Screen = scan

When talking about questioning quotidian things today in class, my mind went to a seemingly benign everyday habit  that I’ve adopted: scan reading.

Everyday, I spend more time scanning emails, Instagram posts, text messages, etc, than I would care to admit. With social media, we are presented with an endless amount of consumable material about any topic that we wish to explore. Because of the frequency and over saturation of words that are seemingly unimportant, I’ve trained myself to scan read. Let’s be honest, does anyone really read though the whole caption for their fourth cousin’s baby’s birthday post? Perhaps even more dangerous than scan reading, I’ve unintentionally devalued words.   

Although reading in this manner is not damaging in the context of social media, for me, it hasn’t been restricted to phone reading only. I’ve begun to see it creeping into my consumption of other texts as well. While I read scholarly journal articles, novels for a class, text messages from my high school best friend, other classmates’ essays…I am tempted to read them like I would a social media post: skipping around with my eyes, reading a buzzword here and there. How do I fix this?

One of the big ways that I’ve begun to retrain my habits is by s l o w i n g d o w n. Time is valuable, yes, but I need to remember that time spent reading is–usually–time not wasted. Not everything needs to start and end in the 30 seconds that it takes to view an Instagram post or Tweet. I have to remind myself to sit back, grab a cup of tea, and take my time unpacking the text and absorbing it.

While reading a physical copy of something, I’ve found that it is wildly beneficial to hide my phone until I’m done reading. If my phone is next to me, my attention is not all the way there. I can multitask with a lot of things, but I don’t know of anyone who can logically read a scholarly article and respond to a text about going to see the new Marvel movie. On that note, I’ve found that I associate screens with scan, so if I print out the article, or order the physical book, I’ll absorb the content much better and much more thoughtfully. For me, I’ve found that it’s worth the extra few dollars. If I have to read something online, closing all other tabs and apps is the only way that I can successfully read it. Even my email tab is distracting. If I am reading the article and a message pops into my inbox, I’m taken out of the text and thrown back into the “real world.”

There’s a surprising amount a resentment that I’ve found myself having towards social media. Growing up in an age where smartphones and such electronic access was on the rise, I have vivid memories of reading as a way to pass time and reading every. single. word. Not only would I read every word, but I remembered them later. The biggest problem that scan reading brings up is not being able to remember anything after I’ve finished “reading.”

I’m noticing these habits, and I’m hopeful that noticing is the first step to resolving this. I want to read other’s work like I hope they would read mine: slowly and thoughtfully.

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