“Addicted to Distraction”

From Tony Schwartz, “Addicted to Distraction,” NY Times (November 28, 2015):

“…Addiction is the relentless pull to a substance or an activity that becomes so compulsive it ultimately interferes with everyday life. By that definition, nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet. It has arguably replaced work itself as our most socially sanctioned addiction.

According to one recent survey, the average white-collar worker spends about six hours a day on email. That doesn’t count time online spent shopping, searching or keeping up with social media.

The brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification creates something called a “compulsion loop.” Like lab rats and drug addicts, we need more and more to get the same effect.”

“The Technology Of Books Has Changed, But Bookstores Are Hanging In”

NPR story (May 28, 2015): “…independent bookstores overall are enjoying a mini-revival, with their numbers swelling 25 percent since 2009, according to the American Booksellers Association. Sales are up, too. Remarkably, it’s a revival fueled, at least in part, by digital natives like 23-year-old Ross Destiche, who’s hauling an armful of books to the register. “Nothing matches the feel and the smell of a book,” he says. “There’s something special about holding it in your hand and knowing that that’s the same story every time, and you can rely on that story to be with you.”

“Being a Better Online Reader”

“Soon after Maryanne Wolf published “Proust and the Squid,” a history of the science and the development of the reading brain from antiquity to the twenty-first century, she began to receive letters from readers. Hundreds of them. While the backgrounds of the writers varied, a theme began to emerge: the more reading moved online, the less students seemed to understand. There were the architects who wrote to her about students who relied so heavily on ready digital information that they were unprepared to address basic problems onsite. There were the neurosurgeons who worried about the “cut-and-paste chart mentality” that their students exhibited, missing crucial details because they failed to delve deeply enough into any one case. And there were, of course, the English teachers who lamented that no one wanted to read Henry James anymore. As the letters continued to pour in, Wolf experienced a growing realization: in the seven years it had taken her to research and write her account, reading had changed profoundly—and the ramifications could be felt far beyond English departments and libraries…”

From Maria Konnikova, “Being a Better Online Reader,The New Yorker (July 16, 2014)

Why can’t we read anymore?

From Hugh McGuire at Medium.com:

“…It turns out that digital devices and software are finely tuned to train us to pay attention to them, no matter what else we should be doing. The mechanism, borne out by recent neuroscience studies, is something like this:

  • New information creates a rush of dopamine to the brain, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good.
  • The promise of new information compels your brain to seek out that dopamine rush….”

“Reading More but Learning Less?”

From the NY Times:  “When one of the “big two” newsweeklies is going out of print, it’s clear that Americans are not consuming news the way they used to. Maybe that’s a good thing, if the technology revolution has made it easier to get more of the kind of information and analysis that readers once sought from Newsweek. But if Americans are finding a more polarized reality online, they may have just grown more partisan with less knowledge, making it more important for forums like presidential debates to deal with the details of policy.”
With posts from Cass Sunstein, Nicholas Carr, Eli Pariser, Denise Cheng, et al