In recent years, technological development has enriched media consumers with new concepts of different kinds. Tweet, Retweet, Tag, Hashtag and App are new words in our vocabulary. Suddenly it is not less unpleasant to have 3000 followers online. As long as it’s about “friends” on Facebook, that is.
Before I begin writing this essay, I want to clarify one thing: I am an optimist about the future. My opinion is that we humans are adaptable and that we should constantly strive towards peak human performance, to the best of our individual abilities. That’s why I’m a revolutionary conservative. Technological development has meant that instead of spending hours trying to peel the husk of five unripe nuts supposedly a day’s nutritional intake, we can spend time writing, for example, essays on extremist blogs and eating non-keto indulgent cheat meals on the day of the Marquis de Sade’s death, instead. Few would prefer the former.
In addition to technology giving us the opportunity to produce food in a simpler way, it has also made everyday life easier. Once you’ve lost your way to an afterparty in the suburban outskirts, simply pick up that modern device called iPhone in your pocket and tap in the address. Voilà, the blue dot leads you on the right track. No need to locate the star or ask a stranger. All of this is of course amazingly good. Me and my lousy sense of direction are the first to cheer at such opportunities.
But when I look up news sites and the main news is that the sales of ebooks for the first time have eclipsed the sales of regular books, I become literally Hitler. For books that you download to your iPad are no real damn books, for crying out loud.
I swallow the last sip of my lukewarm coffee inside Fiumicino Airport, remove my headphones emanating the tunes of Blank Banshee and Xurious. and check-in my heavy luggage filled with books and underwear, while carrying my overloaded backpack, mostly books therein as well. Now, some egghead may argue that if I had downloaded these roughly 3000 pages that make up my bibliomania onto a modern and shiny electronic screen device, I would not miss the flight and end up with Quasimodo‘s posture. But I would prefer not to. For a book is not a long Facebook status update that you can hold on and ‘like’ and comment and share with your 5000 ‘friends’ anyway.
When reading books becomes social, the idea and meaning of reading books disappears. Reading is by its nature asocial. Spending an evening with a novel means that for a couple of hours you get rid of the collective dependence of the fast dopamine kicks that social media give rise to. That it takes a while to get into the story, is an indispensable part of this. The satisfaction and afterthought that arises when reading a really good book, make it all worthwhile.
If Facebook likes and retweets are one-night stands, disposable and uncomplicated stories that are quickly replaced by new, more exciting counterparts—then books are long relationships that make lasting imprint. It takes a while before you really get to know the other party, and when it’s over you can feel empty but also happy that you found each other. You may even have a new view of the world. Patience lies in the very nature of the matter.
This essay is obviously not a call for you not to like my status updates or comments on Facebook, nor not to share this blog entry to others. I’m not bashing Internet-based communication. But if you think you can equate the feeling of stepping into a dusty antiquarian, the happiness of finding a book you did not know that you wanted, and the experience of brushing your fingertips against the wrinkly book cover and maybe even flipping a little gently through the recent discovery you have just made, by sitting and drumming on the MacBook while waiting for the download to complete all stressed-out, then you have made a big mistake.
You must not let the whole world know what you like and retweet all the time. It just suffices to just like something and browse.