The other day I issued a tweet that contained a link to a PDF copy of one of my articles. That prompted the following reply from someone I didn’t know: “A pdf? Too hard to read on my phone. Pass.”
I replied in a way that suggested that I though the sender one of the contingent who regard it as their god-given right to have all information, now, for free, and on their terms. The sender, turn, replied in way that suggested that he thought I’m an uptight jerk.
We closed out our exchange in a more congenial way, but I was left with what I know is an unoriginal thought: what if we read only what makes its way to our phones?
Consider the article in question. (It’s here. But remember—it’s a PDF!) It’s not Einstein’s theory of relativity, but it’s not a piece of fluff either. I’m not sure that anyone who reads it in the snatched moments that are the hallmark of phone reading—waiting in the dentists office, waiting for the train—is going to grasp the nuances.
And even if you find yourself with your phone and oodles of time for reading, the screen size would likely limit your attention.
So at at a time when distractions risk atomizing our attention span, like dandelion seeds drifting in the wind, I wonder whether our increasing reliance on our phones risks limiting what we read and limiting our comprehension.