Has the internet eaten my concentration? - Jo Carroll

I’m possibly speaking only for myself here - but when I read a blog or a newspaper online I read the title and the opening argument and then decide I’ve got the gist of it and decide if I want to skim from there or if it’s going to repay the time investment to read it thoroughly. These days more and more pieces are skimmed - it’s so easy to get the general idea and then click on something else. Many online newspapers make the process easier by confusing sentences with paragraphs - everything is divided into three-line chunks. Facebook posts - if someone has something deep and meaningful to say, they need to grab me in the first couple of sentences. 

And then I sit down to read a real book. I curl up on the sofa with tea (or wine). I have an hour or two to wallow in real print on real paper. But after half an hour I’m restless - it’s time to move on to something else. A few years ago I could read the clock round and move only when I needed a wee.

I sit down to research something I’m trying to write. A few years ago I could surround myself with books and papers and notebooks and wallow in the way bits of information from here there and everywhere slowly unfold into a new story. But now - I find my mind wandering long before that story evolves. I want answers - it’s hard to hang in there, even though I know that’s the only way to find what I’m really looking for.

Even the writing - I need to be truly drowning in a project if I’m to hang in there for hour after hour and resist the lure of emails.

Is it just me? Is it that I’m getting older? Or is it the internet, with its soundbites and instant gratification, that has eaten those brain cells that used to revel in the hours I could spend delving into stuff in real depth?

You can find links to my fiction and travel writing at jocarroll.co.uk - some of it easy to dip even into if you, too, have the concentration of a gnat.


Ann Turnbull said…
I do find it harder to keep up with news these days - and do tend to skim. Mind you, I've always felt that newspapers (and other media) take up time that could be better spent reading a novel. I said this once to a friend (not a writer) who said she'd always felt exactly the opposite. So she was always well-informed and politically aware, and I... wasn't. I like your website, Jo, and have just ordered The Planter's Daughter, which I shall read instead of attending to the news.
Bill Kirton said…
Reassuring to read your post, Jo (although I'm not sure that's the right word to use because I, too, have lost the capacity to read for hours). I suppose I mean reassuring in that it's the fault of the zeitgeist rather than senility.
JO said…
Thank you both - and thanks for buying my Planter’s Daughter, Ann - I hope it keeps you entertained for an hour or so!
You're right, Jo - I find too much time spent online makes me want to skim read by jumping here and there in a magazine or newspaper. I find I no longer have the patience to read a long and leisurely type of novel, even though I used to devour vast fantasy tomes and enjoy reading a whole series of seven or eight books back to back. I think surfing the web trains the eye and brain to do something different. But spending time off line does seem to restore my concentration, so I don't think it's irreversible?
Umberto Tosi said…
Oh, yes, I can relate! I am an inveterate browser, connected to the Internet this becomes a hopeless addiction. Of course I had no lack of ways to distract myself before the Internet - all kinds of magazines, books (off subject), phone calls, television eating my time, snacking (the worst). On the plus side, I can assimilate all kinds of information more quickly online, even dive deep if I push it, but that can take me further away from the writing at hand. Sooner or later, however, I return, like a tired homing pigeon, to my writing roost. You, apparently, do too. Keep the faith.
Ann Turnbull said…
I too am less keen to read very long books and series, but I put that down to old age. I read the first book of Game of Thrones, then thought that if I set out to read the rest of them I might never read anything else.

I actually think that magazines and newspapers are just as time-consuming and time-wasting as the internet, with the added irritation that they fill up your recycling bags and are bad for the environment. I mean, look at the size and weight of the sainted Guardian...

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