Carson King Lesson More about Internet than Ethics

Carson King held up a beer sign during a mega-media sporting event, and his life changed overnight. He rode the media blitz from icon to apology. In the age of the machine, the same thing can happen to anyone at the right time in the wrong viral place.

A 24-year-old man held up a sign asking for beer money at the widely televised ISU-Iowa ESPN Game Day media extravaganza. It was a thunderous day, with multiple delays at Jack Trice stadium. For many tailgaters, beer was a good remedy to wait out the weather.

ESPN was crawling with media trying to create content before, during and after downpours, and King appeared in a short segment.

Then the Internet happened, and money started flowing as freely as tap into King’s online Venmo account.

As the funds grew to about $600, King did the right thing: He said he would give that money to University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.

Seeing endorsement opportunities, as well as compassion in a thoughtful young man, Busch Light and Venmo promised to match whatever funds King raised.

He ended up raising a lot, more than $1 million.

Mediated Brands 

King’s own brand metamorphosed swiftly on Internet. In the course of a few weeks, he became a celebrity–“Iowa Legend”–with his likeness on a beer can.

beer

His story was local as well as national. The Des Moines Register would do a “profile,” a genre that explores the background and character of a newsmaker.

According to the journalism website, Poynter, “The subjects of profiles could be people who are on the brink of change, unusual people, people in the community others may have wondered about but never bothered to notice. …”

That post was written in 2002, and the world changed since then, although many journalists as well as news consumers don’t quite realize how much. Internet is immediate, global, and more powerful than anyone thinks … until they have a Carson King experience.

This is how his story morphed from compassion to apology.

In a routine background check, the Register did what employers, college admissions officers, parents and yes, college students do: It looked at King’s past social media posts.

There were two racist ones posted when he was 16. The reporter asked him about them, and King didn’t immediately remember them. Internet remembered them, and now the world would probably see them.

So King did what many public relations practitioners would have advised: Get in front of the story.

He composed this statement:

Then he appeared on WHOtv.

Only he did it before the Register went to press.

The newspaper had planned to reference the tweets in a few sentences at the end of the profile, which largely would have focused on his positive impact. (Here is the published piece.) Some might say, had King not got in front of the story, those sentences would have been dismissed or not even read in a social media era where users typically are too distracted to read to the end of any story online or in print.

That also is an Internet effect.

Media Ethics

A post by Register Editor Carol Hunter explained what was happening behind the scenes. (We don’t know if the reporter found the offensive tweets and went to an editor for advice, or whether he contacted King directly, setting off a chain reaction.) Debates arose in the newsroom with pros and cons and provocative questions. (Note:  Also, a second Hunter follow-up was posted on 9/26/19 noting policy changes. The reporter in question no longer works at the Register.)

Here is an excerpt from Hunter’s initial explanation:

Should that material be included in the profile at all? The jokes were highly inappropriate and were public posts. Shouldn’t that be acknowledged to all the people who had donated money to King’s cause or were planning to do so?

The counter arguments: The tweets were posted seven years ago, when King was 16. And he was remorseful. Should we chalk up the posts to a youthful mistake and omit the information?

As Hunter acknowledged in her post, reasonable people could disagree with the decision to question King about the tweets and to include them in the story.

That’s a media ethics question in the grey area in which the Register found itself. The backlash was swift and severe, largely focusing on the newspaper as symbol of demonizing media. However, as Hunter knew, there was no clear answer, given the circumstances: only choices and consequences.

Ramifications were immediate. Anheuser-Busch terminated its relationship with King and issued this statement:

Carson King had multiple social media posts that do not align with our values as a brand or as a company and we will have no further association with him. We are honoring our commitment by donating more than $350,000 to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

From a media ethics perspective, we might focus on two standards in the decision to withhold or publish information about King’s tweets:

NOT TO PUBLISH

  • Fairness: The tweets had little to do with the story about charity and compassion.
  • Do No Harm: Mentioning the tweets would cause harm to the primary beneficiary: Children’s Hospital.

TO PUBLISH

  • Transparency: The tweets were public.
  • Public Information: Donors had a right to know.

A media ethicist might have advised the Register to omit past juvenile social media posts in profiles of adults unless those posts were indisputably associated with the topic of a story. A teen tweet about violence in a story about violence, for instance, would fall in that category.  Conversely, the newspaper could have done a positive profile about King without mentioning the tweets and scheduled a follow-up story at a later date, perhaps with a spin on how character develops with education and experience.

But that was preempted, too. Something or someone triggered a series of events, prompting King to get out in front of the story.

Oddity and Odyssey  

The Carson King episode was a journalism anomaly.  Several coincidences occurred that contributed to this story. It rained. It was Game Day. ESPN and its audience were bored. Corporate branders saw opportunities in a photogenic man who matched its target demographics and psychographics. And, of course, his last name happened to be “King,” as in “King of Beers,” the Budweiser logo.

And then something happened that showed everyone just how powerful social media can be when we fail to practice discretion. People began scouring the reporter’s past tweets and found offensive ones there, too.

Now the story was national. The Washington Post picked it up in a article titled “Iowa reporter who found a viral star’s racist tweets slammed when critics find his own offensive posts.

The Post published this Twitter screenshot.

But that’s not the story either.

Concerning Carson King, many corporate influencers have said, done or disseminated outrageous, hideous, hurtful, stereotypical, profane or slanderous tweets and posts. But there is a key difference between them and King. They deleted them.

King never thought he would be a national celebrity. So he didn’t delete.

In his statement, he writes:

It was just 10 days ago that I was a guy in the crowd holding a sign looking for beer money on ESPN Game Day. Since then – so much has happened. Especially when I announced all of the money would be donated to the Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City. Thousands of people have donated and today the account is at 1.14 million dollars. Much of this has happened thanks to social media – it has the power to bring people together for a common good.

It also can make your life very public.

Celebrity icon Andy Warhol prophesied in 1968 that everyone in the future “will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” In the Internet age that phrase might be “world-famous and then infamous in 15 minutes.”

King’s fame happened because of omnipresent Internet responsible for more than a million dollars in charitable giving as well as to his rapid fall from corporate grace.

Convention and Intervention

Despite the complexities and anomalies of the Carson King saga, the audience recognized the familiar journalism pattern: Elevate someone to celebrity status overnight, then cut the person down and find a scapegoat. Tag the Register for that.

An online petition appeared on change.org, demanding the Register issue a front-page apology to Carson King. Its goal is 200,000 digital signatures, and at this writing, some 157,761 had done just that. (In fact, in the short span of composing this paragraph, more than a dozen more signatures appeared.)

Gov. Kim Reynolds has proclaimed Saturday, Sept. 28, “Carson King Day in Iowa.” You can read the proclamation here.

