Tonight I pulled into my apartment garage only to find that my parking space was taken by some asshole in a Mercedes. I had to park 4 blocks away and walk back with bags upon bags of groceries. Although that was annoying, I was quite excited to leave a note on his windshield—my very first "Hey Asshole…" note! But guess what? By the time I got back to my apartment, the car was gone. My note, full of devastating sarcasm and withering scorn, wilted in my hand, useless.
If I'm going to suffer indignities like this, shouldn't I at least get the satisfaction of bitching about it? I guess that's what this website is for…
A recent study shows that across the board, in all mediums, Americans are reading for pleasure less than ever before. This isn't just literature, novels, etc, this is all forms of the written word, including magazines, even the mighty Internet. (Yes, that would include even lighthearted easy-reading trifles like BurningBuilding.com)
Less than 30% of Americans said they regularly read for pleasure, down 5% since the mid 90's.
Who didn't see this coming?
In fact, 30% seems pretty high to me. I think out of pretty much everyone I know, only 3 or 4 people would be considered regular readers. Sitting down with a book is now kind of a quaint, old-fashioned novelty notion, almost an affectation, like smoking a pipe, collecting cigars, home brewing, bonsai trees, single malt scotch, and Renaissance fayres.
This is distressing to me, obviously, since 70%-80% of what I do with my life is based around writing, and therefore, by extension, reading. Am I training in an obsolete trade? Is my dream of becoming a successful writer kind of like my dream of becoming a successful blacksmith?
And, what exactly is causing this decline in literacy? The obvious answer is not enough "Reading is FUN" posters in our libraries. How are people supposed to know if they're not told? I think if the statistics were examined you would find a very clear link between the decline of Elijah Wood "Reading is Hobbit-Forming!" posters and the decline of American reading. But although this is certainly a major contributing factor, there must be others, because I've viewed my fair share of pro-reading advertisements, and even I find myself reading far less than I used to. What is going on? Let's take a look at a few of the elements of modern society that are edging out the written word…
Low cost and ease of production for reality shows featuring attractive, vapid automatons in crude parodies of life situations allows for vast explosion in quantity of TV shows, with each channel boasting dozens of similar shows, each with its own spinoffs, knockoffs, and webisodes, until total psychological saturation is achieved. All available brain space is filled with the televised thoughts of attractive, vapid automatons.
Beowulf: the IMAX 3D Experience
CGI animated film hurls arrows, spears, axes, blood, guts, and naked Angelina Jolie directly at the viewers, completely blowing our minds and making us never want to read, write, talk, or walk around ever again.
Straight to Video Knockoff Films
Having already watched every other film in Blockbuster, people turn to low-budget, nearly-homemade films released to coincide with similarly named, similarly themed theatrical films, ie, Transformers / Transmorphers, Beowulf / Beowolf, etc.
Video Blogs (See Youtube)
Weary of ingesting the inane thoughts of strangers by reading them in written text form, Americans turn to video blogs, or "Vlogs", where they can listen to the inane thoughts of strangers while watching their faces from an uncomfortably close camera angle, and randomly assigning them celebrity status by public whim.
Competitive entertainments allow bored Americans to work their reflexes and mental dexterity without actually doing anything, feel part of something without actually being part of something. People flock to Sports/Video Games as an outlet for their personal energies and as a general mental anesthesia. Helps relieve pressure of disposable income and time.
Endless supply of videos where lightsabers have been digitally placed in the hands of people or animals who were not previously holding lightsabers.
THERE SEEMS TO BE A TREND HERE, ISAAC.
Oh yeah? What is that?
A TREND, IN THIS SENSE, IS A MOVEMENT OF SOCIETY IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION, A BUILDING TOWARDS SOME NEW PARADIGM OR AESTHETIC, NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH A "FAD", WHICH IS A SOCIAL PHENOMENA USUALLY CENTERED AROUND SOME POPULAR NEW ACTIVITY OR PRODUCT, SUCH AS THE CURRENT FAD OF THE "MACARENA" DANCE STEP ROUTINE AND "RAY BAN" BRAND SUNGLASSES.
Blue Space, I know what a trend is. I meant what is the trend you're seeing here?
AS PART OF THE GENERAL MOVEMENT AWAY FROM DIFFICULTY AND TOWARDS EASE AND INSTANT GRATIFICATION, HUMANITY SEEMS TO BE TRYING TO AVOID EVEN THE DIFFICULT SENSES. THE POPULARITY OF VIDEO BLOGS SHOWS THAT PEOPLE WOULD MUCH RATHER HAVE INFORMATION POURED INTO THEIR BRAIN THROUGH THEIR EARS THAN HAVE TO FOCUS THEIR EYES ON LETTERS AND ATTEMPT TO COMPREHEND WRITING. IS THE DAY TOO FAR OFF WHEN EVEN LISTENING TO INFORMATION IS CONSIDERED TOO MUCH EFFORT? TOO DULL, TOO SLOW?
That day will probably arrive just in time for the invention of direct-to-brain connections, so that entertainment won't require us to use our senses at all, it will just be dumped directly into our minds in a big, sticky, informationy gob. An entirely new form of blog will appear, the "brain log", or….blog. Hmm.