Why Millennials Can't Read -- And We Should

Recently, I heard a girl in her early twenties complaining about a comparative literature course she took in college. She rambled about how much reading the course required and the countless papers she had to write. Her friend agreed, sharing similar stories about some "dumb religion class" she had to take, too.

There are a lot of flaws in the conversation, but the bigger problem isn't even the fact that they have a tough time writing papers, it's that this isn't the first time I've heard a conversation like this.

Everywhere from a cash-only coffee shop to overpriced yoga classes, I hear millennials whine about words they don't have time to read. Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is too complicated and takes too long to get through they explain, while scrolling through their Facebook timeline on their iPhone.

I'm a millennial, but quite frankly, I'm embarrassed by our laziness. We have a hard time reading something longer than an odd-numbered numbered listicle. We don't have the patience to absorb a text or question the arguments embedded in the sentences. We want to reach a conclusion without having to think critically. Preferably, in under 140 characters.

It's sad that many millennials have lost their drive to sit down for 30 minutes and read. Everyone says that they "don't have time" to read a good book, but is that really the case? You seem to have plenty of time to sub-tweet and post selfies, while simultaneously checking your follower count on Instagram.

I'm not an expert on literature, fiction or non-fiction, and I'm a sucker for click-bait from time to time. But, I still set aside time to read things that make me turn my phone off and put on my reading glasses. I read 736 pages of James Joyce's Ulysses and it was probably one of the most intellectually challenging feats I've ever accomplished. It was perplexing and hard to understand, but isn't that what makes a good book good? The puzzling diction made completing it that much more rewarding.

But, I'm too busy to read a confusing old book, you say. Sure, I don't read Ulysses everyday, but I find time to read other works. Whether it's in the form of the monthly fiction podcast from the New Yorker (check out David Sedaris reading Miranda July) or a story I've discovered in the Longform archives, find something you like and stick to it until you're done.

Synthesizing a text engages our critical thinking skills, a part of ourselves we rarely work these days. But, it took me a long time to get to this point. I'm still obsessed with technology and social media. I crave that eleventh like on my Instagram and religiously check Mac Rumors when the new iPhone is about to come out. But, that's not all I spend my free time doing. I read because it's important and places me in a world that I can't experience while checking my Twitter feed.

Admit it, other generations hate us. We're the last generation to vaguely remember a world without the Internet. We form our friendships via social media and communicate with those friends over tweets, texts, and instant messages. We'd rather Instagram a vintage book than actually read it. Other generations would purchase the book and pick up the phone to meet a friend in person to discuss its ending.

We have the capabilities to read, yet choose not to. But, it's time to change that. Turn off your Wi-Fi for an hour and read a book. Push yourself to not tweet about said book or article you've selected. Prove everyone wrong for a change and show the world that millennials can actually appreciate complicated sentences and ideas once in a while.

Reading doesn't take long. In fact, if you've gotten to this point in this article, you've already read over 600 words. Baby steps.