In praise of wit, not brevity
My father loves reading the Wall Street Journal each and every morning. It has become a ritual. However, people of my age aren't reading newspapers anymore. I can't remember the last time a friend has recommended a print news article to me. It has nothing to do with the credibility, the subject of the articles, or even the print medium itself.
At the root of my peer's aversion to print media is a distaste for lengthy articles. With the floodgate of information via social media and the internet, high schoolers gravitate towards short and actioned-packed reading. Twitter and Snapchat have been privy to this idea for a long time. Both of these social media giants are built on the idea of brevity. Whether it is Snapchat's disappearing messages or Twitter's limit on characters per Tweet, what a user will never do is sit down and read.
There is nothing wrong with brevity. When Twitter and Snapchat are used socially, brevity can dispel monotony. However, these social media platforms are quickly becoming the main source of reading for teens. Today, teenagers find news in the form of tweets and Snapchat threads. These attention-grabbing headlines are readily consumed by teenagers but have very little substance. Twitter has implemented Twitter Moments, which is a prepackaged series of tweets describing or analyzing a headline to share news. There is very little reading involved, yet the reader has consumed the headline and does not pursue the subject further.
While the lack of depth in news via social media is concerning, teenagers' reluctance for longer reads is far more pressing. I have had peers tell me that they gave up reading an assigned reading after a few paragraphs. They did so, not out of a lack of interest in the subject, but rather out of fatigue. In other cases, students may find themselves skimming the words, as opposed to actively reading the text.
It is not uncommon for the mind to wander while reading, particularly if the subject is uninteresting, however social media has expanded this phenomenon. I have personally seen this in action. There have been times when I had to consciously focus on a reading. A lack of focus would have led my attention to my phone or other distractions.
This difficulty to focus on long readings will cause problems in high school and beyond.
All of the standardized testing in high school involves semi-lengthy readings, and they are often uninteresting. As for college, the reading is both more complex and greater in volume than high school. This is a fact English teachers often remind students of, and a reality many must face. Without conscious action by high schoolers, a simple distaste for long reading can escalate into a serious problem.
What is the cure for this problem? My prescription is simply reading longer texts. You do not have to jump straight into an 80-page Dostoyevsky novel, but try to build back up a tolerance. Just like someone training for a marathon, repetition and practice is key. At first, reading longer texts will be painful. Your mind may wander, you may feel the urge to check your phone, or you may just want to throw the book across the room.
Because social media has packaged stories into bite-sized chunks, anything larger can seem enormous. Over time long readings will feel shorter and shorter.
I am not claiming that social media is an evil enterprise. I believe social media has many benefits. However, for many teenagers social media has replaced all other sources of reading. With only compact and shallow tweets to read, many miss out on all the different stories within longer reads. I am sure there will come a time when high schoolers realize this issue. In the mean time, many people of my age, including myself, should take a leaf out of my Dad's book and pick up a newspaper.
Brandon Kyung is a senior at Wilsonville High School.