In Defense of Slow Reading
Paul M. Davis
Thu, Jun 25, 2009
Illustration by Mott Jordan
To paraphrase Rick James via Dave Chappelle, “Internet’s a hell of a drug.” Like James’ storied
cocaine habit, it’s addictive and alluring, its benefits debatable.
I speak as someone intimately experienced with addictive drugs: two years ago, I quit smoking.
To this day, I find myself smoking in dreams, and occasionally sneak them from friends at the
bar. The rest of the time, the Internet serves as a proxy.
Addictive personalities often replace one addiction with another. My new worst friend is the
social web, the endless stream of information constantly streaming down Senator Ted Stevens’
infamous “series of tubes.” Here’s a short list of Internet services that I use and check with half-
hourly frequency: email, Facebook, Tumblr, Delicious, Evernote, Twitter, Remember the Milk,
Google Reader (tracking some 180 RSS feeds), and Yahoo News. I back up longer articles using
Instapaper to read on the bus; at the office, I work with two web browsers open at all times, 10
individual tabs loaded in each, spread over two monitors. On the commute home, I’m checking
text messages via my Internet-enabled phone and reading archived blog posts on my iPod. At
times, it seems like a type of digital schizophrenia, or if nothing else, a hell of a drug.
I’m what pencil-necked social media experts and Web 2.0 carpetbaggers would call a “power
user.” I dine on a constant, movable feast of information. Scolds might suggest that this is a