The celebration is apt in many ways, with one caveat. King’s juvenile offensive tweets must have been especially hurtful for any peer or person of color reading them. To be sure, teens say all manner of offensive things, and many later realize the errors of their derogatory ways. Often, teachers or role models will have intervened to explain the history and hurt of racism, treating infractions as teachable moments about the importance of inclusion.

King said as much in his statement:

Thankfully, high school kids grow up and hopefully become responsible and caring adults. I think my feelings are better summed up by a post from just 3 years ago:

“Until we as a people learn that racism and hate are learned behaviors, we won’t get rid of it. Tolerance towards others is the first step.” — July 8, 2016

Education is the instructor in cases like this, and that also applies to Internet.

Interpersonal Divide continues to advocate for media and technology literacy, as early as middle school and continuing through college. We all have to confront the new digital realities shaping social norms because of the speed and viral propensity of the web.

That lesson applies to journalism. Withhold today what you cannot decide for tomorrow. Re-evaluate ethical standards established in the age of print and decide if they still apply in the age of the machine.

Courage of Greta Thunberg: Social Media Propels Message

Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg displays moral courage addressing climate change at the United Nations. She used social media to spread her views. Trolls used it against her, targeting her Asperger’s diagnosis. Yet she persists with a powerful, provocative message.

Some say her Asperger’s diagnosis allows her to speak boldly. Some say it’s just plain courage, with a message delivered at the right time and place through the proper platform. In any case, Greta Thunberg’s use of social media has become the digital megaphone that inspires thousands. Thunberg uses Internet in the manner that many of us envisioned around the time of her birth: bringing to the world a global message of proactive change.

In 2004, the Pew Research Center surveyed experts in The Future of the Internet I about how the worldwide access would be used in the current day. Some of the predictions were spot on, including major cyber attacks on the grid, Internet integrated seamlessly into physical environs, and increased levels of government surveillance.

Here’s one of the fails. The majority of experts believed that more information would lead to higher levels of social awareness rather than political bias.

Just 32% of these experts agreed that people would use the internet to support their political biases and filter out information that disagrees with their views. Half the respondents disagreed with or disputed that prediction.

Thunberg’s rise as an environmental icon has to do with interpersonal as well as digital protests. Her personal narrative began in 2018 when she left school to protest outside the Swedish parliament, demanding that politicians act to sustain the environment. She was photographed, blogged and tweeted about on social media, inspiring students in her own country and Europe to participate in similar protests.

Now she has taken her message to the United States, a country that has withdrawn from participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation.

Thunberg’s courage also includes ignoring repeated attacks on her person. CNN reported that President Trump mocked her after her UN speech, tweeting: “”She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”

Internet trolls target her Asperger’s condition in coordinated political and personal attempts to undermine her message.

While typical teens might have yielded to such attacks, Thunberg responded with indifference and insight:

“When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!  I have Asperger’s and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances -being different is a superpower.”

Interpersonal Divide often discusses the biases and banalities of social media. However, the book also documents teens who have used social media as Thunberg does, to engage and teach. Here’s an excerpt:

In 2016, the 12-year-old singer-songwriter Grace Vanderwaal learned how to play the ukulele by watching YouTube videos and went on to win a million dollars on the competitive talent show “America’s Got Talent.” Online content also has advanced careers of budding scientists. In 2015, 17-year-old Olivia Hallisey helped solve a refrigeration issue in Africa associated with portable diagnostic tests for Ebola by reading online about a silk fiber derivative that keeps proteins stable without requiring cooling temperatures.

Whether arts or sciences, Internet can inspire innovation and trigger social change. It also has the power to create overnight global icons with powerful messages, as in the case of Thunberg.

As Interpersonal Divide also notes, however, “there is one critical component that can cultivate astute use of online resources, and that is parental, peer and teacher guidance on how to access information from reliable sources and avoid dangers from untrustworthy ones.”

Thunberg’s message is empowered by reliable sources on climate change, informing everyone about the need to take action to repair and sustain the environment.

 

Engagement v. Hate Speech: YouTube Tries to Do Both

Google is trying to monitor and delete hate speech from its popular YouTube channel with new rules and warnings; however, the company’s bottom line–literally–is the number of clicks that feed its revenue stream.

An insightful post by Mathew Ingram, Columbia Journalism Review, dissects twin opposing goals of Google in deleting hate speech via algorithm and human moderators while maintaining audience engagement. That engagement includes opinions many might find offensive.

Ingram cites interviews with former YouTube staffers that suggest Google cares as much about how long users spend on the site, regardless of content, as the offensive nature of that content.

In its latest effort against hate speech, Google reports that it took down more than 100,000 videos and 17,000 channels for violating hate speech rules. Also deleted were more than 500 million comments.

Offensive content is screened via algorithm and human moderators.

Interpersonal Divide has covered these hit-and-miss methods in previous posts, including one last year, titled “Violence, Bias, Hate: What Algorithms Miss and Why You Should Care.”

Nonetheless, the latest crackdown has merit.

According to its official blog, the company has “a longstanding policy against hate speech,” specifically targeting supremacist content. The latest initiative prohibits “videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.” The policy bans content that promotes Nazi ideology, or denies documented events, such as the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

The company’s community rules also bans:

  • Nudity or sexual content. “Also, be advised that we work closely with law enforcement and we report child exploitation.”
  • Harmful or dangerous content. “Videos showing such harmful or dangerous acts may get age-restricted or removed depending on their severity.”
  • Hateful content. “[W]e don’t support content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity.”
  • Violent or graphic content. “It’s not okay to post violent or gory content that’s primarily intended to be shocking, sensational, or gratuitous.”
  • Harassment and cyberbullying. “If harassment crosses the line into a malicious attack it can be reported and may be removed.”
  • Spam, misleading metadata, and scams. “Don’t create misleading descriptions, tags, titles, or thumbnails in order to increase views.”
  • Threats. “Things like predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people’s personal information, and inciting others to commit violent acts or to violate the Terms of Use are taken very seriously.”
  • Copyright. Respect copyright. Only upload videos that you made or that you’re authorized to use. This means don’t upload videos you didn’t make.”
  • Privacy. “If someone has posted your personal information or uploaded a video of you without your consent, you can request removal of content based on our Privacy Guidelines.”
  • Impersonation. “Accounts that are established to impersonate another channel or individual may be removed under our impersonation policy.”
  • Child Safety. “Also, be advised that we work closely with law enforcement and we report child endangerment.”

Interpersonal Divide discusses these and related issues involving technology at home, school and work. Here’s an excerpt about hostility as the new normal:

Hostility as social norm.  Surveys show that society is becoming more uncivil, not only at workplaces but also during commutes to them, because of road rage and distracted driving. All of that has spilled into the home, triggering conflict there. Cyberbullying and subsequent online incivility has led to a hostile work environment with such consequences as absenteeism, turnover, grievances and even lawsuits.

We’ll continue to monitor Google’s efforts to remove hate speech to ascertain whether it is living up to its well-publicized commitments.

