This generation, our generation—and you know who you are—is at the dead center of a profound transition in the way we process information. This is not by any means an original observation, but I’m not sure that enough attention has been paid to those caught in the middle. For my parents and those who are older, it is too late. They will cling on to the old ways of thinking and knowing and will probably be relieved to die without having to make the switch, particularly since they can see where we’re all headed and it has absolutely no appeal. For the kids who have grown up plugged in, they know no other way, so they are spared the difficulties of change. They look at the old folks, or even the slightly-older-than-they folks with a mixture of idle curiosity and derision.
But what about us? We were brought up reading for totality. Sure, we were taught to grab the vital bits and pieces as necessary, but there was more of an understanding that a complete text was its own reward, and either by osmosis or unconscious analysis, the necessary information would implant itself within us. These days we’re trying to absorb everything new, everything that comes at us in endless waves, with a sorry combination of old tools and an unsettled and slightly faulty concept of the new ways in which words signify and convey. The most successful of this cohort will be those who are able to separate themselves from the lessons we were taught at the start and adopt the new methods while carefully maintaining previous understandings, but knowing when to avoid those understandings lest they interfere with the new process.
I’ve complaining about feeling old for the last five years. I know I am not actually old. But I know that I am one of the last and first of a new age. A few years older, I’d be one of the people moaning about the death of books and newspapers. A few years younger, and I might not have actually even read a newspaper.