Reading into a cultural change

Am I a dinosaur? Does anybody else find it irritating to watch a video of a story on the Internet when you could just as easily, and more quickly, read the story?

The tinny little voices and background music just grate on me. In the time it takes to load the stupid thing, and then with the jumps and glitches in the video play; I would much rather just skip to the written version. My computer, however, and perhaps it is only my computer that does so, will not allow me to scroll to the written story until AFTER it has downloaded the video portion.

We are well on our way to becoming an illiterate society and have been for years. People magazine seems to be designed with poor readers in mind – all pictures, very few words, sensationalism the byword.

Newspapers are facing challenges as well. Why take the time to read a well written, well covered story when you can turn on CNN or FOX or any of the network channels and get a sensationalized, sanitized, syncopated synopsis of the world around us?

Our kids aren’t taught penmanship anymore; can spelling be far behind with auto-correct on every device? Of course, doctors practice poor penmanship daily when they write prescriptions and highly overpaid executives haven’t been able to spell for years. Thank goodness for their secretaries and assistants who are there to prevent them from looking stupid.

Perhaps I am missing the point: evidently to be successful financially one needs to spell poorly and write illegibly?

I’ve always been the kind of person who prefers to read the book rather than watch the movie. About 99 percent of the time when I’ve watched the movie (after reading the book) I am sorely disappointed in the end product. Hollywood is marvelous at special effects, but they are sorely lacking in plot development and the nuances of the characters. It just can’t be done as well in a visual medium.

I have been informed of a trend in library books as well. I recently requested a series of books be purchased by my local library and was told no one would check them out, the series was too long and the author not well known. I was reading “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone when I was 12 years old. Admittedly, I am a bibliophile, but I find it hard to swallow that reading is fast becoming a thing of the past.

I suppose there is a small blessing in the invention of e-readers. Books can be downloaded onto our favorite portable device and read wherever and whenever we please. I, too, have an e-reader. I haven’t picked it up in months, but I have books there, waiting to be read after I’ve finished the pile of books I purchased recently and not-so-recently.

My husband learned a long time ago to not leave me unattended in a book store. I have an unfortunate tendency to overspend. I love the feel of a book, the smoothness of the cover, the smell of the print, the texture of the pages as I turn them; and I get lost in the desire to own them. I guess it’s my own personal addiction.

Maybe lack of imagination is at the core of the problem. We, as a society, have achieved so much in so short a time that imagination is no longer needed. We don’t need to imagine far off places anymore, we can see them on Google Earth; we don’t need to imagine how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly or how a joey lives in a pouch, we can search for it on our computers. I think we’ve lost the thrill of discovery when we teach our children to “Google it” instead of experience life.

Do children still look up at the clouds on a summer day and see ships and elephants? Do they squish their toes in the mud to feel it ooze around their feet? Or have we taught them to watch it in a video on the Internet?

I guess I’ve gone from wanting to read it on the Internet to condemning the Internet for taking experience from us. It is a mixed blessing. As for me and my house, we will continue to try to experience life, not just watch someone else’s adventures and mishaps in a video on YouTube.

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to