 

 

Promote digital literacy in Malta’s schools

Malta has the second highest rate of digital engagement in the European Union, with 96 percent of those aged between 16 and 24 active on social media. Online abuse disrupts school activities and causes loss of sleep, changes in appetite and worrisome interpersonal issues.

Copyright 2019 by The Malta Independent

By Michael Bugeja

Earlier this year The Malta Independent ran an insightful article about mental health literacy, warning parents about over-protecting children and hindering their ability to cope with everyday stress. Experts discussed how to distinguish genuine mental disorders from simple life challenges but they did not, however, address a major, stress-inducing teenage activity: social media.

Why is this a concern? Two years ago, The Malta Independent reported that Malta had the second highest rate of digital engagement in the European Union, with 96 per cent of those aged between 16 and 24 active on social media. The latest statistics show that some 66.41 per cent of Maltese are active on Facebook alone, with others spending time on Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other platforms.

Distracted by their own online activities, parents are often oblivious of the abuse that their children experience on social media.

I have been researching these harmful effects for almost two decades in my work as a distinguished professor at Iowa State University of Science and Technology. I have writtentwo books on the subject: Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age (2005) and Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine (2018), both published by the Oxford University Press.

Last year the Pew Research Centre released a study showing that name-calling and rumour-spreading has increased dramatically among teenagers, with “the proliferation of smartphones and the rise of social media” transforming “where, when and how bullying takes place.”

For the rest of the article, click here or visit:  https://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2019-08-11/newspaper-opinions/Promote-digital-literacy-in-Malta-s-schools-6736212052

Essential Conference on Post-Truth in the Age of the Machine

The Commonwealth Centre for Connected Learning is hosting a conference on Post-Truth, Oct. 10-11, in Valletta, Malta. In the video below, Professor Alex Grech, expert technologist, discusses with Interpersonal Divide author Michael Bugeja the state of truth, surprisingly similar in Malta and the U.S. Reason? Social media misuse, partisan media and a world without “why.”

Michael Bugeja, distinguished professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University, says journalism and society in Malta and the United States has been divided politically and ethically. “Fact is alternative and truth is not truth.” We seek affirmation rather than information. Many of us would rather be friended but uninformed.

Meanwhile, journalism has aligned itself with those groups and political parties because “margins are too low in the objective middle.” Dr. Bugeja asks this intriguing question:

How can two countries thousands of miles apart with decidedly different cultures suffer from the same moral malady? Technology divides us into partisan groups. Corporate giants–Apple, Microsoft, Google (Alphabet), and Facebook–have programmed how we think and treat each other in the post-truth era.

This conference is essential for educators, communicators, journalists and citizens so that they can understand what divides them, who profits from the division, and what can be done about it.

Alex Grech, a change consultant, educator and speaker, is known for this work on Digital Identity, Digital Credentials, Blockchain, EdTech and Media Literacy. He holds a doctorate in Internet Computing from the University of Hull. He teaches these courses at the University of Malta:

  • DGA3008 – Digital Literacy and Social Networking for Creatives
  • MCS1000 – Aspects of Communications
  • MCS1050 – Internet Communications
  • MCS3953 – Social Media and 21st Century Communications
  • MCS5460 – New Media and Society

Michael Bugeja teaches media ethics and technology and social change at Iowa State University of Science and Technology. He is a dual citizen of Malta and the United States.

In the above video, Dr. Grech asks Dr. Bugeja candid questions about the state of truth in the age of the machine. Both professors advocate for understanding technology from a computer science perspective rather than consumer perspective.

Dr. Bugeja expounds upon that idea. “The biggest lie in Malta and the United States,” he says, is clicking “I agree” as if you have  read the terms of service when you download an application on your smartphone or computer.

Dr. Bugeja also discusses his research in Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine (Oxford Univ. Press). The first edition of the book won the prestigious Clifford G. Christians Award for Research in Media Ethics. His other major text, Living Media Ethics (Routledge/ Taylor & Francis), also won that same research award.

Social media is programmed to sell and surveil simultaneously, Dr. Bugeja says. For decades, journalism emphasized the so-called “5Ws and H”: “who, what, when, where, why and how.” However, you do not need to know “why” to make a sale.

“This is the state of journalism in Malta and the U.S,” Dr. Bugeja says. “We know how, what, where and when something happened to whom, but do not know why.” This allows political parties to insert the “why,” dividing society politically so that we distrust each other.

Drs. Grech and Bugeja also discuss how teenagers in Malta and the United States learn about social media by trial and error. Both professors have 16-year-olds. Teens accept everyone at first as “friends” and are trolled or bullied and then slowly utilize the privacy controls. By then, though, the damage has been done. They may have been hurt psychologically.

Dr. Bugeja expects pushback to his determinist views. He believes that technology has the power to control us unless we know its computer program and have read the terms of service. He also acknowledges the incredible power of technology, which can be used for the common good, especially when a journalist or blogger creates fact-based content that seeks common bonds instead of division.

Dr. Bugeja says it doesn’t matter whether those attending the conference agree or disagree with his views, shaped by the French-Maltese philosopher Jacques Ellul.

Ellul believed  technology is neither moral nor immoral. It is amoral. As soon as you insert it into an existing system, it changes that system and its culture. Insert it into education, and education is all about the technology. Insert it into the economy, and the economy is all about technology. Insert it into politics and journalism? You get the same result.

According to Dr. Bugeja, everyone attending the conference has an opportunity to take back to their institutions the notion that technology and media literacy should be a required course. “We owe it to Generation Z,” he says, so that students can utilizing technology to empower themselves and their ideals.

The 2019 3CL conference will be held on 10 to 11, October 2019, at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta, Malta.

The registration fee includes access to conference sessions, conference materials, lunches, tea/coffee breaks, and the opening reception on the evening of 9 October, 2019. Registration closes on 3 October, 2019.

  • Early Bird Registration (up to 31 July 2019) – €275
  • Regular Registration – €375
  • Registered Non-profit Organisations – €100
  • Full-time Student Registration – €50

CLICK here to register. 

“TALK OF IOWA” PODCAST

Do students really read books anymore and, if so, do they do so online? When was the last time they read a print book? What if students were awarded 25 extra credit points if they brought a print book to class, for verification purposes, and then sent a response about the experience?

That was the assignment, and students at Iowa State’s Tech and Social Change classes eagerly took advantage of it, experiencing the transformative power of print books.

At first, the vast majority of students struggled with their phones’ insistent pinging to such extent that some shut off their devices and even headed to the campus library–the book’s symbolic home–for the necessary quiet to comprehend the book’s contents. The vast majority of the class rediscovered their love of reading as well as comprehending, perhaps for the first time, how much time they were wasting on phones–texting, browsing, tweeting, etc.–and the consequences of “digital attention deficit disorder.”

In sum, they were empowered by focus.

