But the really interesting part of the article occurs at the beginning, when the author, Nicholas Carr, has this to say about his current reading habits:
My mind isn't going--so far as I can tell--but it's changing. I'm not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I'm reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I'd spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That's rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I'm always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle. . . . What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. . . . My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.
When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances--literary types, most of them--many say they're having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing.
This is unnerving. As we used to say in grade school, I resemble that remark. I thought that being distracted just signified an epic case of procrastination, but even in reading long blog posts, I've become the master of the topic sentence, skipping from paragraph to paragraph. Isn't the genius of New Kid's Random Bullets of Crap concept (I think she invented it) [Edited to add: It was actually Ianqui who invented this. Thanks, Dr. Virago, for mentioning that in the comments.] is that it's perfect for blog posts on days when you don't want to write a Henry Jamesian disquisition on what you're thinking?
Or--here's a contrarian view--is this kind of reading maybe just efficient? If Francis Bacon was right that "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested," and we have more reading than ever to taste these days, doesn't it make sense to skim some things? And on the admittedly many occasions recently when I've skimmed something and forced myself to go back and read every sentence, guess what? There was usually enough repetition in the text, with extra examples and the like, that I'd gotten the main points the first time around anyway.
But "deep reading" really is a better system; for one thing, it feels less frantic than moving from point to point, topic to topic. What disturbs Carr, and what disturbs me, is that "deep reading" isn't the default any more; skimming is. Have you found this to be true, too?
I'd tell you about the rest of the article, but, in truth, I can't. I just read the first couple of pages and skimmed the rest.