Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Scrolling, Scrolling

Scrolling, Scrolling

          Let’s imagine Khamet, a young scholar in Egypt, 2,018 B.C.E., the year Abraham was born in the Babylonian city of Ur.  On a high, open shelf, Khamet finds “The Story of Sinuhe” on a scroll—two wooden dowels, about 12 inches high, onto which a 30-foot length of papyrus is rolled left and right. This paper is made of special reeds that, lain flat, adhere to each other by their own natural gum.  Khamet hefts down the scroll, brings it toward his body, hugs it to himself until he  lays it on a table.  Here he unrolls the texts inscribed with special inks made of burnt wood and acacia sap.  A fragrant woody scent, reminiscent of the scroll’s natural origins, wafts up.  Khamet visits his favorite books so often, that he can recognize them not only by touch but by their individual scents. These perfumes etch the words into his memory on a cellular level.  Tonight, at dinner, he will recite a portion of the story to his family, by heart.  He traces the words as he reads, the raised edges of the letters as familiar to him as the brailling that won’t appear for another 3,809 years, when Napoleon’s soldiers had to devise a way to send night messages without exposing their location with light.

          To open this scroll is, for Khamet, to spread his arms wide—an inviting gesture that has lodged itself into his strong arms and muscular back. His burly wrists turn in coordination as he reads. This is the only scroll he will read today, spending time to discuss it with his fellow scholars, ruminating over it as he walks home by the Nile, where the papyrus grows wild, and crocodiles eyes peek above the surface of the green waters.

          Let’s now imagine Jennifer, 2018 A.D., a student with her smart phone. She’s opened her free Shakespeare’s Sonnets APP, but texts are pinging in, and Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest notices.  She has plenty of time, she thinks, and taps over to Pinterest, and scrolls, scrolls, scattered images and words spinning into a blur.  She is as devoted to her scrolling as Khamet is to his.  But whereas he practices an expansive gesture, spreading open his arms all day; Jennifer curls around her phone, like a conch, small and cramped. Khamet has defined biceps and lats—Jennifer has texting claw, Tinder finger, carpal tunnel syndrome, and cell phone elbow.  Khamet strides into the world with his head up; Jennifer is hunched and distracted—no fragrance, no exercise of her muscles or capacity to memorize, no seeing the scenery or greeting others for long talks as she walks. 

          Because it’s the same glassy surface all day and most of the night, her fingertips are dulled to touch.  And as she scrolls, the message to herself is—hurry to the next thing. Dismiss. What’s next? What else? Go away.  Her brain is enchanted by this flick, flick, flick, this not having to stop, this constant running-away-from to something from-which-to-run-away.  Gertrude Stein once wrote that to know someone’s nature, notice what she or he repeats. What we repeat is what we become.  Jennifer is always hunting, never arriving—a life of fleeting dopamine hits.  Nothing sticks.  Nothing lasts.
          Jennifer will not remember much, if anything, what scrolled past her today.  Instagram promises “Along with making over-posting a non-issue, the new feature also eliminates the permanency.” Jennifer has been entrained by her scrolling to skim—skim past nature, skim past people, skim past her own sensations.Tonight, Jennifer will not recite a sonnet to her family.  She will scroll through dinner as her family scrolls, too. She will swipe away this day as she will tomorrow, all blurring into each other.  And, oops, she forgot to read those sonnets, and, after making thousands of scrolling decisions, she ran out of willpower to even brush her teeth last night.  And now she’s already late for class.

 Between Khamet and Jennifer, we had Jack Kerouac, who wrote his travelogue On the Road, on one continuous 120-foot scroll of paper in a three-week binge.  His manuscript, like his travels, were one continuous, unbroken, cohesive artifact. In comparison, with today’s smart phones, we scroll away our lives, in a blizzard of confetti.



  1. Dr. Rich,
    This post was cheeky; it's incredible to see how the meaning of "scroll" as transformed between the time of Khamet and Jennifer & your use of "Tinder finger" made me literally laugh out loud! As I read this post awaiting for my next class to meet, whilst sitting on the floor in the Center for Academic Success, I ironically had the pleasure of listening to two girls walking passed with their faces completely submerged into their phones. No conversation except for the one girl talking to her friend (honestly was to herself because her other gal pal wasn't even paying attention because she was too invested in her scroll-time) telling that her thumb was killing her, but continued to scroll. It showed the sheer weakness she exhibits but the strength in her lack of self control

  2. I don't have a smart phone. I am online a lot of the day on my laptop at home. I do walk away from it to do other things and sometimes for an hour or more at a time... to paint, cook, do household chores. If I listen to audiobooks or podcasts, I don't interrupt very much to check my messages. When I go out, I generally don't take my laptop with me. This gives me a long break from the computer, from news, and FB. My concentration is quite good, I think.
    I have no intention of getting a smart phone because of these risks. I waste enough time with my current habits.
    At the end of each day, I like to review what I've accomplished: writing a poem, prepping canvases or painting, cooking/baking something from scratch, chores completed. I'm retired, so I am conscious of not wanting to fritter away my last years.
    Thank you for this thoughtful post, Susannah.

