Nicholas Carr is right on target with his suggestion that the internet may be changing the way we think. In a provocative, must-read piece in the current issue of The Atlantic, Carr argues that the fast-paced bite-sized world of internet reading is not innocuous:
…Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going-so far as I can tell-but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.
I’ve noticed this in my own reading habits. After being immersed in a world of blogs and RSS feeds, I find it difficult to switch back to book-reading mode. It’s almost as if I have to ease into long-form literature by reading a magazine article or something brief.
The phenomenon does reveal the truth that reading is a habit that must be practiced to be well maintained. It also shows that those who do maintain the ability to read long works may soon possess a skill set that puts them in a league of their own.