So you can read my books

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Some big news from Facebook's earnings report: Teens don't want to spend their time on Facebook anymore. 

Many don't want to be on the same media source as their mothers.  One teen mentioned the irksome curse of her aunt (in her 30's) tagging every one of her photos with "Isn't she cute?"

Another teen said there should be an age limit for Facebook: No old people on Facebook!!

A teen surveyed, Aidan, says that he created his Facebook account before he had a cell phone. On a computer, FB was his best choice, but now that he has a phone, he would rather check out other cooler options, like Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram.

(Have you ever heard of Snapchat and Vine by the way?)

" Facebook takes more time to create and read," he said. "And words are less important than images and videos."

Did you get that last? 

Even with eBooks, are we the last generation to be reading for pleasure?

Lucas, another teen surveyed, says that although pretty much everyone he knows has an account, only about 25% of them still use Facebook regularly. 

He likes Vine and Instagram because you can just scroll through quickly when you're bored, looking for funny or interesting stuff but not having full conversations.
He sees Facebook more for communicating personally with friends, but even then it's not his first choice. 

"You’d probably just text them, or a lot of people use Kik," he said. " You can use it with an iPod."

Kik is a messaging service like WhatsApp. It's by no means new, but both Lucas and Aidan said it's very popular with their age-group right now. (Interestingly, neither mentioned Twitter .)
In fact, teens' mobile-first habits actually threaten to topple tech's legacy platforms.
The fragmentation of social media may have started with teens but it will soon climb up the "age chain." (I don't know about you, my link on the age chain is beginning to rust!)
WhatsApp, the messaging service with 300 million users, which has been able to collect paid download and annual subscription revenue, provides an alternative to Facebook chat without any intrusive marketing getting in the way.
How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read?

Technology codes our minds.  How does social media code ours?

Psychologist Jean Twenge is the author of a study showing that the tendency toward narcissism in students is up 30 percent in the last thirty-odd years.

On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments.

They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem.

They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way),

“speak” in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they “like.”

Using Twitter, young people can pretend they are worth “following,” as though they have real-life fans, when all that is really happening is the mutual fanning of false love and false fame.

All the while, these adolescents, teens and young adults are watching a Congress that can’t control its manic, euphoric, narcissistic spending,

a president that can’t see his way through to applauding genuine and extraordinary achievements in business,

a society that blames mass killings on guns, not the psychotic people who wield them, and—

here no surprise—

a stock market that keeps rising and falling like a roller coaster as bubbles inflate and then, inevitably, burst.

Here is what Neil Gaiman thinks:

Neil Gaiman
'We have an obligation to imagine' … Neil Gaiman gives The Reading Agency annual lecture on the future of reading and libraries. Photograph: Robin Mayes
 I'm going to tell you that libraries are important. I'm going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do.
Fiction has two uses.
Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end …
that's a very real drive.
And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you're on the road to reading everything.
And reading is key.
Words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web,
we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading.
People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.
The second thing fiction does is to build empathy.

 When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people.

Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks,

and you, and you alone, using your imagination,

create a world and people it and look out through other eyes.

You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know.

You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well.

You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed.

Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

You're also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And it's this:

The world doesn't have to be like this. Things can be different. 
{For the rest of his talk go to: }

What do you think of all of this?


  1. Those who disdain education of the most basic kind - reading and speaking in full sentences - they will suffer the long range effects.

    We may be writing books that the adults of the future cannot comprehend - they won't have the basics. If most adults today (generally) cannot comprehend sentences with more than 17 words, what will this reduce to in the future? I predict - There will be more Homer Simpsons in the future.

  2. D.G.:
    There was a terrible movie (that had the potential to be very funny) IDIOTCRACY that followed the line of your thought in a future America where an Army soldier with an I.Q. of a 100 caught in frozen-sleep woke up to be the smartest man in the country.

    We well may find a future with text in symbols and pictures like the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Sigh.

