Deliberate illiteracy and the Twitter effect?

Hagar the horrible was one of my favorite cartoon characters growing up.

Of all the great strips that I read the one that has always stood out for me was when Hagar – an unapologetic barbarian – questioned his somewhat nebbish son as to why he would waste his time reading books.

His son responded, because books “tell you things.”

In the subsequent frames we see the great unwashed conqueror at first standing beside a table eyeing a book from the corner of his eye and then, leaning over with his ear pressed against the cover, saying “hello?”.

I was reminded of this particular comic when I read the results of a recent study that reported the following:

  • 33 percent of high school graduates never read another book the rest of their lives
  • 42 percent of college grads never read another book after graduating from college
  • 57 percent of new books are not read to completion
  • 70 percent of US adults have not been in a book store the last five years
  • 80 percent of families did not buy or read a book last year

Now some of you at this point may suggest that this isn’t surprising because more people are probably opting for a kindle as opposed to a paperback.

However, and according to a PEW survey from January, nearly “a quarter of Americanadults had not read a single book in the past year.” To be more precise, “they hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car.”

The above reflects a disturbing trend in that “the number of non-book-readers hasnearly tripled since 1978.”

Now the article that provided the PEW statistics also reports that there are positive trends such as the National Endowment for the Arts study indicating “the percentage of young folks reading for pleasure stopped declining.”

Unfortunately, this is the same has suggesting that the Chicago Cubs are one year closer to winning the pennant than they were last year.

The fact is that we live in an world that is driven by soundbites as opposed to real reflection.

If we are all being honest with ourselves, how many times have you commented on a post here on LinkedIn based on just the title or, at best, reading the title and skimming the text?

How many have actually taken the time to click on the reference links within the text to gain additional insight into the writer’s position?

Let’s face it, how much can we really learn or understand within the equivalent of a blink of an eye?

The downside to this information overload convenience is that we are seeing more but understanding less – especially others.

Or as the report to which I had originally referred at the beginning of this article disclosed, “the more a child reads, the likelier they are able to understand the emotions of others.”

In this context, it would seem that the more connected we become online, the less connected and tolerant we become in life and in living.



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  • Books Written by Jon Hansen

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