There's a time to skim. And a time to read.
A time to tweet. And a time to write.
What matters is knowing the appropriate time to speed up or slow down.
In his preface to Daybreak (1887), German philosopher and philologist Friedrich Nietzsche recommended the practice of slow reading:
It is not for nothing that I have been a philologist, . . . that is to say, a teacher of slow reading; in the end I also write slowly. Nowadays it is not only my habit, it is also to my taste--a malicious taste, perhaps?--no longer to write anything which does not reduce to despair every sort of man who is "in a hurry." For philology is that venerable art which demands of its votaries one thing above all: to go aside, to take time, to become still, to become slow . . ..To get the highlights of an article, the gist of a report, an overview of a book, skim. But to engage with a text--to understand it, quarrel with it, enjoy it--set aside time to read. Slowly.
But for precisely this reason it is more necessary than ever today . . . in the midst of an age of "work," that is to say, of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to "get everything done" at once, including every old or new book: this art does not so easily get anything done, it teaches to read well, that is to say, to read slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers.
(Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, translated by R.J. Hollingdale, Cambridge University Press, 1997)
As Nietzsche suggests, we're more apt to read with care what has been written without haste. And good, slow writing demands that we occasionally unhitch ourselves from the hyperconnected world. That's an argument Professor Naomi S. Baron makes in her study of the ways we use online and mobile technologies:
Fast writing is fine for putting together a "to do" list, dashing off an IM to a colleague, or jotting down the outline (or even first draft) of an argument. But slow writing--perhaps even handwritten, perhaps composed at a keyboard, but definitely revised and edited--must remain the gold standard for writing text that enables us to formulate and convey meaningful analysis to others and to ourselves. The problem with contemporary writing technologies is not [that] they enable us to write quickly but that they threaten to overwhelm slow writing. The challenge is that the convenience of email, IM, and texting tempts us to sacrifice intellect and elegance for immediacy.
(Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World, Oxford University Press, 2010)
So when the occasion demands good, thoughtful writing, close your browser and shut off your phone. It's time to think. It's time to write. Slowly.
More About Slow Reading:
Image: Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World, by Naomi S. Baron, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010