The Internet Is Making Me Illiterate

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There’s been a lot of talk lately on the book blogs about what the Internet is doing to our ability to read, and not surprisingly, no one wants to speak for everyone and sound like a luddite and say the end is near. But people are talking about their own experiences, and I have to say it’s pretty scary.

A couple months ago, David Ulin, book editor for the LA Times, wrote, “Sometime late last year — I don’t remember when, exactly — I noticed I was having trouble sitting down to read.”

The Elegant Variation chimed in a few days ago, “I have become conscious of how severely my reading has degraded, how deformed my capacity for sustained focus has become.”

And at CAAF:  “[While reading,] my brain was roving around just as much as my gaze was: mentally rummaging in the kitchen cupboards (chips?), wondering if I had any new email (probably not), and brooding on my petty jealousies and everyday activities (endless).”

I agree with all of them. After just a few hours of web time, I lose the ability to communicate verbally and read anything written before 1985.  On that note, I’m off to go sit in the park now to try to finish a book. We’ll see.


Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He’s been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →