About a week or two ago I had a very interesting conversation with a teacher at my high-school. It was about the fact that kids are reading less and less books these days. When I argued that I, at least, read probably thousands of words a day but rather than them being a book they were simply in articles online, my teacher countered with an argument that really got me thinking. He said that reading things solely online - and curating what you read through things like RSS - is an even bigger problem. If we are only reading things that interest us, we'll never find anything new. We'll never try something a little bit outside of our comfort zone, and we'll never grow as humans. He continued to say that places like Amazon make this too easy. With their recommendations based on what you already like, you'll never find anything new like you would while browsing a real, physical, book store.
What bothered me about all of this is that I liked reading things online. And I certainly felt that I gained a lot from what I read online. If it wasn't some sort of tip to help me do something better, then it was an insightful article about one thing or another. And the truth is that my teacher conceded to this. He said that reading news is important - but so is reading books. Now, this particular teacher of mine freely admits to being nostalgic when it comes to technology. It's not that he doesn't like technology - and all that it has helped us do - but rather he just feels it's also taking away other important things. With the good, comes the bad. And I hear that. And I want to read real books more. And I plan to, whether it be on a Kindle that I am thinking about buying to make things a little easier, or from a - you know - real book. But I also held strong my belief of how beneficial reading things online could be as well.
I couldn't quite put my finger on it at the time, but I knew I learned a lot from what I read online and that it did indeed cause me to grow as a person.
And then I found this little piece on maxvoltar the other day about the problems with the news these days and his suggestion for getting around it. You have to go read that article before you finish this one. I'll wait…
At first, the article seemed innocent enough. But then I read the last paragraph and it made the rest of the article click:
Living inside a comfort zone is dangerous, and turns you into an uninteresting human being fed by other people’s opinions. Broaden the topics of things you read and learn how to have your own opinion.
At the beginning of the article he was saying how he usually just had technical stuff in his Instapaper, but that he wanted something more. That is what my teacher was talking about. That is what is so dangerous. That is your own little that is created by only reading things that you find. That is one type of reading, and while it can be a lot of fun - and is certainly useful and important - it's not insightful, nor inspirational.
Then there is a second kind of reading. Books. That is a medium that will never go away, and one that is truly timeless. It is the one that your teachers want you to be reading the most, and it is the one that your probably want to read - or have time to read - the least. It can also be incredibly fun and inspirational and is something we all should be reading more of. It's also something that - and I've got a post in the works about this for sometime soon - a Kindle may help you with.
But then there is this third type of reading. The truly inspirational and insightful articles you find online that are well written, are thoughtful, and are not simply "covering the news". The sort of things that the maxvoltar article was saying you can find from places like Give Me Something To Read. Those articles are not aggregated by any one person, and are certainly not curated by yourself. It breaks you out of your little bubble and makes you a far more knowledgable, worldly, and interesting human being. And of course, Give Me Something To Read is not the only solution for finding articles of that caliber. Take a look at this post on 43Folders that is in much the same vain.
The fact of the matter is that you really should be doing all three of these types of reading, the only real question being which one you should be doing the most of. And I'm going to let you answer that question for yourself. I, personally, would love to read more books. But I do also think that reading things online can be just as fulfilling. As long as you have some mix of these three types of reading, you're okay.
But if you're doing none of that, and spending all your time staring at Facebook, that's what worries people like my teacher. And it's what should worry you as well.