That assignment was the basis of “And for Extra Credit: Read a Physical Book” published May 28 in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Now you can tune into “Talk of Iowa” with host Charity Nebbe interviewing Professor Michael Bugeja; Jessan Ashley-Gray, Dr. Bugeja’s former student and ISU alumnus; and Katy Kauffman, president of the Iowa Association of School Librarians.

For more information about the podcast, visit “Talk of Iowa” at this URL: https://www.iowapublicradio.org/post/surprising-benefits-real-books

The Transformative Power of Print Books

Ever try to text or multitask while reading a print book? It can be done, but it’s tricky. Covers flip shut. You have to bend the spine so the work lies flat; but you broke the book. Interpersonal Divide author Michael Bugeja tested that in his Tech & Social Change class. Results were illuminating.


Do students really read books anymore and, if so, do they do so online? When was the last time they read a print book? What if students were awarded 25 extra credit points if they brought a print book to class, for verification purposes, and then sent a response about the experience?

That was the assignment, and students readily took advantage of it, only to experience the transformative power of print books.

The vast majority of students struggled with their phones’ insistent pinging to such extent that some shut off their devices and even headed to the campus library–the book’s symbolic home–for the necessary quiet to comprehend the book’s contents. The vast majority of the class rediscovered their love of reading as well as comprehending, perhaps for the first time, how much time they were wasting on phones–texting, browsing, tweeting, etc.–and the consequences of “digital attention deficit disorder.”

In sum, they were empowered by focus.

That assignment was the basis of “And for Extra Credit: Read a Physical Book” published May 28 in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In Spring 2019, the assignment was offered again. Students were told that they could earn 25 extra credit points by bringing the print edition of the work to class for verification purposes and by writing a response to this question: “Describe how you felt reading a print edition of the book you selected for this assignment.”

Students could choose any book on technology, philosophy and/or social change. For convenience, a 108-select bibliography of Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine was provided to help facilitate selection.

After sending their responses about reading a print book, students were asked if their comments could be shared in this article. All agreed. Names have been withheld, and the order of responses rearranged so as not to be deciphered alphabetically.

FALL 2018 [n=27]

  • Distracted by Phone, 73%: Cell phones interrupted reading.
  • Educational Experience, 27%: Print book helped students focus, complete assignment.
  • Enjoyable Experience, 92%: Positive feelings about reading a print book.
  • Rarely Read Books, 27%: Students seldom read books (e-book or print) in college.
  • Relaxing Experience, 15%: A calming effect on the mind and/or improved sleep.
  • Sense of Accomplishment, 15%: Pride about progress as approached end of book.

SPRING 2019 [n=27]

  • Distracted by Phone, 67%:Cell phones interrupted reading.
  • Educational Experience, 33%:Print book helped students focus, complete assignment.
  • Enjoyable Experience, 74%:Positive feelings about reading a print book.
  • Rarely Read Books, 8%:Students seldom read books (e-book or print) in college.
  • Relaxing Experience, 15%:A calming effect on the mind and/or improved sleep.
  • Sense of Accomplishment, 26%:Pride about progress as approached end of book.

Coincidentally, an equal number of students participated in the extra credit assignment in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019. Student-coded responses indicate approximately between two-thirds (2019) and three-quarters (2018) of respondents were distracted by pings from their cell phones. Most students (92%, 2018; 74%, 2019) found reading a print book enjoyable


EXCERPTS FROM RESPONSES

While student responses in Spring 2019 largely mirrored those of the preceding class, the latest experiment gave new insight into how students and, in one case, a parent, had to cope with pinging phones.

“Within 5 minutes of reading my phone was ringing from text messages from my friends but I ignored it just fine. But in a 30-minute span I can’t even count how many times my phone rang. My mom was texting me and because I did not reply she ended up calling me. I was so frustrated at that point I was almost pushed to tears.”

Another student who put the phone on silent could not concentrate on the book without having something to hold in her hand. He/she found a remedy: snacking.  “I probably ate way too much food because of this book. I did enjoy the break of not staring at my laptop screen.”

Two students were so angry at their androids that they felt they were being held captive. “I was so interested in the book I actually got mad that my phone kept interrupting; it’s funny I say interrupting like it could talk to me but seriously that ding distracted my reading every single time,” one wrote. Another stated: “Eventually it got to the point where I asked my roommate to hold my phone hostage for at least 2 hours. It’s crazy the measures that have to be taken to get your attention away from your phone.”

Here are excerpts from student anecdotes:

