After a busy summer and an even busier year full of hard-work, I had a few weeks off. Looking forward to reading a stack of books, I discovered something new about myself that I had never experienced before — I struggled with focussing while reading. As a kid and teenager, I found reading books a breeze as it was a part of my routine. When starting university, I opted for my textbook readings rather than the books I wanted to read for pleasure. As my university experience started to wind down, I made a list of books I wanted to read for the summer. When I got ready to read, I realized that my reading style had changed. Rather than immersing myself in a novel, I found myself skimming. Are university and social media to blame for this problem?
The brain is neuroplastic, meaning that it grows, and re-wires itself when experiencing change or a new activity, such as learning a new language or taking a new road to work. What does reading have to do with this? Unlike, language and vision, the brain was not made for reading, as there are no reading genes (Rosenwald, 2014). The brain re-wired itself to adapt to reading, and then again, adapted to the media style of social media. With so much info on the internet, our brain doesn’t read linearly, it scans for keywords and text. We spend hours scrolling and skimming through interesting comments, photos, even ads without even taking the time to process.The same things happens to me while I read, I start to skim and my eyes wander to the end of the paragraph to ‘save time’ while reading.
An Israeli study tested engineering students ability to comprehend while reading, in print and on screen, when under time pressure to complete the task (Ackerman & Lauterman, 2012). The students believed they did better on screen, but actually they were wrong. Their comprehension when under-pressure and learning was better on paper.
What are my next steps? I am hopping on the band-wagon to join something called “the slow-reading movement”, where I will tune-out of my technology while reading. For me, this means putting my phone out of sight while reading. Treating my tech-addiction, even if it’s 30 minutes each week.
Ackerman, Rakefet, and Tirza Lauterman. “Taking reading comprehension exams on screen or on paper? A metacognitive analysis of learning texts under time pressure.” Computers in human behavior 28.5 (2012): 1816–1828.
Rosenwald, Michael S. “Serious Reading Takes a Hit from Online Scanning and Skimming, Researchers Say.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 6 Apr. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/local/serious-reading-takes-a-hit-from-online-scanning-and-skimming-researchers-say/2014/04/06/088028d2-b5d2-11e3-b899-20667de76985_story.html?utm_term=.1761ed081ee3.