Look up from the screen, take a breath, and slow down

The beginning of the 21st century has been all about technology and humanity’s advancement within the field. It has advanced considerably since the late 1900s and is now a part of humanity’s daily lives. Every morning, people wake up and immediately check their email for work or their Twitter account for the latest trends or the news to see what is happening in the world. All of this activity, however, does not stop here: no, it continues throughout the day… the entire day. If one looks up from his or her screen, one will see everyone else walking with their heads down, staring at some sort of technological device.

Why is this? Because people always want to stay connected and, due to the technology of today, a fear has quickly been on the rise: athazagoraphobia, the fear of being forgotten. Many people of today are so afraid of being forgotten, that they feel the need to post random tidbits of their lives just to see who will respond back and this will happen continuously throughout the day just so these same people will have a sense of ease knowing someone is thinking about them.

English Professor David Mikics at the University of Houston chose to study this phobia of being forgotten and discovered some interesting data in his research. When someone writes a short blurb on social media just to get a thought out, sure, friends and family respond to that blurb, but, very soon after, forget all about it. In actuality, the people posting things to not be forgotten are being forgotten soon after they click the “post” button on their screens. Compare these short blurbs to the great works of fiction that have been passed down and remembered for centuries.

What will people remember 20 years from now? A Facebook post about eating a sandwich a person didn’t realize was over a month old or the story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the elaborate story that makes readers question who the real monster is? This is just an example, but Mikics’ research brings up a question everyone should ponder over: Would you rather quickly write something witty and be remembered for a few seconds or take the time to write something meaningful that will be remembered for years?

Mikics gathered all of his findings and placed them together in his book Slow Reading in a Hurried Age. As the title declares, this is a book that is meant to be read slowly. He begins by stating the problem as to why no one reads insightfully anymore: technology. He is not blaming technology, even stating that yes, it is very helpful and has benefited humanity on a grand scale. However, when it comes to reading, that is when technology becomes an enemy. News and social media websites are all about “short, sweet, and to the point” articles and posts and this causes people to skim over all the minor details just to get the gist of what the article or post is really about. This can come in handy if one is in a hurry, but what about the writers who take the time to write something beautiful and it is underappreciated just because someone did not want to take the time to read all of the words on the page? Here is where Mikics writes the answer to the problem: put the phone down. Turn off the distractions and do not look at them for an hour (do not worry, the apocalypse will not happen and the world will still be spinning after the hour is up).

Following his problem and solution of slowing down, Mikics lists fourteen rules as to how readers can better accomplish the solution he mentioned earlier. These rules read more like guidelines and readers who wish to read slower do not need to follow every single one. These helpful tidbits lead into how one can read different categories of literature which include short stories, novels, poetry, drama, and essays. Each one reads differently and Mikics delves deep into how one can study each work. Here is where the book lags a bit. Granted, Mikics gives excellent recommendations as to great works of literature, but he does carry on for longer than he should. What he should have done for each type of literary category is include three popular works in that category, explain how he reads them, and then make suggestions of how others can read them.

Slow Reading in a Hurried Age is a great text for any English college course and should be used to teach anyone who is willing to listen about the importance of slowing down. Even if the reader does not take any tips or helpful hints away from the book, at least he or she has an excellent list of books to read from Mikics’ many recommendations. Even with Mikics’ longer rants, this would probably be a better book to discuss with a larger group than just reading it by one’s self. It is a very insightful book, but it would be nice to know what other people think about what the text has to say. With Mikics’ message about slowing down not only for reading, but also in life, perhaps the younger generations (or even for those who have allowed technology to run their lives) will start to care a little bit more about what they post on social media and maybe, just maybe, they will look up from their technological devices and really see the world for what it is a little bit more each day.


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