I worry that reading anything longer than a few sentences is becoming a dying art, and our increasing reliance on technology is ushering it to the graveyard. I’m just as guilty as the next person of helping it happen.
Once our son is in bed, my first thought is, “What can we watch?” If my wife turns in early for the evening, it’s, “What can I watch?”
My wife and I watch a few TV shows together, via DVR, but far fewer than we did before we had a child. After all, when your TV watching begins at 8:30 p.m. or so instead of 5:00 or 6:00 o’clock, there’s only so much you can fit in before bed time. Recording shows for viewing on our own schedule is not new to us. Before DVR, we re-used seven VHS tapes, religiously, each labeled for a day of the week, to record our shows. When the image quality got bad enough, we replaced the tapes.
In retrospect, obviously we’ve always been fond of television. We never had money to spend going out, so we had lots of time for it to fill. We just don’t have as much time to fill as we once did. That’s a good thing. Besides our son, our viewing has dwindled due to social networking sites, and because we live in an area where my wife has lots of friends. Positive contact with a variety of real people must be better than sitting on the couch staring at fictions.
In the event there’s nothing recorded, we have Netflix. A fan of foreign, independent, and old films, I never have trouble finding something to watch. If I get analysis paralysis looking at the 300-plus movies in my instant queue, I can always pick a television series. I would like to say that the documentaries get just as much air time as other offerings, but I prefer not to lie.
My insatiable appetite for audio-visual input doesn’t stop when the TV goes dark.
When it’s time to brush my teeth, let the dog out one last time, and get ready for bed, I use my phone to pull up a stand-up comedy channel on Pandora. I typically listen to it until I’m all the way in bed and my head has hit the pillow.
Now, as always, a TV screen or other electronic device is the center of my entertainment world. Except on my lunch hour, I will choose either of those over reading, every time. Yes, I still enjoy reading at home, but I recall times in the past that I would pick up a book after the shows or movies were over. At the very least, I would read a book for 10 or 15 minutes before bed.
Now, thanks to on-demand media, that never happens.
We stopped taking a newspaper more than a decade ago, and I have piled up two years worth of unread magazines I got with leftover frequent flier miles. Despite all the screen time and other distractions, we both have found time to read at least a few books each year, and sometimes several, so we’re not completely illiterate yet.
It’s encouraging to see the schools spending time on reading and writing, and all educational disciplines rely more heavily on reading comprehension than when I was young. I wonder, though, whether children growing up in this country, with an electronic device always available, will ever choose to read. I shudder to think what will happen if they don’t.
Until they come out of their bedrooms needing a drink of water and catch us reading books instead of watching television or visiting a social networking site, I can’t say I blame them.