What does reading mean to you? In the era of fragmentation, when short videos and Shuangwen Shuang dramas become popular on social media, the information acquisition mode changes immediately. Can you still read a book quietly, and what unique sensory experience reading will bring you? And the meaning of life?
This issue of Zhihu “Questions and Answers” and the Beijing News Book Review Weekly launched a discussion to reflect on the meaning of reading in contemporary society and the human value behind reading.
In recent years, there has been a term called “the gold fish effect” (the gold fish effect), which specifically refers to the phenomenon that people’s attention time is significantly shortened in the Internet era. Research points out that the average human attention span has been reduced from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. The shortening of attention duration shows the weakening of the average concentration of modern human beings, which in turn will have many negative effects: such as low work or study efficiency, omission of important details or information, and difficulties in interpersonal communication. Many scholars attribute this phenomenon to the influence of network streaming media on human information acquisition ability in the multimedia age, and put forward theories about the causal relationship between “multimedia” and lack of attention. Lady Greenfield, professor of pharmacology at the University of Oxford, believes that social streaming media risks “naive” human thinking. The development of the brain, in a fast and short-lived world, may be accustomed to operating in a short period of time. Then, when dealing with longer-lived tasks—such as reading books or listening in class—the attention is relatively lacking. Taking short video as an example, the relationship between users and software is very passive. A user does not even need to wait for the end of the video to choose the next topic of interest. The application software will analyze his points of interest based on his past viewing behavior and select the video for him. Therefore, short video users can passively receive a video stream with new stimulation points every 15 seconds. The link between the pair of neurons on this side of the brain has not yet been formed, and the link between the pair of neurons on the other side has not been fully activated, and the user’s attention has been quickly directed to other places. For trivial and frequent pulse currents, this may be just a flash of waste of resources. However, outside the brain, such frequent switching wastes time, attention and energy. Quickly moving from one micro-length video to another video with a different topic will shorten the user’s attention span. Here, I have no intention of putting short videos on the other side of reading. All media are not good or bad. It just depends on the ways and methods of users and readers. Text, images, sound, long movies, and short videos cannot be generalized. However, different media means and properties will naturally induce different perceptions among viewers. People who are accustomed to receiving text may suffer from this duck-feeding method when watching short videos. Back in time to René Magritte’s “The Betrayal of Images”, media scholars have discovered at the beginning of the 21st century that video, like any other medium, can be carefully designed to be deceptive. Multimedia creators are good at manipulating visual content to generate specific reactions from target audiences. However, in the era of short video with increasing frequency, how can the dialectical reaction speed of human beings resist the bombing of short videos? After singing a one-minute rumor video, the next one will appear before my rebuttal in my mind. Therefore, in this process, the time and space left for the audience to think dialectically is indeed significantly less than that of written media. Reading is different. Readers focus their eyes on individual words, and then expand to a word, a sentence, a paragraph, a page, and then turn to the next page, the next chapter. In this reading process, the speed of moving from the eyeball to the speed of meditation in the heart, to the speed of moving to the next paragraph, is all under the control of the reader. This degree of freedom allows readers to fully think and perceive the core of each paragraph of text, draw inferences from other examples to life examples, and even question the authenticity of the text story. However, this somewhat slow but also romantic thinking process, when browsing short videos, under such a high-intensity rapid impact, was beaten up by jelly beans rushing forward one after another. I don’t know how many users can read here with the resistance to the short video Don Quixote’s manipulative arm block, and encourage each other.