  • DISTURBED: I had to leave the comforts of my bed, remove the headphones from my ears, and put all my technology on Do Not Disturb in order to finish the book.
  • APPETIZING: The notifications of text messages or Snapchat always covering up the words I’m trying to devour at the top of the page, hindering the reading experience. Reading a hardcover, in this experience made me realize that in order to comprehend and truly enjoy reading is achieved more than by just having words. It’s like wanting a cheeseburger and googling a picture. The idea of the burger is in front of you. You can touch it look at it, but the connect to this burger is not the same as being able to hold, touch, smell, and even eat the burger.
  • FINALLY FOCUSED: Wow. I can’t think of a more accurate word to summarize what it was like taking the time to pause, purposefully put down my phone and read a physical book. For the first time in a while, after reading a hardcover book, I felt a focus I hadn’t realized I’d been missing. Lately, especially since starting college three years ago, I have been finding myself frequently accidentally getting sucked from one task to another, especially while reading or doing homework on my computer. During this task, and in finishing this book, however, I finally felt like I was centered on what I was doing. I also felt an incredible sense of relaxation while reading that was not only peaceful, but mentally engaging.
  • FACE-DOWN PHONE: During my experience reading my selected book, I found that I did have some distractions. My phone, TV, and roommate would sometimes get in the way of my focus on sitting down to read the book and comprehend the information. I would have to silence my phone and turn it face down most times I read so I wouldn’t be distracted.
  • MOM WORRIED: At first, I thought the hardest part of the assignment would be the writing portion, but in reality, it was the sitting down and reading. I distinctly remember one day I had the morning off from work so I decided to read and take notes for the assignment. Within 5 minutes of reading my phone was ringing from text messages from my friends but I ignored it just fine. But in a 30-minute span I can’t even count how many times my phone rang. My mom was texting me and because I did not reply she ended up calling me. I was so frustrated at that point I was almost pushed to tears. I truly just wanted some peace and quiet so I turned off all my electronics just so I could read.
  • ANGRY AT ANDROID: I started reading with my phone by my side of course and every time it would ding I would pick it up stop my reading respond to it, eventually when I got to the 40th page or so I started getting so upset at my phone I had to turn it on silent and set a timer for me to read for an hour then check my phone after that hour was up. I was so interested in the book I actually got mad that my phone kept interrupting; it’s funny I say interrupting like it could talk to me but seriously that ding distracted my reading every single time. It was nice to silent my phone and enjoy the book itself.
  • NEW MOTIVATION: My experience reading a print book was very interesting. I made it a goal to turn my phone over and avoid the temptation to check it. I actually found the book so interesting that I read it over the course of one day. I would reward myself for finishing a chapter by looking at my phone and quickly catching up on responding to messages. I used it kind of as a way to motivate myself even though it made the process of reading it a little longer.
  • DISRESPECTED PRINT: The typical person can’t just sit down in a quiet place and focus on one thing. I found myself setting up a rewards system: ‘when I read 10 pages I can go check Twitter.’ When I would sit down to read I would have to force myself to not look at my phone and when I did pick up my phone, I felt guilty! Like I was actually disrespecting the book. When I forced myself to ignore the distraction of screens, I discovered that I was until able to get lost in the content.
  • CALMED DOWN: For the book that I read in print, I can say I had a good experience — and there was definitely a difference when I read it with my phone next to me or not. When I did have my phone by me, I consistently had the urge to check it, or even just scroll through Twitter. Although, at one point my phone died, so I put it on the charger in the other room. Oddly enough, I was still not completely focused just because I was worried about missing something important. But after a while, I just kept my phone in the other room and eventually calmed down. After calming down, it was easy for me to read the book at a quick pace and still retain information, since I was actually paying attention.
  • PHONE TIMER: I found myself taking breaks and checking my phone too often for no apparent reason. I wasn’t retaining anything I read and I kept re-reading the parts that I missed. I was getting annoyed. Eventually after getting so distracted and not being able to focus, I set a timer on my phone for an hour and I told myself I couldn’t stop reading my book and letting myself get distracted by technology till the timer went off. It sounds kind of crazy but that’s what I had to do to be focused while I read. Not only did I learn a lot from just reading the book, but I also learned how controlled I am by my device.
  • GIVE-AWAY PHONE: Personally, I thought reading a print book was hard. It was hard mainly because I found myself being distracted. I knew that my phone was going to be a distraction, but I underestimated how much of a distraction it was. Even if I didn’t hear a notification sound I would periodically check my phone just because I felt like I was missing something. I ended up having to turn my phone off and give it to my roommate just so I wasn’t tempted to turn it back on.
  • RE-INSTILLED LOVE: In the beginning my phone was a distraction. I would often check notifications or look on my social media apps. However, after I was finished with chapter one I turned off my phone and kept it in another room so I could focus on reading. I sat in bed, put a candle on and started to read, and wow had time flew by. I forgot about all my other worries/ stresses and was truly captivated with the words being read, it relaxed me. I started getting excited for the times of my day that I was able to read the book, to shut off from my phone. When I finished and closed the book I felt greatly accomplished, more so than playing the games on my phone. I’m thankful for this project because it re-instilled my love for reading print books and has got me back in the game. So, thank you.
  • ATE A LOT: I found my concentration improved when I distracted my hands with something to play with or I was eating. I probably ate way too much food because of this book. I did enjoy the break of not staring at my laptop screen. I get headaches often from screens and that is a challenge I have to overcome as a graphic designer who has to stare at the screen for hours at a time. The book did not give me any side effects.
  • HELD HOSTAGE: It was extremely hard keeping my attention on the book the first few days getting into it. I was constantly going on my phone and if I wasn’t on it, my mind would wander away from the text and on to other things. Eventually it got to the point where I asked my roommate to hold my phone hostage for at least 2 hours. It’s crazy the measures that have to be taken to get your attention away from your phone. I came to the sad realization that I am in fact, addicted to my phone (shocker).

COMPLETE RESPONSES WITH SELECTED BOOK

To fully appreciate the addictive nature of smartphones and how they negatively affect critical thinking, read the full responses of students along with their chosen works. You’ll also discover how many enjoyed reading a print book or found the assignment relaxing or educational.  Perhaps the testimonials might persuade educators to assign print books rather than e-books or other online reading, mainly because the devices used to access content continuously interrupt and undermine reading comprehension.

Student #1 (Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Bantam Books, 1995)

“I finished my book today. I am an 18-credit student with a part-time internship and I am also graduating in May, so I am applying and interviewing for full-time jobs after graduation as well. I keep myself very busy, so it was nice to sit down and read a book that really makes me think on a different level about my own emotions, how I handle them and recognizing and handling other people’s emotions. I really enjoyed it. I’m so glad that we are doing book reports in this class because I have been wanting to sit down and free read, but I never have time with my busy schedule. I am very glad I decided to buy my own paper copy from Amazon because I was able to actually highlight the book when I found something that really made me think or something that related to my own life. After reading this book, I was also able to relate well with my Mom. She is currently 5th-grade special education teacher and in past years was a social worker. Emotional intelligence is a really important part of what she teaches her students on a daily basis. I don’t know that she realized there was a name for it, but she does now. A big part of the book is that it is important for kids to work on emotional intelligence at a young age, so it was a good topic of discussion for my Mom and I. I think there’s a good chance I will be passing this book on to her.”

Student #2 (Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle, Basic Books, 2011)

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other“Reading a hard copy of my book was a positive experience in my opinion. Lately, I have been getting used to the idea of only using e-books, but reading this hardcover book reminded me of how I used to love books in a physical copy. I read about 50 pages per day, so it was a nice opportunity for me to have a chance to sit down and relax at least once a day. Reading a hardcover book was relaxing for me. I usually would read at my house or at a coffee shop which are calmer environments for me. Overall this experience helped me reduce my daily stress level and to just take a second to sit down after a hectic college day.”

Student #3 (Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds For the Better by Clive Thompson, Penguin Books, 2014)

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better“I was never an avid reader until I got to college. Now, each break I finish as many books as possible and find myself ordering more books than I can finish during the academic year. However, when it comes to assigned academic readings, my motivation instantly vanishes. This assignment took me by surprise, though. Being able to pick the book truly helped motivate me to finish quicker than I originally anticipated. When I first cracked open the book, I tried to listen to music at the same time since that’s what I do when completing homework assignments. After an hour on the same five pages, I realized I was going to have to treat this as a book and not as an assignment. I had to leave the comforts of my bed, remove the headphones from my ears, and put all my technology on Do Not Disturb in order to finish the book. I felt extremely proud of myself for finishing an entire book that was part of a homework assignment (mainly because I rarely ever do).”

Student #4 (It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah M. Boyd, Yale University Press, 2014)

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens“Growing up I was always an avid reader, clinging to the smells and comfortable atmosphere of the public library and the adventurous books it held inside its walls. The closer I got to college, however, the less I found myself picking up hard copy books, instead, falling to the convenience of the Kindle. As wonderful as it is to be able to pull out my phone or iPad and leisurely read on a bus, or in a dull moment, there is always something missing between the book and me. The notifications of text messages or Snapchat always covering up the words I’m trying to devour at the top of the page, hindering the reading experience. Reading a hardcover, in this experience made me realize that in order to comprehend and truly enjoy reading is achieved more than by just having words. It’s like wanting a cheeseburger and googling a picture. The idea of the burger is in front of you. You can touch it look at it, but the connect to this burger is not the same as being able to hold, touch, smell, and even eat the burger. Holding a physical book, being able to truly connect to it really made this reading experience that much better. I found myself being more inclined and excited to read instead of watching Netflix, or scrolling on my phone. I tremendously enjoyed this push to skip the convenience and instead go the extra one step in order to truly enjoy all that reading is.”

