The rant below was originally published on Tumblr, which has an awesome community that took it very seriously. If you’re curious about tumblr generally: the free templates they offer are very well-designed and it is terrific for posting photos. It’s not hard to create a visually stunning Tumblr. In any case:
All social media can encourage some terrible habits that discourage studying and make people actively hate learning anything. All of you know this: you can spend hours trying to get the right song for your Myspace profile or taking pics of yourself. You’ll spend tons of time messaging girls on Facebook in the hope of some response. Twitter becomes an excuse just to go some place to tweet about it.
But yeah, Tumblr might be the worst of the bunch, given the habits I’ve seen here. Typically, to produce content on the Internet, one has to read something or consider what is worth talking about.
Tumblr’s main strength – the ease of content-production – is a fatal flaw. From 14-18 years of age (at least), you kids need to be reading, not reblogging the same photo of Megan Fox every single day. You need to be reading above and beyond classwork, not just barely doing your assignments.
Why am I placing such an emphasis on reading? Go look at Myspace profiles of people 30 and older. Note how most people are into the same bands they were into during their high school years. Note how most of them haven’t read a book in years, and if they have, it probably wasn’t Hemingway or Steven Pinker. Ask yourself: how did people get this way?
It’s really simple when you think about it: after college, that’s it. Your ability to talk with your friends dwindles down to nothing, life is work and making money. Not only is the time you have reserved for friends pretty much “going to the bar” or “going to church,” but your time to learn anything is radically diminished. And no one cares if you make progress teaching yourself: your job is to make money. That’s adulthood, taking care of yourself so that way no one else has to take care of you.
If that seems a really shallow conception of maturity, it is. And that’s why reading is so critical – it isn’t just that, at your age, you can read about the careers you want and excite your imagination. It isn’t just that you can relate to the innumerable people over the ages who were hurt by love (cf. “If I can stop one heart from breaking”). It isn’t just that reading better things on the Internet will make you a better student and make school that much easier.
No, it’s also that the only way to break the immature conceptions that dominate life nowadays is to bring serious opinions to bear on them. Serious opinions can’t be had in 140 characters or less. The only way you’re going to be a generation that transforms the world for the better is if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t read, you don’t have a chance of doing that.