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Technology Is Decimating Reading and the Sense of Self

Uriel is a technology aficionado. He enjoys programming computers and playing video games.

Woman reading a book

Woman reading a book

Technology has definitely made our lives easier. While this is laudable, technology has a dark and unexplored side. I will shed light on this dark side. I will be drawing from my knowledge of philosophy, technology, and literature.

Technology has made information on almost anything available at the click of a button. Google and other search engines have made searching easy. For many, the convenience of searching for information is a blessing.

Ancient philosophers have grappled with the sense of Self. Some argued that we are connected to each other through some invisible thread. Others thought that were distinct beings with no sense of connection to others. However, they all agreed on the sense of Self.

Socrates contended that the goal of philosophy was to "Know thyself". Knowing yourself is a journey of introspection. Carl Jung stated that part of knowing yourself involved exploring the inner recesses of the psyche.

Stacked books

Stacked books

I read books to read myself

— Sven Birkerts

In his book The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, Birkerts feared that qualities such as awareness of history, privacy, and valuation of individual consciousness were in danger of erosion. He feared that our sense of the continuity of history, our place in the centuries and in the cosmos would be lost forever. These were elevated and safeguarded for a long time by print media.

The proliferation of e-books and the increased use of smartphones have led to the nosedive of print media. The sales of smartphones have surpassed the sales of books worldwide.

Birkets feels that as the importance of literature diminishes, sustained reading and writing - products of a focused mind would also diminish, and we would thus be unable to grasp our own depth and the breadth of the world.

“Literature holds meaning not as a content that can be abstracted and summarized, but as experience.”

— Sven Birkets

The thought of such a loss is frightening and devastating for readers. Birkets feels the same way too.

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Birkets reminds us that a life of reading and writing is possible and worthwhile.

Book

Book

I can not resist the allure of new technology. Technology has reduced the number of books I read at any given period drastically. I try as much as I can to read e-books.

E-books can never replace books, though. A new book has an enchanting smell and a heavenly feeling. The magic of reading has been lost. We all need to occasionally put our devices down and pick up a book.

I plan to read at least two books a week.

We will be swimming in impulses and data—the microchip will make us offers that will be very hard to refuse.

— Sven Birkets

I feel like a deer caught in the headlights. I desire to read more and know every day. Technology, on the other hand, offers me a faster way to accomplish tasks.

I can still remember the days when computers and the Internet were a luxury to most people. The internet was a glorious thing that enabled people to play games, read emails and look up information. I was excited, and I am still excited about new technologies.

On the flip side, I am reading less.

Reading has helped me to know things about myself that have often surprised me. Reading enables me to look inward and outward at the same time. Reflecting on the past, the present and the future gives me numerous ideas.

"Ten, fifteen years from now, the world will be nothing like what we remember, nothing much like what we experience now.”

— Sven Birkets

According to Birkets books do not alleviate loneliness. The power of books lies in their ability to make us look inward and outward, at the same time. The communion we seek as we read is not with others but it is with ourselves.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Uriel Kushiel

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