  3. Dr. Rich,
    I simply loved the use of wordplay within your passage and how you gave such meaning to the term "scroll/scrolling". Each and every day, I exist in a world where it is unbelievably common to see a group of friends out together for dinner Friday night or for brunch Sunday morning and instead of conversing with one another, they prefer to get lost in their cellular devices. It is truly a sad sight. I for one have been a previous victim of this and have since tried to cut back on the use of technology.I was quite amused with your clever social media terms like "tinder finger". I try my hardest each day not to end up like Jennifer by constantly keeping myself busy and away from my phone. I indulge in activities such as performing in musical theatre, playing various instruments, spending time with my friends and family, or simple catching up on a television show or new movie.I appreciate this post so much and actually plan to share it with some of my peers. It is passionate individuals such as yourself that really make the world go round. Khamet definitely has the right idea on how to live life!

  4. I do enjoy the parallels you put between Khamet and Jennifer. I do believe that a lot of people are engulfed in their cellphones. The more I read posts and articles addressing the issue, the more aware of how bad it is. When walking to class I don't use my phone. I choose to enjoy what's around me and enjoy the little nature I get to see on campus. However, everyone around me look down at their phones. Most times they don't pay attention and have to look up quickly to make sure they aren't bumping into anything. But, I also see a lot of people talking to their friends and genuinely enjoying each others presence. So, I think there's a balance.

    One thing I did want to say is that I believe smartphones do come in handy when it comes to reading because there's accommodations. Sometimes when I have a physical text I can't read it too well because I don't like the font. When I read on my phone I can change the font and the brightness and it's good for me to read. When I don't want to carry around a large book I just keep it on my phone so I can access it easily. I also go back and forth between books because my attention span isn't that good.

    One thing I do believe in is balance. I think people should start balancing out both the physical and electronics so that there's a healthy balance. It's okay to not participate in anything electronic wise but it's okay to participate. It's just figuring out when it gets unhealthy.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post, and I really liked how you described the two different people. After reading it really made me think about how we need more people like Khamet around of us. This is because now everyone is like Jennifer always on there phones almost every second of the day. We are on our phones when we are in the middle of a conversation, walking to class, just to waste time it just takes over. Honestly the one place I’m not on my phone is when I’m walking through campus, I like to look around, look at the people around me, the trees just everything that’s around me and enjoy it.

    But I can’t say that I don’t use my phone all the time, but I try my hardest not to when I’m in deferent places. It’s okay to use your phone to an existent you just need to watch yourself.

  6. Dr. Rich,

    Your post really helps to highlight the irony of modern-day technology. Even though technology is supposed to help us become much more advanced, in some ways, it has really bought us backwards as a society, instead of forwards. In many ways, Khamet ironically seems much more advanced and productive in his life than his modern-day comparison, Jennifer.

    While Khamet explores the world through his senses and interacts with other human beings, Jennifer on the other hand scrolls and scrolls and scrolls—endlessly. She ignores her surroundings, completely forgetting about other humans around her as she grows desensitized to her own senses. Out of touch, the only thing that she can feel is her phone screen.

    This character you have displayed really resonates with many young people of this generation, who have essentially become glued to their phones. Like Jennifer, many people have become dangerously desensitized to all things in their surroundings, which in my opinion, is a step backward as far as advancements are concerned. Life was simpler in Khamet’s time, as people did not need to worry about smartphones. In a way, the technology that has provided us with smartphones has become both a blessing and a curse. It almost makes me wish I was living in Khamet’s time, where people did not have such technology to distract them from living life. Life is much more enjoyable when it is experienced through the five senses that most humans are blessed with, but unfortunately we have let smartphones take that away from us.

    Nada Amer

  7. Dr. Rich,

    When I first started reading this blog post I instantly felt I could relate to this sentence- "Khamet visits his favorite books so often, that he can recognize them not only by touch but by their individual scents." When I was younger I read A LOT, something I don't do as often as an adult. What I can remember to this day is the pungent smell of library books, flipping through the pages and instantly remembering nostalgic memories sitting in the library, legs crossed, with a crisp book on my lap. I can even hear the crinkle the spine of a book makes when you first open it.

