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May 2, 2013

Summer if for reading, not electronics

By Daniel Herda

After two semesters of hard work, nearly all students look forward to summer and the extra free time to relax and take a break from the books, but will any of them be reading during their time away from school? The answer is most likely no.

Young adults seem to be reading less outside their college curriculum—especially in books relating to fiction, poetry, non-fiction and self help books.

Cleveland State students and teachers feel that books are not being read as much because of technological distractions—specifically technological devices that have fused advanced technology with communication, which is changing how we read and retain information—possibly altering our patience to read longer material.

Christopher Johnston, English playwriting instructor and Dobama Theatre director, feels that young adults are reading less in terms of longer books and longer-form articles. He said the attention span has been shortening for the last 60 years, since the invention of television and has continued to grow with the advent of the computer and the creation of the Internet.

“This phenomenon accelerated more recently with cellphones, Facebook and Twitter, which all provide the satisfaction of a quick response and easy accomplishments,” said Johnston. 

Brittany Truette, freshman-psychology major and student-worker at the Cleveland Marshall Law Library, is an avid reader and feels that there has been a major decrease in summer reading.

Truette wrote a paper about cellphone addiction and has strong feelings on the impact that technology is having on our human bonds and emotions.

“Everyone thinks it’s a lot easier to send a quick text or Facebook message, it seems that they want to know more about the world around them and less about the world in front of them,” said Truette.

Truette said she never uses her cell phone in class and thinks that it can be a major distraction to everyone when a phone makes a beeping noise.
Johnston said he has a ‘no cell phone policy’ in his classes and said it worked for about a week. He mentioned how scary it is to him that students are addicted to their cell and iPhones and that it distracts them from paying attention through the entire class.

“After 10-15 minutes students start checking their phones and some actually get up and take phone calls,” Johnston said. “It is disappointing to me that students cannot go less than an hour without looking at their phones.”

Barrington Baber, junior and business major, plans to return home this summer to be with his mother and family in Washington D.C. He said his life was changed when his first iPhone was smashed and how it put him on a course to a college education.

Baber was showing his grandfather his new iPhone three years ago and explaining to him how to use it. Baber’s grandfather quickly grabbed the iPhone out of his hands and threw it against the wall, breaking it to pieces.

Baber was without a cell phone and had to wait months until he was able to get a new one. He said the experience taught him a great life lesson.

“I realized I was paying too much attention to my phone and when I didn’t have it, I started reading again,” said Baber. “If technology is not in my sight and I have nothing else to do, I will read.”

Baber said his grandfather gave him his first leisure book days after his phone broke and that the book changed his life, which was an autobiography on Malcolm X.

After he got back into reading, Baber decided that he wanted to go to college and mentioned that his mother is his inspiration. 

“I want to tell my mom one day that she doesn’t have to work anymore, so I enrolled in college a few years ago and things are going great,” Baber said.

Baber also said that he wants to read this summer, but also is looking forward to the time he will have to spend with his family.

Mathew Quinones, sophomore and geology major, said he likes rocks, minerals, dirt and the Earth and talked about his plans for the summer.

He wants to look for a job, take a vacation, see some comic book movies and read a book or two. Quinones said he barely reads unless it is mandatory for his classes and added that he wants to break that habit.

“My girlfriend has been trying to get to me read “The Lord of the Rings,” for a long time and I think I am finally going to do it,” Quinones said.

Quinones said he normally gets most of his reading material online and feels that people are reading fewer books, but they are not reading less overall. 
He mentioned how easier it is to get books on a Kindle or a Tablet, but also how books will still never vanish in this increasingly paperless world.

“Books will never completely die out because there is an intrinsic value to having a collection of books on a shelf, like movies for the film-lover, and the reader wants to go back and forth and browse through the books they read often,” said Quinones.
Quinones plans to read “The Lord of the Rings,” in paperback form.

Truette thought about the difference between reading a book from a digital media source versus a paperback form.

“I love the smell of a fresh book and the feel of the paper and would never read a novel on a Nook, iPad, or any other device because it takes the reader away from the full experience,” Truette said.

Truette has a list of 10 books that she is planning to read this summer and said that her cell phone is never near her when she is reading at home. She said someone who is trying to read will never get into the material if they are texting at the same time.
Truette provided some insight into the long-term effects of someone addicted to their cell phones and said younger students who are majorly involved in this technology-communication integration will never have the personal qualities that older students have.

“They’re really missing out on a larger part of life,” Truette said. 

Johnston feels while these many devices add conveniences to our lives, they are not actually enriching them—that they are creating more distractions and anxiety—in a world that is tough enough with overloads of information.

“Those who can find a way to maintain the ability to pause, meditate, think and reflect will be the most successful at writing or any other subjects that demand a disciplined work ethic and intellectual rigor,” Johnston said.