6738710915_a72064f7d8_b Food For Thought

Books or the Internet : The Struggle of Contemporary Age

I would like to ask you a question: how much do you read?

I don’t mean browsing the web for the latest news, gossip, or horoscopes. I am talking about real books—those hardcover, fresh-smelling volumes of print. Do you enjoy reading in solitude with a pen or highlighter in hand? Or do you prefer caching up on your newest E-book during your busy commute? I have spent many mornings on busy trains and, judging by what I have seen, I can easily attest to the rise of the online media. Without a doubt, we now live in the glorious digital age. We have the whole wide world at the click of our fingers.

We can be anywhere in time and space. We can connect with people across the continent. The Internet is a valuable tool and an astounding invention. Perhaps it is beginning to displace the printed word. A few years ago David Brooks, a New York Times Op-Ed columnist, published an article contemplating one of the most intriguing questions of the twenty-first century. Books or the Internet, print or digital text? Brooks claims that “the Internet helps you become well-informed—knowledgeable about current events, the latest controversies, and important trends.” It is easily accessible, quick and instantaneous in transmitting information. However, “the literary world is still better at helping [you] become cultivated, mastering significant things of lasting import.” Books foster an intelligent, sophisticated identity. They contribute to a lifelong legacy of learning.

Ultimately Brooks concludes: “The Internet may produce better conversationalists, but the literary culture still produces better students.” Is this true? As a student of English Literature and Media Studies, I found this article interesting and compelling. Not only because it was assigned for one of my classes, but mainly because I am, like many others, caught between these two worlds.

Finding comfort in the familiarity in the experience of reading an actual book

I must admit, I belong to that category of well-read book collectors, with a home library of 500 books, or even more. My collection ranges from the works of “Chaucer” to the infamous “Harry Potter” series. However, I also spend hours reading through my Facebook and Twitter updates and searching the mighty web for scholarly sources. I guess, I fall within the definition of fairly ‘plugged in;’ but, to be completely honest with you, I would choose books over the Internet in a heartbeat. My unfaltering answer partly stems from my background as a literary scholar, and entirely from my love of literature.

Call me old –fashioned, but I believe in the aura of reading—the transcendent process, akin to entering another world. I believe in being alone with the text, ruminating, translating, remembering. From an early age, I have grown accustomed to my literary solitude. Reading, re-reading, underlining, highlighting, I have navigated the wondrous maze of the printed word. At times I have experienced joy or relief; at others I have been challenged, and this challenge has made me who I am today. Looking back, I don’t think I could have grown as an individual if it were not for this involved reading.

Thug Life? How about Book Life? Flip a cover and jump right in!

Books have shaped my life. They’ve helped me blossom into the sensitive and articulate individual. They have given me much knowledge, pleasure, and comfort. Books have been there for me when no one else was. Often overwhelmed by the minute details of life, I enjoy entering bookstores, housing these precious bundles of beautiful words, vivid images, and dynamic characters. I often wonder how a small, sometimes seemingly worn out, cover can contain such a life-changing story. I am especially drawn to the classics: “Oliver Twist”, “Jane Eyre”, “The Brave New World”. For me, books perform a didactic function: they teach me how to think, feel and act. I draw strength from literary heroes. Wrapping my arms around a book, flipping its pages, inhaling its scent, I breathe in the wisdom of the printed word. I wholly surrender. I need this physical presence, this tactile touch.

I can’t imagine my life without a book and a pen in my hand. At the end of the day, I happily turn off my phone and hail to the written word. While I am very appreciative of technology and the enormous reach of the digital text, I still prefer that ‘old-fashioned’ experience of reading: sitting in a quiet library, led by the rhythmic turning of pages and ticking of the clock– scholarly and personal pursuit. As an alternative, I also enjoy sitting by the fireplace with a cup of cocoa and a blanket, perusing my beloved novel. I may be an avid user of Twitter, but I am a perpetual student and reader at heart.

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