I have to confess something to you: I haven't read a book in a long time now. I skim articles from time to time on the internet, but I rarely feel like I took something away from them.
Consuming on the internet is mostly just going from one thing to another without ever pausing to form a thought. I remember what 'readings' felt like in college, where I had pen and paper and a highlighter and I'd mark up texts as if I was talking to them. I'd write 'lol' or 'interesting!' in response to written words. Sometimes I'd write longer thoughts, back when I had longer thoughts. Sigh.
In one of my classes, a fellow student asked our professor for advice he'd give to young people, and his advice was: "Always read with a pen in hand." That seemed absurd to me as life advice at the time, but I think I'm starting to grasp what he meant. When you're reading without a pen in hand, you're being lectured by the writer. With the pen, you can talk back. You can ask questions. You can contemplate, and contribute.
Why this piece today? From 15 years ago, only a year after the first iPhone was launched, Nicholas Carr got the inkling that the internet was making us dumber. This is a topic that's now beaten to death, but Nicholas had something we don't: the memory of a time when things weren't like this.