When even that gifted writer and reader Philip Yancey confesses that he is struggling to read books like he used to, you know there’s a problem.
In a recent article 1 he explains:
‘The internet and social media have trained my brain to read a paragraph or two, and then start looking around.’
It is, he goes on, a behaviour explained by neuroscience. ‘When we learn something quick and new, we get a dopamine rush … the brain’s pleasure centres light up.’ So we flick though the internet, snacking as we go. Stuffing our faces with fast food, we malnourish ourselves.
It’s a deep loss. He quotes another researcher who says, ‘we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important.’
Perhaps he’s exaggerating his own case, but he also suggests a remedy:
‘I’ve conclude that a commitment to reading is an ongoing battle, somewhat like the battles against the seduction of internet pornography.’ We have a construct ‘a fortress of habits’ to buttress deep, good, thoughtful reading. Of deep, good, thoughtful books.