I found I had a deep personal connection to the readings this week; but I’m sure many of my classmates did as well. Over this past month of vacation, I set out on a daunting task: reminding myself how much love I harbored in pleasure-driven reading. After just 3 semesters of majoring in English here at Carolina I found the stacks of novels in both my dorm room and bedroom at home practically repulsive. Words of my favorite authors (Bill Bryson, David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith…) reduced to nauseating pieces of dead trees, stuffed behind textbooks, canonical works and misshapen scantrons. I went home with the goal of reading two books per week (10 books in total) over vacation. 5 books would be selected from my all-time favorites and 5 books from my “to-read” list. Although difficult at first, I found myself returning to campus recharged and ready to resume coursework—until I started my POLI readings this afternoon and realized I had re-entered the modern world. Let me explain:
My mother, a Ghanaian immigrant with an odd affinity for pre-2000’s American culture, refuses to let us have internet in our house. We have one television, in the kitchen, which can only be used for news and academically stimulating game shows like Jeopardy. So, at home, armed with my novels and within ten feet of a clean, non-shared bathtub (with bubbles!) I was more than willing to occupy my time with thoughts of the future, romantic entanglements and scientifically charged fantasies (See Rule #1 https://nomadbookslondon.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/10-reasons-why-kindles-suck/). I was distracting myself from the withdrawal I felt from my technology, often going online at friends houses to check my email, facebook, etc. This ties into the idea of technological addictions noted in the HP article about brain rewiring.
Here, in a dorm with Wi-Fi, a computer, phone, iPod, etc. the thought of opening a book that wasn’t assigned to me is revolting. The thought of trying to enjoy thoroughly reading a piece of text that was assigned to me is revolting. I find comfort in scanning for importance, highlighting and quickly noting in the margins. Did I read this book in high school? I’m sure I can speak at least once in class without re-reading it. Is Google making me stupid? Maybe, but if anything it’s helping me succeed. I don’t think I’m necessarily dumber—I have access to more and more information than ever before. I think the issue is that this ease of access is making people LAZIER—I can get information so fast, but I don’t have to work for it, nor do I want to read it. I want to press CTRL-F and search for keywords. I’m nothing like elementary school me who colored outside the lines and read outside of the curriculum. I’m nothing like middle school me who brought books to recess. I’m nothing like high school me who read assignments in their entirety more than once before pausing to make notes or highlight. College me is about efficiency, time management and fulfilling an incessant need to connect—I want data when I want it (I want it now and I’m going to get it). My awareness of this behavior is what strikes me—this vacation was my first attempt to change it and I have reverted back faster than a released rubber band. I’ve decided I’m going to re-institute my reading plan, although making the requirement one book for pleasure every 1-2 weeks.