Teenagers and Books

And the really scary part:

In 1975-9 (to take a random example), a clear majority of teenagers read a book every or almost every day.

Right now, the number is 15% and it’s dropping every year. This includes reading on a tablet or any other device, so it’s not about different formats of reading.

My anecdotal observations support this. Student perceive “reading a whole book” as a very unusual and weird thing.

As you can see from the preceding posts, the time taken away from books isn’t going into working for money, dating, hanging out with friends, homework or extracurriculars. It’s going into screens.

These are poor, crippled kids who have been robbed of one of the greatest pleasures and purposes of life. Imagine what your teenage years would have been if books (and magazines and newspapers) were taken away and substituted with an endless succession of duckface selfies, Twitter likes, and Instagram follows.

19 thoughts on “Teenagers and Books”

  1. I have students who refer to any book that isn’t a textbook (i.e. a book that is deliberately pedagogical, with lots of side-bars and questions and activities built into the text) as a “novel.” If I have them read a decidedly non-fiction book on, say, historical and economic context of the job market for scientists, some of them will refer to it as a “novel.”


  2. I saw these trends already beginning to happen when I was a teenager and it’s really sad. I’ve become too beholden to the screen nowadays, but while I spent too much time on the computer as a teen, I didn’t have a laptop or smartphone so it was nowhere near as extreme. I also feel like there was more intelligent content on the internet back then, but that could just be nostalgia.


  3. I think that people from my generation would say that they don’t read as much as they should or would like to….But when today’s college students say they don’t read, they say it without the slightest bit of embarrassment.


        1. I need to finally listen to at least one. It really dates me that I never heard a single one in my life. I even downloaded a podcast app but still can’t force myself to listen.


          1. A year or so ago I ended up in a corner of the interwebs that was favored by young (mostly 20s) conservative-ish types (I don’t want to use the term “alt-right” because I think it’s become fairly meaningless at this point).

            Not that I’m particularly interested in that subculture anyway, but one reason I won’t learn much about them is their preferred means of communicating. They seemed to be very averse to any form of text longer than a tweet, and to communicate with each other exclusively through youtube videos. And not even creative videos, it’s usually just some guy sitting in front of a webcam talking. I could never sit through hours of that stuff.

            I wasn’t sure if it was a behavior specific to that subculture, or a generational thing.


            1. It’s generational. There’s so much stuff that happens entirely on youtube, but I mostly dislike watching videos and I’m just not willing to do it that much. I don’t think I’m missing out anyway.


            2. I too have been sucked into this 20-something-young-men-kinda-sorta-conservative YouTube and social media. It is true that their form of communication is mostly tweets and long form conversations on podcasts/YouTube. Don’t care much for twitter but the long form conversations are interesting. Of course, a majority of anything is trash, but the good ones are good. It’s providing a platform for long form conversations and lectures that I hadn’t had a chance to witness since my university days. Many of the intellectuals who participate in these are academic pariahs and have view points that I’m unlikely to hear at a conventional university. The term ‘Socratic dialog’ has been thrown around to describe these conversations.

              Some podcasters/YouTubers have explicitly chosen this medium because of a dissatisfaction with TV as a medium. Joe Rogan for example, clearly says that he hates the ‘we’ll be right back’ format of TV. With the internet, time is not a constrain anymore and there is no reason to leave an important conversation mid-sentence and go on a commercial break. The result is conversations that can be quite meandering but deep at the same time.


              1. As silly as the phrase “intellectual dark web” is, Bari Weiss was not wrong in that there is an entire alternate media universe out there with very little overlap with what you find in “respectable” venues like traditional media or Slate or wherever.


          2. Ha ha, listening to one isn’t going to help. At this point it’s like saying, I’ve never watched TV so let me watch a single episode of a single show to figure out what it’s all about. 🙂


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