Discover more from Michelle Varghoose
Read More Physical Things
Tired of Digital Distraction
When I was a young girl, the Troy Public Library was my escape.
I remember walking around the stacks filled with colorful books, running my fingers over the spines, waiting patiently until one called out to me.
When something caught my eye, I’d hook my tiny index finger on the top of the book and commit to my selection.
To get a sense of the book, I’d plop down on the library floor, crack open the first page and start reading. I remember the rush that came with finding something so good it took me to another world. A world that would only be interrupted by the librarian on the loudspeaker, announcing the library closing.
Whenever I left the library, my bag would be overflowing with books, the plastic cutting into my palm as I dragged the bag to the checkout line. I was there so often I memorized my library card number and learned to sweet talk my way out of the late fees I always seemed to accrue.
I remember when I was gifted my first Kindle. It was long before I owned a laptop or a smartphone. My reading world was transformed. This magical, white device with its dull gray background and tiny black letters would transport me to any fiction world in a second. I owe many sleepless nights to getting absorbed into a story on my Kindle.
The distractions were limited.
Back then, distractions meant the smell of Indian spices hitting my nose and burning my eyes as my mom cooked in the kitchen. Or the sound of my dad snoring nearby on the couch. If needed, I could always remove myself by going to my room and closing my door.
I had no idea then that distractions would take on a life of their own. That a decade later they would be embedded into the reading experience.
I’m nostalgic for those days to a point of frustration. I’m reading less and less these days. Not only books, but anything that’s longer than 2 minutes.
I’d be happy to get absorbed into a piece, but the distractions are now big flashing lights on my computer screen, reminding me of a green crop top I looked at for five seconds three weeks ago. Or a video popping up with the details of Kim Kardashian’s latest lover. The price I must pay for reading anything for free.
If I find myself on a real newspaper site, I often max out on free articles. I’ll debate paying for a subscription, but that thought is fleeting.
As I consider it, my fingers take on a life of their own, opening up a new tab, instinctively typing in “T” for twitter. My prefrontal cortex becomes overwhelmed with the dopamine hit of a thousand random thoughts that I forget whatever it was I was looking at.
News articles collect online dust in my Chrome tabs until my computer becomes so slow I’m forced to declare bankruptcy and close everything out.
I used to love reading the newspaper.
When the Detroit Free Press came to our house each week, I’d open up the giant pages and search for the comics or Mitch Albom’s latest editorial. Along the way, I could read up on anything else in our local news. My palms would turn black, the ink from the paper rubbing off on me. If something resonated, I found a pair of scissors and cut the section out, saving it under my bed for the future.
I’ve always enjoyed having a sense of what’s going on in the world, but long form journalism is now strictly behind a paywall. Meanwhile, social media websites with no journalistic integrity baked in are free and built to be addictive. Clickbait and misinformation written as thoughtful questions dominate the internet.
The context switching, distractions and shallow understanding of the world is wearing me down.
So I’m moving towards paying for reading again, but if I’m paying, I want to remove the distractions as well. An online subscription to access articles doesn’t appeal to me if it still includes the harassment of ads and pop up videos.
I crave the physical.
I want newspapers and magazines. Ads that take a softer tone, have a clever tagline and can be left behind on page two. I miss the feeling of getting absorbed into a piece without the temptation of a dopamine hit being one click away.
I’m ready to take a break from my Kindle. It’s now filled with hundreds of books I’ve bought on a whim and the main page is dedicated to sponsored new ones I can “buy now with 1-click.”
I admit that my days of getting absorbed in one book on the library floor has been replaced with scrolling content from my toilet. The deep reading of a book or newspaper has been replaced with tiny snippets, screenshots with no sources and ads pulling me away from reading anything longer than a tweet.
So I am committing to buying and reading more physical things.
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