I’m sort of disturbed about it, to be honest.
You see, I’ve always spent a decent amount of time online, and I’ve been writing stories and ideas long before I wrote code. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I guard my reading carefully (though life with a three-year-old leads to a less careful guarding of this than I would like). By guarding, I mean that I have always worked to reserve time for it (that’s the part that slides with a toddler). I used to routinely read 2-3 books monthly, part of which was motivated by a really great online book club, but then school and life and a daughter happened, so that average has significantly declined. That’s life, though, and the point is that I guard the time that I have carefully. I also guard what I read. I spent so much time in non-fiction during grad school that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a novel again at the end of each semester (the only time I seemed to have to read them then).
By guarding, I also mean that I’m careful about how I read. I’ve read the research about how reading with a backlit display before bed causes disrupted sleep (and I do a lot of my reading before bed). I’m cautious to try to read the printed (or eInk) page while reading in bed, and leave the screens asleep for the night before I go to sleep.
I compartmentalize easily…I always have. Reading different mediums (a blog vs. a book) has always meant reading in two different modes, if you will. I’m careful about this because I want to, as much as possible, stave off the rewiring of our brains that different modes of reading brings. The beauty of reading a book…and one of the things that I so carefully guard against…is that I can become absorbed in those pages, that the world around me can melt away and that the only thing that exists in that moment is the story in which I engage as a willing participant. No distractions of incoming mail, no links, no infernal ads…rather the ability to leave all of that behind. It’s a different sort of experience, a different type of reading to me. That reading experience is what I’ve guarded, because I feel it to be so important, important enough to hold a dedicated place in our lives.
Last night, geek that I am, I was looking through a DC Comics superhero encyclopedia (don’t judge). In one of the entries, one of the images of artwork for the character in question was quite small. I got closer to it, squinting, and my right hand involuntarily moved for a mouse to click the image and make it larger.
My compartmentalized, guarded modes of reading collided.
Now, there’s a lot of conversation that could come from this, not the least of which is that this sort of book is exactly the sort of reading that is perhaps better suited for the medium of the web or an ebook on a tablet device. All of that conversation is valid. It’s just that I feel as though I’ve slipped in some capacity, that my guard has come down, that my reading or even my ability to think has somehow come into question.
And, that’s perhaps more than a bit melodramatic.
You see my point, though, right?
I’m going to go think about how to guard my reading again.