#Skim this IMPORTANT column!

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, April 19, 2014

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If you read to the end of this sentence, particularly if you are reading it online, you must have a lot of time on your hands.

Or at least that’s what I took from a mind-blowing piece in the Washington Post recently that looked at the way online reading is affecting how we read.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

Cognitive neuroscientists (cog-nists, as I like to call them) claim our brains are actually rewiring themselves to skim through online articles and pick up on exciting key words, helping us digest the most important parts so we can slash through all the other items on the page that compete for our attention – videos, links to other stories, social media links, and on and on.

Just think about how we skim through the ridiculously long lists of emails we get every day, and how we have to quickly decide which ones are spam and which ones were actually sent by a human.

Just in the past few minutes, here are the subjects of some actual email I’ve received:

  • Do-it-yourself floor coating product!
  • Get your complimentary psychic reading
  • Remove herpes safely
  • Earn $20 for a 20-minute survey
  • Meet Japanese singles online
  • Submit Update information
  • Life is short – have an affair
  • Catch cheaters – with a security camera

See, if I skim for “Update” rather than “herpes,” or “psychic reading” or “cheaters,” I find the bona fide email amidst all the junk battling for my attention, and my $$$$, apparently.

The biggest problem, according to those quoted in the @washingtonpost article, is that we spend so much time online – more than five hours a day, according to a source in the Post post – that our brains have trouble slowing down to read text on a printed page, such as a book or a lengthy story (or column) in a newspaper.


Take our online poll to submit your opinion and you might be selected to win an iTunes gift card. (Offer not available to Wise County residents or anyone else who has bravely kept reading this column because there is no online poll nor iTunes gift card.)

And don’t even get me started on “text speak,” LOL. It will completely destroy our beautiful language B4UKI, IMHO. 🙁

Which brings us to the MOST IMPORTANT POINT of this column: How do we stop this looming reading Armageddon?

If only there were a product you could hold in your hand that just included stories and maybe a photo or a graphic or two. It would be great if it included news about the community you live in without dishing on the latest twerking exploits of Miley Cyrus or whatever it is that Justin Bieber is doing these days.

It wouldn’t chime when you receive a text or email, and you could read it without seeing words like “herpes” or “psychic reading” in your line of vision (this column excluded, of course.)

To reduce the eye strain, this news you want to read could be printed on paper – the same stuff the instructions are written on when you get your smartphone.

You wouldn’t have to log on or open your inbox. There’s no password or username. It’s delivered to your mailbox and removed manually.

These news-on-paper products could even charge, say, a dollar apiece and include advertisements in order to pay people who have gone to college to write compelling news stories and sometimes ironic columns.

I think I’ll get to work on creating such a product. I can’t wait to share my fabulous idea on Pinterest!

I would like to #thank the Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus (the actual, handheld book), without which this column would not be #possible. And I’d like to apologize to every faithful newspaper reader who has never texted, sent a tweet, visited Pinterest, received an email about online dating or heard of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber.

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