I recently read a fairly innocuous statement in a blog by Iiona Andrews that made my blood run cold ~ “Reading had evolved into a social experience.”
Oh. Dear. God. The introvert within me feels a bit sick right now.
This ‘social experience’ is not that mild-manner interaction of yore, when after reading a book one gathered with like-minded fellows to nosh and pretend to discuss the book. (This sort of gathering was referred to as a ‘book club’ and actual humans met face to face. Weird, I know.)
Now, the evolved reader (those with tablets or reader apps on their smart phones or perhaps Amazon one-click check-out widgets implanted in their brains) are apparently not content to waste precious moments merely reading, but must also check and send emails, texts and tweets, share impressions on Facebook. search the internet for reviews and opinions of the book they’re already reading and post their own, visit the author’s website and leave encouraging or disparaging remarks, go to Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads to do the same, watch the movie trailer (ha) and um, well, the possibilities are endless. This is assuming the social experience has anything to do with the book at all.
‘That’s how marketing is done these days’, the wise Super Reader will inform you. How nice. But what I envision is said Super Reader getting perhaps a chapter or two in before the itch to interact seizes them and they decide to look up a word or investigate some terribly interesting fact in the book and end up on Travelocity checking the price of tickets to New Zealand because they’re reading a fantasy and hey, that’s where the Lord of The Rings Trilogy was filmed and don’t you have a Farmville friend in Perth? And let’s email him and see how Australia compares and, oh my gosh, look at the cute Koala pictures! It’s an entire website dedicated to Koalas and … how’s the book? Oh, uh, fun but it doesn’t really hold my interest.
For me reading a book has always been a solitary experience. An ESCAPE from the twittering, posting, tweeting, emailing, grumbling, gossiping, snidely commenting world at large. It is a 3-D place to climb into and pull the cover shut against the outside hustle and bustle. This whole social experience phenomena is an anathema to my vision of the perfect book reading experience; on the couch, cup of tea at hand, cat on lap, phone unhooked, computer asleep, rain pattering the window. Quiet. ALONE. No Distractions. I suppose I am the reading equivalent of a Wooly, Saber-Toothed Cave Sloth.
As a writer, well, I can tell you this image of the entirely connected, hooked-in interactive Super Reader is about as appealing as going out to dinner with someone who constantly checks messages, surfs the net, texts, watches Les Mis, and studies Yiddish, and when not doing these things, stares longingly at their screen(s) instead of you. HEY, I just spent fifty gazillion hours creating this masterful work of suspense, intrigue, heartache and redemption, so is it too much to ask to Give Me Your Complete Attention for one freaking hour? Wait. Did you feel that? Someone must have walked over my ego’s grave.
I know. I know. The big screechy reply from the internet to suffering artists is; Man Up, Cowboy Even More Up, Put Your Big Girl Panties On and suck it, writer. With so many options, why should anyone dedicate one whole (shudder) uninterrupted minute to your measly mass of words? They’re not adorable like Tard the Grumpy Cat. They don’t tell jokes. They just sit there. Waiting. Waiting for MY BRAIN to do all the work of conjuring this world that you, writer, sketchily tossed together in a few spare moments while drinking too much and playing hammock tag with super models in Jamaica, for crying out loud.
But really. This all reminds me of a date I went on once. The reader, I mean, guy, went outside to smoke, got lured into the lounge by the boisterous crowd within, and forgot to return. Ever. So my suspicion is that these ‘evolved’ readers are actually media-holics, sunk deep in denial and the World Wide Web of Infinite Distractions. For me, give me solitude. Give me quiet. Give me a well-written book and I will gaze lovingly into your eyes for as long as you can stand it.
But if you want to sneak off for just a moment to post a five-star review, I guess that would be okay.