Why Do We Celebrate The ‘Solitary’ Experience Of Books But Decry The Social Experience Of Online Social Media?

We already wrote making people more lonely, but that same piece made Mathew Ingram go on a bit of rant on Twitter raising a good point. He noted that the same folks who decry social media for making people lonely often celebrate the importance of the solitary experience of reading books. He finds it odd that the solitary experience of reading books is seen as sacrosanct and notes that both experiences can be used to “escape from the real world.” So why is one considered bad and one considered an important cultural point?

I’d guess part of it is simply generational. As Douglas Adams has stated (I’m paraphrasing slightly), every tech around by the time you’re born is “normal,” new technology that is invented before you’re thirty is cool and new and anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is “against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it.” It seems there’s definitely an element of that happening here. Also, there’s some view that talking to friends is just idle chatter… whereas reading a book is a “serious” thing from which you might learn. Of course, the fact that the most popular books are probably just as insight free as many online conversations is ignored. It’s not like everyone reading books is digging into a meaty exploration of ways to solve all the world’s problems. Either way, Mathew raises a good point. I’d be curious if someone can defend the importance of books while also defending the claim that social networking is useless without being self-contradictory.

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