Student #5 (The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, Norton 2011)

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains“Wow. I can’t think of a more accurate word to summarize what it was like taking the time to pause, purposefully put down my phone and read a physical book. For the first time in a while, after reading a hardcover book, I felt a focus I hadn’t realized I’d been missing. Lately, especially since starting college three years ago, I have been finding myself frequently accidentally getting sucked from one task to another, especially while reading or doing homework on my computer. During this task, and in finishing this book, however, I finally felt like I was centered on what I was doing. I also felt an incredible sense of relaxation while reading that was not only peaceful, but mentally engaging. The reason for this response, and for my overall enjoyment of this assignment, I credit to the fact that my phone and laptop (with their many functions and opportunities for distraction) were silently and intentionally placed in my backpack while I read. In finishing the book, I also found it was rewarding to know that the physical stack of pages in front of me and their ideas were now familiar to my mind. I am not sure that gratification of finishing the book in that sense would have been the same if I’d simply closed out of an E-reader on my phone or laptop. I was also happy to find myself remembering what I was reading more with this physical text than I feel I normally do with online media text.”

Student #6 (The Social Media Industries by Alan B. Albarran, Routledge 2013)

“I actually really enjoyed reading my book and I definitely didn’t think I would at the beginning. I actually prefer reading print books over digital just because reading online hurts my eyes and makes me way more exhausted. The thing with reading books for any class though is that my phone is always a distraction and I have to hold my book, answer a text/snap and then go back to reading. At one point I just turned my phone on do not disturb because I just needed to focus. Which sounds ridiculous typing this out, but I guess it’s good to realize how attentive I feel like I need to be to my phone. All in all, it was a good experience reading the book since I rarely read books during the school year unless it’s for notes.”

Student #7 (The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr, Norton 2014)

The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us“I completed my book on Wednesday and I really enjoyed it. I’m probably not the typical college student but I frequently read for fun (I read 21 books last year) and I was so excited to finally do some reading for class that was out of an actual book. Since I normally read fiction, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t like reading an information-heavy book. It was awesome! I still had a great experience and found reading the book fun even though I knew I would be writing a paper on it. The only challenging thing about this project was pushing myself to finish the book in time. Sometimes it takes me only a day or two to read a book and other times it can take a month since I do my reading for enjoyment. It was sometimes challenging to read in the middle of the day (I fell asleep a time or two reading this book) because I normally read at night to wind down. I love this project and wish that other teachers had this kind of thinking when it comes to classes.”

Student #8 (The Mind and the Machine: What It Means to Be Human and Why It Matters by Matthew T. Dickerson, Brazos Press, 2011)

Mind and the Machine, The: What It Means to Be Human and Why It Matters“My parents instilled in me at an early age that reading was important and a great way to use my imagination and learn about the world. I have always loved reading books because of that and would read almost a book a week when I was in elementary school and middle school. In high school, it got really hard to find time to sit down to read print books and that carried over into college as I committed my time to other things. I never enjoyed reading e-Books when that started to be a fad, and I have always been loyal to print books. Barnes and Noble is still one of my favorite places to shop. During my experience reading my selected book, I found that I did have some distractions. My phone, TV, and roommate would sometimes get in the way of my focus on sitting down to read the book and comprehend the information. I would have to silence my phone and turn it face down most times I read so I wouldn’t be distracted. I would tell my boyfriend that I would be busy for the next hour while I read so we wouldn’t try to bother me. However, I really enjoyed making time for myself to read and enjoy literature once again because I think I have only read 5 print books since I have been in college (whether it be for fun or in a class). I love reading books so much and reading this book for the class has motivated me again to set aside time to do something I enjoy so much. I have a goal to read 5 more books this year and look forward to reading all kinds of genres of books.”

Student #9 (The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, Norton 2011)

“Overall, it was fine. I have actually only ‘read’ one electronic book in my life and it was a text book for a class. That is why read is in quotations. The rest of the time when I read books they are always printed. I enjoy reading print books more because of the tangibility aspect. I feel like I am able to focus on the book more by physically holding it. It makes me feel less distracted from technology while reading. However, I did find myself checking my phone often and this would break my concentration from the book. I ended up having to put my phone out of arm’s reach so I couldn’t get to it while reading. I like reading print books so my experience reading this book was not much different. I will continue to read print books because I prefer it. Thanks!”

Student #10 (Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It by Thomas de Zengotita, Bloomsbury, 2005)

Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It“I use to be an avid reader growing up. I was quite excited for this assignment because I truly forgot the last time I sat down and read a printed book. At first, I thought the hardest part of the assignment would be the writing portion, but in reality, it was the sitting down and reading. I distinctly remember one day I had the morning off from work so I decided to read and take notes for the assignment. Within 5 minutes of reading my phone was ringing from text messages from my friends but I ignored it just fine. But in a 30-minute span I can’t even count how many times my phone rang. My mom was texting me and because I did not reply she ended up calling me. I was so frustrated at that point I was almost pushed to tears. I truly just wanted some peace and quiet so I turned off all my electronics just so I could read. But after finishing a chapter and turning on my phone it was piled up with text messages, emails, missed calls etc. Doing this assignment reminded me that it is truly almost impossible to get time just to focus. Everything is ringing begging for your attention. If you don’t give your phone the attention it wants it continues to pester you until you have no choice but to forfeit.”

Student #11 (Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds For the Better by Clive Thompson, Penguin 2014)

“Throughout my time in the class and reading this book, I was thrilled with having such an easy task as to use reading a hard copy of a book. I know a lot of people who have not read a book since they were in high school and were forced to read but unlike those people I was raised in a household that favors reading over anything. We never had a TV for the most part and this prompted unto open our imaginations and have to read to seek inspiration. I used to always sit down and read before bed because I would struggle with headaches after school and looking at my phone was the opposite of what would help me. Reading a book of this category though is what actually surprised me because I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did and when I got through it, it truly opened my eyes to see how someone with a technological background relies and views technology. This experience though reading book for class that you didn’t absolutely hate and got to choose was a nice experience and a good time out that I could sit down and relax after reading books for my major.”

Student #12 (The Internet is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015)

The Internet Is Not the Answer“My experience while reading this book was very interesting at first. I started reading with my phone by my side of course and every time it would ding I would pick it up stop my reading respond to it, eventually when I got to the 40th page or so I started getting so upset at my phone I had to turn it on silent and set a timer for me to read for an hour then check my phone after that hour was up. I was so interested in the book I actually got mad that my phone kept interrupting; it’s funny I say interrupting like it could talk to me but seriously that ding distracted my reading every single time. It was nice to silent my phone and enjoy the book itself. I got a lot more reading accomplished when I started putting my phone away.”

