respond to a beep so much as I am conditioned to compulsively read anything I can get my hands on. Remove me from text entirely and I go through a strange withdrawal period. What about you? Is that true for you?
Hey – and you know what you need? More information! Have some more links!
In other news from the internet, Teleread reports that BN’s digital book sales outpace their print sales, and that “customers with Nook devices have increased their spending by 20 percent.” I am not at all surprised at the increased spending, as clicking does not ever feel like spending money when I purchase books through a digital device, especially with a credit card on file! What does surprise me is that sales have increased so dramatically, despite the BN/Nook abysmal customer service.
I read this article in Hubby’s print magazine but I wanted to share it with you because I think the author makes a very interesting argument: do the high costs of international travel for Americans have a higher cost for American society? Christopher Elliott looks at the costs of international travel visas and passports – which are going up in the US, dammit – and impeding international travel for budget voyagers: It may not be a coincidence that a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that about half of all Americans say the United States should “mind its own business” and let other countries hash out problems on their own—the highest number in 40 years. That’s not to say we’re in danger of turning into another North Korea or any Iron Curtain–era Eastern European country, but by staying home and turning inward, we definitely become less informed. And maybe, less interesting.
We’re better than that. A passport should be a birthright, not an expensive indulgence. Visas are relics that have no place in a global economy. It isn’t the cost of international travel that should worry us. It’s the cost of not traveling.
Huh. What do you think of that theory? I’m curious because, generally speaking, romance readers read a LOT of narratives set in foreign countries, set in both past and present, and many of us who interact online are aware that we’re speaking with people around the world, far outside our own borders. I’m not saying that reading Zoe Archer’s Scoundrel is going to make you an expert on sailing the Greek islands, but it did make me curious about Greece, and I did idle research to learn more about where the characters were and where they were going. Moreover, I learn regularly about what’s happening in other countries from both comments here and posts on Twitter and other blogs. I’m aware that the internet is a borderless, global party of micro-communication, and I learn a tremendous amount from my mental travels in text in books and online. This certainly doesn’t make me a global expert on the price of caïques, but does my sporadic international travel (I mean really, have you tried to get through TSA security and customs? Holy pain in the tuchas) mean I am inward and less curious? What’s your take – do you think Elliott has a point in his article?
And finally, one more link from the “ORLY?” department: The New York Times is reporting that reading digital books make readers and passers-by more social:
Social mores surrounding the act of reading alone in public may be changing along with increased popularity. Suddenly, the lone, unapproachable reader at the corner table seems less alone. Given that some e-readers can display books while connecting online, there’s a chance the erstwhile bookworm is already plugged into a conversation somewhere, said Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University.
“I think, historically, there has been a stigma attached to the bookworm, and that actually came from the not-untrue notion that, if you were reading, you weren’t socializing with other people,” Dr. Levinson said. “But the e-reader changes that also because e-readers are intrinsically connected to bigger systems.”
Marianne Mancusi once mentioned to me in passing that while it’s not socially acceptable to whip out a Kindle and start reading while standing in a group, it is more acceptable and common for you to peek at your phone, so you could be reading a book or reading email or looking at sports scores. And people start conversations about the books themselves.
But I admit, I bristle at the description of the bookworm being antisocial. Most of the avid readers I know, both print and digital book aficionados reading romance and other genres, adore discussing books, recommending them, and talking about what they are reading, even if interrupted. I’ve asked strangers on the subway if they’re enjoying the book they’re reading, and when I mention that I’m interested in that book or that author, I usually get a few recommendations as well. (Granted, I don’t do this on the subway in the morning when no one is likely to be caffeinated). I also disagree that readers are disconnected unless reading digitally – I think that depends more on the age and internet-proficiency of the reader. I’m also amused by these statements that reading alone carried a negative stigma. Since when? Really? And I was supposed to care if so? Screw that, I’m reading a really good book!
So, do you talk to reading people? Are bookworms antisocial? Did you jump up and run to the computer when you got a notification that something to read had arrived somewhere for your perusal? Are we technological dogs du Pavlov? Or do articles like these strike you as they do me: that looking at reading through the format being employed, whether it’s digital or paper, isn’t really looking at reading so much as it is looking at the decisions of the individual reader – a totally different subject. I don’t think reading has changed that much except that, with so many more flat surfaces on which to intake words, we’re doing more of it.