Students should read books, not media

Brandon Lee

A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation stated that Americans between the age of eight and 18 are consuming seven and a half hours of media a day.  This equates to nearly 53 hours a week, more than a full time job.  And I conclude that college students continue the trend quite accurately, if not more.  When did staring at screens become a full-time job for us?  And is this amount of media we rot behind something that we want in our lives?

It’s more than a full-time job, it is an assimilated compulsion into our lives that we are constantly attending to. There is the first encounter of the day with a screen: the cell phone alarm clock.  Check it for missed late-night texts, then get ready for the digital day. Before class, flip open the ThinkPad and check Facebook.  Go to class and continue social networking, or surfing the net, or taking notes on Microsoft Word, but continue multi-tasking because it can be done.  Then get out of class, turn the cell phone from vibrate to ring and simultaneously check for new texts.  Return to the dorm: play video games, watch some television, watch a movie with friends, get online and watch TV shows, spin through the iPod and find some background music while doing research on the computer and keep the cell phone close at hand.

Where does the human end and the technology begin in our lives? The young generations of America are becoming Darth Vader characters –– sustained, connected and stimulated by machines.  Cell phones are no longer here for emergencies, but have become integrated into our lives so much that they are an appendage to the hand and mind.  And the information we are exposed to is abundant.

A study by the University of California put the amount of information an American is exposed to in a day around 34 gigabytes of contents and around 100,000 words.

This is not 100,000 words read, but 100,000 words heard or seen though the range of media devices we are surrounded by.  This comes in the form of the advertisements on the side of the screen, the several hours of iTunes tracks that played while I wrote this essay, the array of texts when I Google, the PowerPoint my professor uses, the screens on the wall at Wells Fargo, and the several hours of television gawking.

And we wonder why we are constantly tired, anxious and unable to pay attention to things for long periods. We are over-stimulated humans living in an environment that we did not evolve for.

The introduction of the television, computer, and cell phone is less than 90 years in the making, but we’ve taken all of these inventions and committed over seven hours a day to being busied by them. In that light, I offer the library and nature as an alternative to the poverty of the projected experience, because there is no light at the end of the carpal tunnel.

Books tell a different story, and a book read outside under a tree, near a river, or on top of Hogsback is the liberation of the mind and body from the digital age we find ourselves drowning in.  The library is full of books, so no matter how much a person despises reading, there must be a topic that interests them enough to read a book from cover to cover.  Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” or Orwell’s “1984” would be appropriate places to begin if a person is worried to leave the screen behind.  Personally, I find old travel literature my cup of tea.  A book that takes me on the road or to a different place where the sun also rises or over a cuckoos nest offers me imaginative thinking instead of YouTube projections.

Aside from real adventures and unmediated conversations, books are the most engaging experience.  The characters are more developed, the ideas more revolutionary and coherent, and there are no advertisements nullifying my thought processes.  So I urge everyone to turn off the television, shut the computer and read a book outside of the curriculum, for they have been tested for thousands of years and never failed human beings seeking knowledge.