We worry about not having enough time. What if it’s a conspiracy?
Reading on the Internet is not the same as reading a real book. Reading a book is the kind of thing that does not enjoy interruption. You read quietly, alone, whenever you can find a place to stop for while. (When last was that?)
Books don’t have links. There is no easy way to stop reading other than to close it, gently lay it on your desk, and then go find some coffee.
In other words, you focus. The more pages you read the more you invest in the book. If you read a lot it’s almost a holy experience.
At least it was. And then the Kindle arrived. Suddenly that same book has links. Worse, the device that you are reading it on does all sorts of interesting things like beep when an email arrives, shake when an SMS arrives, and beep differently to demands you plug it into a wall socket.
Each Kindle or web page offers links to extra info. Each link could take you on a safari through the Internet that might last a week. Trudging ever forwards. Very few of us return to the page that started the journey.
And therein lies the key challenge.
It turns out that your brain (mine as well, I guess) never stops growing muscles. The muscles in this instance being the specific skills you need mentally to do certain things. Reading a book requires more focus than does reading a web page or email. In the one you are invested, reading for a while, because you have nowhere else to go. You will take the time to understand the theme and argument.
The average time spent on a web page is about 20 seconds. That’s enough to skim the first two lines, skim a few in the middle, find a link, and go walkabout forever.
During the past few years of this constant bubbling of distraction we have been exercising different parts of our brains. We now crave that rush of distraction.
Which means that if you insert a link in the first few lines on your webpage, it’s tantamount to telling your reader to fork off and go somewhere else. He will.
Google only makes money when you click on links. No clicks means zero income. Guess where they want to go with this.
This means that I must thank you for reading this far, 407 words into this email. You are my hero.
If you want to delve deeper get the book here.