Everywhere I look, new advances in technology are being made—and seemingly, this happens every couple months when some unique form of technology appears to solve society’s daily problems. When I was younger, I had an mp3 player (really a glorified USB drive) that used an AA battery and held up to 60 songs at once. Then I owned a Motorola flip phone that I used to text my friends and buy cool ringtones. It fit in my pocket, so it was a huge “level up” from the old, clunky phones my parents talked about.
(Does anyone remember the Nokia phones from the 90s? It’s OK if you do; the 90s were pretty cool!)
With these advances in the early-to-mid 2000s, it’s not surprising that now, in 2016, we’ve soared even higher with our interactive watches, Google Glass, and virtual reality. Through these gadgets, we get the latest and greatest features in social media and have the ability to constantly plug into our Twitter, Facebook, and other social circles. We no longer live in a world where we need to disconnect. Our signal is boost 24/7!
Though these changes in technology give us the opportunity to speak (personally and as a society) in a way we haven’t before, a lot of legitimate questions and concerns have appeared. What does the future of technology and social media hold for the things we’ve loved in the past? What will our addictions to Facebook and Twitter mean for our children and grandchildren? Will the next generation learn to read and write in a traditional setting? With the use of talk-to-text and auto-correct, will they even need to know how to spell, read, and write to the level we do today? What about textbook learning? Will the future of this world depend more and more on the Internet and less and less on the wisdom compiled in books? If so, will their dependence and interest in reading itself slowly face away?
With the knowledge of the entire world at our virtual fingertips (thank you, Google, the wealth of the world!), I can’t help but wonder what part reading takes in building the wisdom of the future. After all, technology is here to stay and will only continue to get bigger, more prevalent, and (debatably) better!
Personally, I believe reading is important. Social media holds its place in my life as a useful tool for networking, communicating across long distances, and learning about topics that I can’t find in books or libraries, but I don’t believe it should be the be all, end all of learning. Why should it be? Books (textbooks, blogs, novels, nonfiction, comics, poetry, … the forms of physical books are endless) are pieces of knowledge packed with the thoughts, emotions, experience, and knowledge of others, especially those long departed from our world.
Can we get the thrill of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien through a Facebook post or recap YouTube review? Can we learn the wisdom of The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Scott through a series of Twitter posts or blog posts? Perhaps, but not entirely. Maybe we could, since our brains and tastes are developed and we know how to search for the information we need on the web, but what about children?
The best readers, and the readers who learn how to filter good information from frivolous information, are those who learn good reading habits when they’re children. Most reading development starts during the formative years, kindergarten and first grade, in order to build a strong foundation for learning, problem solving, and comprehension. Will our children and grandchildren be able to develop good reading habits if they’re connected to Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, text messaging, and more … and thus are less interested in traditional books (or even e-books)?
I’m not so sure.
As something to ponder on, consider reading this amazing talk by Neil Gaiman, a well-known British author of children and adult books. During this talk, he gives this piece of wisdom which has stood by me for years: “Words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading.”