“Yes, dear, I love those pics you sent me of little Brucey doing the floss dance. And that video clip was just a scream. Keep them comin, Darlin!”
I love pictures. They paint a ‘thousand-words,’ right? Kids are great subjects, and even a cute dog will put a smile on my face; cats not so much. But sometimes I get the sense that we’re just a world of pictures and videos. A giant kaleidoscope of spinning, blurring images that singe the back of my thinning, aging eyelids. What happened to reading a book with no pictures other than the pictures the writer paints for the benefit of our imagination? The carefully crafted characters that come alive and remind us of cousin Lukey, the spoiled piece of terror who traumatized my dog, Frasier, till he ran away. Or the love story, I pray to God, will become my story including the strapless pearl white wedding dress with a 12 mile long train.
I can hear the collective exhale in frustration. “Hey, ole-fart! Have you ever heard of Twitter? People write on Twitter and others read it.” True, and before Twitter we wrote on the partition walls of bathrooms. Often our most profound thoughts. It appears that when we must sit and wait, we become our most creative. Only then is when we’ll write something. Or, we’ll enjoy the wisdom and musings of those who sat before us.
I hear you. Some are yelling, “You’re just a boomer. Go back to reading your novels, you old crusty coot.” I think I will.
I might appear to be a bit tone-deaf in suggesting to the Medium audience that we should read more. It appears the Medium audience are ferocious writers and readers, but with a preference to short, abbreviated writings not particularly friendly to weaving a rich story line. And if you’re a writer making a living writing and capable of exploiting the human Medium algorithms, then you’ll earn a few bucks. Medium is, after all, about reading. The more eyeballs, the better the bottom line. But we are reading less and less — all age groups, including mine.
The trends should alarm us unless you’re of the opinion that reading is no longer a relevant form of entertainment, or learning. If so, then you’ll have joined the 70% of US families that have not darkened the aisle of a bookstore in the last five years or the 80% of US families that did not read or purchase a single book last year.
Why are we not reading books? I think we need to go back to the porcelain goddess for inspiration. Our reading malaise might be related to what we take with us everywhere and continually stare at. The smartphone. Once we shut the stall door, we take to our phone for entertainment and diversion. Michael Kozlowski with goodereader.com said it this way when he wrote ‘ The smartphone is always in our pocket and many people tend to read on it, but it’s really easy to break immersion when you get Facebook notifications or Twitter DMS. Netflix constantly gives us pop ups about a new original movie or television show they just added and instant messaging dings are omnipresent.’
Reading a novel requires immersion. It is difficult to get into the character of Caleb in Steinbeck’s East of Eden only to be interrupted by Facebook with your nephews latest political rant.
Today we don’t even glance at the bathroom partitions for wisdom or entertainment. No, once settled in, we grab the phone because it’s dinging us with multiple notifications. We stay occupied and entertained reading what someone has just Tweeted just a stall over. Then comes a video of a puppy having just discovered it has a tail. Round and round it goes like a properly flushed toilet. Wait a minute- wait…. ah, my favorite writer on Medium just posted an article called Enough With the Pics- Read Something. Sounds kinda preachy but I think I’ll read it. It’s only three minutes long. I’ll be just about done by then