Friday, January 27, 2017
Everybody can read; but nobody is paying attention. . .
It seems that many of us have forgotten how to read and a fourth of all Americans have not picked up and read through a single book in the last twelve months. We are masters at manipulating our fingers (especially thumbs) but this manual dexterity seems to have had an accompanying side effect of numbing our mind. How does this work? With posting on forums, writing on the walls of Facebook, texting and tweeting increasing at exponential rates, why is it that we find ourselves hard pressed to pay attention to a book long enough to actually read it -- from cover to cover?
We are buying books at a high rate and some of us, fewer than in the past, are reading them, but apparently cliff notes are too in depth for our pathetically short attention spans. So are we really into books or into the appearance of them? Much is made of digital format books -- from Kindles to the books on our iPads -- but the problem is that the form cannot make up for a lack of interest in or the inability to remain focused long enough to actually get that content into our heads. In the past there were always visual learners but this is kind of crazy!
Eight seconds. That is what a recent survey by Microsoft concluded was the average attention span of an American now is. Eight seconds. . . not much longer than it takes to read this sentence. It has dropped by one third since 2000. By 2050 we will be in deficit territory and someone will need to tell us our names just so we know who we are!
All of this is a grave problem for a people of the Book. All of this is a serious issue for a church believing in catechesis, that knowledge drawn from the Book is worth knowing and growing into. All of this is a major concern for a Gospel that proclaims the Word made flesh. We may soon be ditching catechisms and turning its content into the latest and greatest video games -- just to be able to communicate the faith to a generation that does not pay attention, has trouble recalling what they read, and may not remember how to use what they read, if they read it at all.