Student #13 (Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce by Eric Chester, Greenleaf, 2012)

Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader's Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce“Reading a paperback book was a great experience. Regardless of this extra credit opportunity, I wouldn’t have even thought about downloading it online or reading it on any type of screen. Personally. I love to read, and the best part for me is a physical paper form (bonus if you get to buy it new from Barnes & Noble or target). I think my favorite thing about reading a physical book is taking a break from screens. I will admit I spend too much time on my iPhone, and as a student my life is on my laptop. Reading is refreshing and makes me feel good – and is a great alternative to watching Netflix or Hulu for entertainment. The chance to read a book for an assignment was exciting to me as opposed to studying for an exam or analyzing a case study online. Overall, it was a great experience and I feel as though the content I read has given me a deeper understanding to our society and what makes different generations of people how they are.”

Student #14 (The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, Norton 2011)

“I really enjoyed having the option of reading a print book. I know that we got extra credit of 25 points, just by reading a print book, but I think that it was the perfect incentive for me to actually do it. I am so glad that I took the extra step of buying the book and actually reading the book. I feel that if I would have just read an eBook, I wouldn’t have retained the information correctly and I would have been half reading it due to distractions of being on my computer by text messages, emails, notifications, etc. I think that it was almost right to read the book in a print form. In the book he talks about the impact the Net (reading eBooks) has on our human brains. I love reading, I still pick up books in my personal free time and read. This assignment really opened my eyes to show how much I do enjoy reading and how I need to prioritize more time away from my electronics and sit down and read. It’s good for our brains and my brain to take the time to deep think and zone out what is going on around me. It was refreshing to finish a book, and made me feel super productive. And I got to read a very good book doing it!”

Student #15 (Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains by Susan Greenfield, Random House 2015)

Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains“My experience reading a print book was very interesting. I made it a goal to turn my phone over and avoid the temptation to check it. I actually found the book so interesting that I read it over the course of one day. I would reward myself for finishing a chapter by looking at my phone and quickly catching up on responding to messages. I used it kind of as a way to motivate myself even though it made the process of reading it a little longer. Even though I was completely engaged and interested in what I was reading, I still felt a need to check my phone or emails after each chapter in case of an emergency (which is ironic because the book I read explores this need to check our phones in case of an emergency). Since I read it over a course of a day, never leaving my apartment, I ran into a series of distractions other than my phone that I needed to consciously overcome. After making dinner with my roommate, we ate it in my room while watching Netflix. I wanted to keep reading the book so I told myself I could still read it thoroughly while Netflix was on and I was in the company of my roommate. I quickly realized it took me twice as long to comprehend what I was reading because I constantly had to re-read it as my mind got distracted from what was going on the TV or what my roommate was interrupting me to talk about. After about 30 minutes of that I nicely told my roommate I just need to read in silence so I could obtain everything I could from this book. What I found most beneficial about reading a print book versus a digital copy was my ability to highlight quotes and concepts that stand out or resonate with me. I can now pick this book up and glance through what I highlighted to remember what I found to be important while reading. This was also very helpful in writing the book review because I could quickly include the most influential quotes to me in the paper. Overall, I would truly prefer to read a physical copy of a book as opposed to a digital copy.”

Student #16 (The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, Norton 2011)

“One of my resolutions for 2019 was to try and read one book every month for the whole year. Keyword: try. So far, I have succeeded in finishing two books in two months, one of them being this book I’m reviewing. Reading a non-fiction book can sometimes seem daunting but I absolutely loved this book. I’m glad I purchased it so that I can come back to it later. I absolutely hate admitting that at times when I was reading, I couldn’t read an entire page without getting distracted by my phone or computer or whatever I was watching on Netflix. This is quite ironic considering I was reading a book about that specific struggle. The typical person can’t just sit down in a quiet place and focus on one thing. I found myself setting up a rewards system: ‘when I read 10 pages I can go check Twitter.’ When I would sit down to read I would have to force myself to not look at my phone and when I did pick up my phone, I felt guilty! Like I was actually disrespecting the book. When I forced myself to ignore the distraction of screens, I discovered that I was until able to get lost in the content.”

Student #17 (Exploring Robotic Minds: Actions, Symbols, and Consciousness as Self-Organizing Dynamic Phenomena by Jun Tani, Oxford 2016)

Exploring Robotic Minds: Actions, Symbols, and Consciousness as Self-Organizing Dynamic Phenomena (Oxford Series on Cognitive Models and Architectures)“Reading a hardcover book is much more enjoyable. I was able to understand the information in a much more controlled manner as I could stop, pause, and reread things much more easily than on a computer. Have the book in front of me also allowed me to focus more on just reading. I could use my pen to help me progress down the page as well as quickly jot down thoughts I had on the reading. In relation to technology and reading, I found I have to put my phone within farther than arm’s length away otherwise I would be to tempted to look at it. I also think that having the tech away was useful because when I read on a laptop I get alerts for emails and articles I am subscribed to and without that my reading is much more effective.”

Student #18 (Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce by Eric Chester, Greenleaf 2012)

“For the book that I read in print, I can say I had a good experience — and there was definitely a difference when I read it with my phone next to me or not. When I did have my phone by me, I consistently had the urge to check it, or even just scroll through Twitter. Although, at one point my phone died, so I put it on the charger in the other room. Oddly enough, I was still not completely focused just because I was worried about missing something important. But after a while, I just kept my phone in the other room and eventually calmed down. After calming down, it was easy for me to read the book at a quick pace and still retain information, since I was actually paying attention.”

Student #19 (The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicolas Carr, Norton 2011)

“One thing I wish I did more was read. It’s not that I don’t like reading but it’s just the point of actually sitting down and getting into a book. I knew this assignment would be a good chance to start reading more. I really enjoyed reading this book. I enjoy a book that allows me to think and it kept me wanting to read more. However, one challenge reading this book was not getting distracted! Some days were easier than others. I found myself taking breaks and checking my phone too often for no apparent reason. I wasn’t retaining anything I read and I kept re-reading the parts that I missed. I was getting annoyed. Eventually after getting so distracted and not being able to focus, I set a timer on my phone for an hour and I told myself I couldn’t stop reading my book and letting myself get distracted by technology till the timer went off. It sounds kind of crazy but that’s what I had to do to be focused while I read. Not only did I learn a lot from just reading the book, but I also learned how controlled I am by my device. It made me realize that I give my phone way more attention than needed. After this assignment, I am more conscious about how much I am on my phone especially when doing homework and when I need the most focus. Lastly, I hope I can continue to pick up a book and start reading more.”