  3. This is such a weird time. In 25 years everything technological has shifted so immensely and so quickly that it's almost overwhelming. Okay, it is overwhelming. The whole social media thing is fascinating - especially as an older person who wouldn't have started all these accounts if it hadn't been forced upon her. I've started thinking about Facebook and Twitter and all that as different options for what suites your taste. I read an article in the last week (can't remember where or who wrote it) that detailed the different media and who uses it. I remember it saying that Twitter users were the most diverse, while Facebook was used more for keeping in touch with others. As far as meeting new young people that was some other social media - maybe Vine. It's occurred to me that I can't belong to every single social media out there, and so have decided to concentrate my efforts on the place(s) that seem to work best as far as meeting people of a like mind as mine - which seems to be twitter, and then use the other accounts I enjoy (Facebook, Twitter and my blog) to augment that. I have no idea if it's a good idea, but if I don't get some sort of plan together, I'm totally going to burn out!!

    As far as reading, I totally believe we have to get kids hooked young. Early literacy is key to school success, which leads to life-long success. Language and vocabulary is so important for the developing brain. I loved the article about how reading develops empathy and social skills, too. It makes total sense. Drama has been recently utilized to help teach people with autism how to interact more smoothly with others and to help them understand the perspective of the "other." Fiction is a window into other worlds and into other minds. It's magic, for real!

  4. Lara:
    Like you, I am a cyber-novice. I will always read, but I do not if future generations will.

    I like to think books will survive. They have been around for a long time.

    Like books, sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is.

    The books may be eBooks or something that my limited mind cannot conceive.

    Neil was awesome in his article from which I quoted.

    I believe you've come up with the secret: get children hooked early on reading for pleasure.

    I like your idea: work the social media circuit in a way that makes sense to you (you will be able to keep it up better that way) and in a way that works with the limited time you have.

    It is hard to think what technological changes will occur in the next decade. It may be that our society and world will implode with the changing, explosive political crises -- and we will be hurled back into a more primitive setting. Books will still be there to add light to our path. :-)

  5. ...I have a young Lucas in my house as well, who may find himself on Facebook once, and depending on his current love life, (he's 13, by the way ;) sometimes twice a week.

    My wife and I used to monitor our children's usage on Facebook and other social media sites, but have since backed off. My kids make up the majority of today's youth who back up your post, Roland, in that Facebook has become the hot spot for the older generation.
    My take on the "right to read" conversation, much like fashion, what goes around, comes around. In time, those dusty books that take up so much space on our shelves, will be in demand again, someday. And our youth, let's give 'em a chance, they'll give up on Twitter in time and will turn to a good read over the latest chat. I've got faith!


  6. I remember when Myspace started to become obsolete and everyone (not just teens) rushed from Myspace to Facebook. There's always going to be something else better, but I still like FB because it's easy to connect to others and get to know them, which is something I like to do as a writer. And it's ridiculous to think the age limit should exclude older people. It should actually exclude most teens because of the bullying that happens.

    And the comment by Aiden (the teen) who said "words are less important than images and videos" really irked me. If these kids were properly educated they wouldn't think that way. A lot of these social media sites are actually hurting the younger generations in terms of intellect and manners.

    I agree with you that libraries are important and reading is the one thing that I believe can broaden minds -especially the youth.

  7. Hi Roland .. I pick up information around other bloggers and few other places .. but don't do FB very often, don't Tweet .. and generally worry about governance if no-one can read or write ...

    If we bring up a generation of poor communicators - those that have and those that have not .... will get hugely more divided ..

    My rust levels are up too - apart from my loss of blood, but that was relatively minor relatively .. and I'm healthy and healing rapidly .. not like some of the pasty youth ..

    Books, libraries, educative films, documentaries ... local groups being available for kids, so they can broaden their horizons ..

    Very interesting and somewhat worrying ... Hilary

  8. Hilary:
    I don't do FB very often either. I am basically shy. And Tweets are just too short to say anything of note. I hope your health is nothing short of stelar right now. :-)

    Life will find a way. Be at ease you are in very numerous company. Including me! LOL