Literature and the Online World: One English Major’s Descent into Reading Headings and Bullet Points
Updated: Feb 3, 2019
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I was a good English major; I read Keats’s letters and poems carefully and obtained a Creative Writing Emphasis with my B.A., all of which took a reflective mindset. I was also an avid reader sneaking in Salman Rushdie on the train during short commutes.
Though I have written professionally and for my enjoyment, my reading of serious literature has plummeted like the economy in 2008. I tell myself that this is because of professional demands, yet I do so unconvincingly.
I am becoming a product of my age wherein bullet points and headings are everything, especially online and in PowerPoint documents. While I read some articles that interest me thoroughly, I also catch myself “scanning” the news or other materials that don’t interest me as much. This is dangerous. (In the remote chance that one of my old English professors is reading this, I hope that this confession doesn’t disappoint too much).
In an era where not only the word, but also images are meant to be viewed briefly, we run the risk of losing contemplative thought. Watch commercials on television; the images flash so quickly before our eyes, we hardly take in one before the next one pops up. This is an anathema to examining great works of art in a museum or anywhere. What if we consumed Rembrandt at The Metropolitan Museum of Art the way we consume commercials? What a sad state of affairs it would be.
Personal growth, whether scholastic, spiritual, or professional requires measured contemplation. If we remove this from the equation, surely humanity does not appropriately progress. Not all reflection should be easy just as all reading should not be easy. Spend some time reading a Thoreau sentence. It is well worth it. Though perhaps in his case, more brevity may have been apt.
Life cannot be reduced to a PowerPoint presentation. It is far more nuanced than that. Hopefully, writing, reflection, and philosophy will not atrophy either in the modern age.
As for me, I plan on reclaiming my education and humanity. Bullet points and headings are helpful, but they oversimplify problems. I hope to no longer be reduced to that.