[Editors Note: This article was originally published December 2, 2017 on metaright.org]
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 after party in the suburban outskirts, simply pick up that modern device called iPhone in your pocket and tap in the address and voilà, the blue dot leads you back on the right track; no need to locate the star or ask a stranger. All of this is, of course, amazing, and me and my lousy sense of direction are the first to cheer at such opportunities.
But when I look up news sites and the headline 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 books at all.
I swallow the last sip of my lukewarm coffee inside Fiumicino Airport, remove my headphones emanating the tunes of Blank Banshee and Xurious, check-in my heavy luggage filled with books and underwear while carrying my overloaded backpack, mostly books therein. 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 my flight and end up with Quasimodo‘s posture.
But I would prefer not to.
A book is not a long Facebook status update that you can hold on and ‘like’ and comment and share with your 5000 ‘friends.’ When reading books becomes social, the idea and meaning behind 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 gives rise too. That it takes a while to get into the story, is an indispensable part of this. The satisfaction that comes from reading a really good book makes 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 a lasting imprint. It takes a while before you really get to know the other party, and when it’s over you may 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 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 bookstore, the happiness of finding a book you did not know that you wanted, the experience of brushing your fingertips against the wrinkly cover or even flipping gently through the recent discovery you have just made to sitting and drumming through your 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 it all the time, it suffices to say just enjoy that special something and browse.