Student #20 (Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Beacon Press 2006)

Man's Search for Meaning“Reading the paper book instead of on the computer reminded me of when I use to read in the library. my book was old and smelled somewhat like old cheese. I had a good chuckle at seeing how badly an old library book. I enjoyed reading the hard cover because I did not feel my eyes getting irritated by the bright screen. Reading in paper was a good experience and I did enjoy it but I feel that its time in the spotlight is over. Reading a paper book is to me like wright a note with pen and paper. It’s a nice gesture but I won’t be doing much of it in today’s world.”

Student #21 (Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality by Elias Aboujaoude, MD, Norton 2011)

“Personally, I thought reading a print book was hard. It was hard mainly because I found myself being distracted. I knew that my phone was going to be a distraction, but I underestimated how much of a distraction it was. Even if I didn’t hear a notification sound I would periodically check my phone just because I felt like I was missing something. I ended up having to turn my phone off and give it to my roommate just so I wasn’t tempted to turn it back on. I will say that I enjoyed unplugging and reading a hard copy of a book. Sometimes I would lose track of time as I was reading and an hour would go by. Before I had a laptop or a smart phone I would read multiple books each month. Recently, I haven’t been reading books, other than textbooks, and doing this assignment made me miss reading for enjoyment.  Because of this assignment I will continue to read physical copies of books and unplug more.”

Student #22 (The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr, Norton 2014)

“In the time we had to do this assignment a lot has happened in my life which made me insanely busy, with barely any time for homework. I was devastated and felt like I was incredibly behind. That stress put me down. However, I told myself that even though my mind was running 100 miles a minute, I needed to take a few days and focus on the book for this class. In the beginning my phone was a distraction. I would often check notifications or look on my social media apps. However, after I was finished with chapter one I turned off my phone and kept it in another room so I could focus on reading. I sat in bed, put a candle on and started to read, and wow had time flew by. I forgot about all my other worries/ stresses and was truly captivated with the words being read, it relaxed me. I started getting excited for the times of my day that I was able to read the book, to shut off from my phone. When I finished and closed the book I felt greatly accomplished, more so than playing the games on my phone. I’m thankful for this project because it re-instilled my love for reading print books and has got me back in the game. So, thank you.”

Student #23 (The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, Basic Books 2006)

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom“First off, I became annoyed with myself. Although I am not used to reading philosophy books, my attention span felt like SIX SECONDS. I could maybe read a paragraph or a couple of sentences at a time. Then I would have to reread it because I only took in half of what it had to offer. I recall talking in class that our attention spans are now like fish or something like that. I believe it. I am used to reading fiction books, where I can get lost into its story. The easiest parts to read in this book were when the author was recalling a study that was conducted. This was because it was written like a story. This book had a lot of these mini-stories within its chapters, which I liked. I found my concentration improved when I distracted my hands with something to play with or I was eating. I probably ate way too much food because of this book. I did enjoy the break of not staring at my laptop screen. I get headaches often from screens and that is a challenge I have to overcome as a graphic designer who has to stare at the screen for hours at a time. The book did not give me any side effects. Overall, I enjoyed reading a real book. I just wish I had read it slowly over a longer period of time. I read it in a week and a half. I would like to read one concept at a time and then sleep on it and let it sink.”

Student #24 (Personal Connections in the Digital Age by Nancy K. Baym, Cambridge 2011)

Personal Connections in the Digital Age (Digital Media and Society)“Reading a physical book was not very challenging for me, what was hard was reading a book that was outside of the types of books I like to read. I love to read and when I do its always physical books. The only time I read e-books was when I was studying abroad and space wise made more sense to bring books digitally. I am not much of a nonfiction reader unless it is written by someone who is funny. I like the stories. When books are more theoretical and don’t talk about concrete events or happenings it is hard for me to focus on it. It is hard for me to really dive into a book during the school semester as well. There are so many distraction or things I can be doing than sitting in my room reading a book. Overall, I enjoyed this assignment, it allowed me to start reading again and made me want to pick up another book.”

Student #25 (The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, Norton 2011)

“I personally haven’t read a book front to back since high school, so this was a bit of a challenge. I originally had wanted to purchase the auditable version of the book so I could listen instead of read the words. After finding out about the extra credit however I knew I had to physically read the book. I will say it wasn’t as painstakingly miserable as I had thought it would be. It definitely helped to have a book that was truly interesting to me and was well written and comprehensible. It was extremely hard keeping my attention on the book the first few days getting into it. I was constantly going on my phone and if I wasn’t on it, my mind would wander away from the text and on to other things. Eventually it got to the point where I asked my roommate to hold my phone hostage for at least 2 hours. It’s crazy the measures that have to be taken to get your attention away from your phone. I came to the sad realization that I am in fact, addicted to my phone (shocker). By the time I finished the book, I felt super accomplished and felt I had absorbed in quite a bit of information that I most likely would not have taken in using my phone to read or an online/audible version. I liked holding a physical copy of the book and definitely think I may try reading more often as I realize it is extremely important and beneficial to exercise that part of your brain.”

Student #26 (The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr, Norton 2013)

The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google“Reading a print book was a nostalgic experience for me. Other than textbooks, this was the first time I’ve read a print book since high school. Middle school, really, since I was forced to read a couple books in high school. It was surprisingly enjoyable. I forgot what it was like to read a book willingly. Textbooks are dry and boring. I have a very difficult time focusing when I read them. I really enjoyed reading this book. It was informative and interesting, but it was also therapeutic. It was a great way to unwind every day and get ready for bed. It was nice to ignore my phone for an hour or so a day. Texting while reading was a challenge; I gave up after a while. All in all, it was a good experience, and I might just keep reading more.”

Student #27 (Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle, Penguin 2016)

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age“I did not experience anything astounding reading the print version of this book. I have to read from physical books for most of my other classes (pretty much every history class). I enjoy reading physical copies of books rather than online because I like holding the book and being able to know where I am at in the reading. With online copies it is harder to judge where you in the reading and you can easily lose your spot. Also, when you have to do a paper on the book, it is much easier to place sticky notes and find sections you want to write about. I also genuinely like to read in my spare time and I like to purchase the actual book. I like being able to read it anywhere without having to worry about internet and/or charge on my battery on a device. We mentioned in class how some people couldn’t text and hold their book open at the same time and I honestly do not see that issue, I do not think it is that hard.”


Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine documents how consumer technology erodes relationships at home, school and work. A section of the book is dedicated to digital distractions in colleges and universities.

Here’s an excerpt:

Online distraction pervades all levels of society. But distraction in children comes with educational consequences that afflict comprehension of the written word and, at times, their own emotions at a critical time in their development. Unlike many parents and grandparents, schooled in a literary rather than digital age, lacking incessant distraction, children may never realize the harm being done to their levels of emotional and interpersonal intelligence, precisely because they have no basis of comparison. Reading requires focused attention.

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