TikTok Versus Long, Hard, Boring Books

From Matthew Lee Anderson:

“[…] the attempt to ‘accommodate’ the Tiktok-ification of our college intellectual culture does young people a grave disservice. Young people desperately need the difficulty of long, hard, boring books. They need large tomes, much more than they need efforts to capture their attention that try to outdo the TikTok videos they consume so effortlessly. There are no shortcuts to being wise—there is only the long, hard work of wrestling with the world as it has been given us through the lessons and insight of our elders.”

“There is no keeping young people from hard things, so we might as well give ’em to them early. The only choices are to be consumed by the purgatorial fires that come from voluntarily embracing valuable difficulties, or being consumed by the destructive fires of the difficulties we will likely make for ourselves. Our churches and youth groups should be places where we do not shy away from administering select, controlled doses of healing pain, for the sake of equipping young people to encounter and thrive in situations of real pain later. Hard stuff is coming, anyway. Why not go through it in church, in a book that is confusing and difficult and obscure? A book—you know—like the Bible?

I think about this a lot as I help my kids along in their education. On the one hand they are surrounded by the conveniences of middle-class American life and the endless entertainment afforded by technology. On the other hand, they have some adults (“some” meaning more than a few, though not as many as I would like) attempting to sell them on the supremely baffling proposition that learning how to deal creatively with pain and boredom is the key to happiness when inevitable hardships arrive. One of the blessings of on-demand TV is that I can control access to it, but the discipline it takes to enforce healthy boundaries around this access is astronomical, to say nothing of the sheer emotional energy it takes to convince kids that life has more to offer—and to support/encourage/redirect them when they find this argument difficult to swallow and secretly plot resistance.

Lübeck orphanage, 1894, by Gotthardt Kuehl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.