I blame the Internet. In the days when the only time you heard the word “online” was when Scotty informed Captain Kirk that the warp drive wouldn't be back online for another twenty minutes (only to be told that he had no more than ten, to which he calmly replied that he'd see what he could do but that he canna change the laws of physics, but you knew, just knew, he'd have those crystals humming again in a little over nine minutes…erm, sorry, carried away…), my reading was mostly front to back. Books – start at page 1 (or maybe page “i” if it had those odd pre-pages before the actual pages) and read to the end. Magazines – such as Railway Modeller, Record Mirror or (its much cooler, hardcore successor) Sounds – generally front to back. Even newspapers – be it the Wigan Observer or the mostly tedious Methodist Recorder – generally got the “serial access” treatment, i.e. one page / story after another, even if I did skip over the reports from the WI and the latest scores from the village cricket team.
Today if the bookshelf and magazine rack holds no allure we're spoilt with literally endless reading options on the Web. (Well, maybe not literally endless. Not even Google could index an infinite Web.) I currently have two favourite sources, neither of which, I'm ashamed to say, is the BBC News site, although I do drop in there occasionally. No. For me it's Twitter and, of course, WordPress.
There's good stuff on other people's blogs. I have a “Reader” which presents me with updates from blogs I've followed and the editors' suggestions of others worth a look. Twitter similarly offers links to stuff worth reading, or viewing, or mulling on, or just laughing at.
One is obliged, of course, to be selective. I am not wracked with guilt at the fact that I don't read everything dangled in front of my digital nose. What I have realised, however, is a very postmodern tendency for me to skim, and skim…and skim…and hardly ever click through and read what will, in all likelihood, be a relatively short piece anyway. Rather, I hear myself thinking, “That might be interesting but I'll scroll a bit more in case there's something more interesting further down.” Then I do the same thing at the next title and synopsis. And again. And again.
You'll have heard, no doubt, of the grasshopper mind – one that can't stay focused for any length of time. I, it seems, am in danger of becoming a Grasshopper Reader – always skimming, scrolling, checking out what's on offer – but missing out on most of it for fear of missing the really great article that might be just a click (or swipe of the finger) away on the next screen.
So, I confess. And I repent.
I need to change my mind and change my habit. Better to read, enjoy and interact with some of the universe of online reading than none of it. Ditch the postmodern fear of choosing in case something better comes along. Click. And read. As I hope you'll do when next you see links to my posts. After all, if we were all Gasshopper Readers nobody would ever read anything.