    I worry that many young people will have absolutely no idea what any of this means. Most books are read on kindles, iPads, iPhones, Chrome Books. etc. I mean sure our senses are being touched- just not in the organic way I can remember. You provided us with a great juxtaposition of two people in two very different periods of time. Although we have advanced a lot in many ways we have also lost a lot as a society. I sometimes wish we could revert back to Khamet's time.

  8. Dr. Rich,
    I really liked how you compared the past and the present and gave detailed examples for both. I think that it is important for people to see that their lives really are taken over by technology. Instead of reading a hard copy of a book, they can just read it online. I really enjoy reading and there is nothing like the smell of a new book and opening it for the first time and having the pages nice and new. Sadly, I don't see younger generations ever learning how to appreciate these little things and they will definitely be missing out.

  9. Dr. Rich,
    I really enjoyed this post. A lot of people are glued to their phones and are guilty of scrolling. I find myself guilty of scrolling through Instagram, Snap chat, and Facebook when I'm procrastinating doing homework, sitting alone, or when I'm bored. I've tried to break this habit but it's so easily accessible that I fall into old habits. Luckily I can put it down if I need to like at family dinners. In my house we have a no phone policy at dinner so it really allows for us to connect. I find it shocking when I go over a friends or go out to eat and see everyone sitting on their phones not talking at all. I really liked how you compared the past to the present in the ways we read books. Personally, I enjoy reading a hard copy of a book compared to an online version. When you read a book online there's a wide variation of distractions you can come across just like Jenifer had and before you know it, your scrolling on your phone for hours.

  10. Dr. Rich,
    I like how you referred about the girl on her phone. Many people can definitely relate to her. Technology has definitely taken control of most of us and some may not realize it at all. Its powerful that technology can keep a person drawn to their devices all day, no matter where they are. It is more of a distraction than we know it. Technolgy has given people easy access to everything. People don't have to go to the library for books anymore or even pick up fast food. Technology takes care of that.I like how you used technology and compared it with the past time when technology did not exist.

  11. Dr. Rich,

    After reading this I realized I spend so much time on my phone. I have tried to stop using technology an hour before I go to bed, but I just can't stop. Because of this I get a pinched nerve in my body and gives me difficulty sleeping at night. Usually I'm so used to falling asleep early, but last night it took me nearly four hours to fall asleep because of the pain I was in. And when I couldn't sleep I made it worse by going on my phone to distract myself.

    I used to read so much when I was younger and I am really angry with myself that I don't as much as I used to. I claim that I, "don't have the time." Well I do have the time it's just I don't put the damn phone down and make time for myself. I'll scroll for hours looking through the same four apps for hours to pass time or distract myself from doing anything else. Technology is only getting more advanced as the day goes on and more people are going to get more distracted with the new devices and apps created.

    Kristen Calderoni

  12. I love the parallel drawn between Kahmet and Jennifer. It highlights the way this generation, undervalues and even under appreciates the convenience of having so much information readily available. We don’t have to go through the physical labor of travelling to a library , pulling scrolls, exerting energy. Having to do all of that will make you value the information that you sought out. We have all the knowledge we want at our disposal which is why I feel we take it for granted. It’s similar to someone working hard for a their first car vs their parents just buying it for them.

    I think it is interesting the theory about scrolling and how it can be an addictive entity. I believe that social media has played a large part in this. I’ve been a victim of all the ailments stated above with the exclusion of Tinder fingers. The feisty tone of this post definitely has served as a wake-up call for me.

  13. Hi Dr. Rich,

    Many of us are guilty of scrolling. I look around me as I walked down the hallway at school, everyone was on a device. It's an addiction. Is it boredom, or it is out of a habit. I don't know but we do it often.If we were to calculate the many times we pick up our phones and start scrolling, we'll be surprised to know how many Hours in a day we have wasted!Procrastination is the result of scrolling, it has happened to me before. It takes away our time, time that can be used to go outside, to do exercise, to go shopping, or to spend with family, etc. After doing the media freeze, I was able to control that habit of checking my phone all the time. Instead, I started becoming more aware of my surroundings and appreciating my precious time.

  14. I witness this type of thing with the younger generations. Growing up with the idea of technology just makes them just as motionless as their screens. Until they start scrolling. My oldest nephew is 18 years old and I have never seen someone so disinterested in the world. He could scroll for hours on his phone or just on the television. Just by one image or a short clip of the Tv show’s name isn’t good enough for him and he continues to scroll. Even when he does find something interesting to watch, he is still more preoccupied with his phone to watch what is going on in the show.

  15. Dear Dr. Rich,
    Your post on scrolling was enjoyable to read through, I couldn’t help but scroll down to read more. I thought it was interesting how a word that meant one thing so long ago could still apply today yet mean a very different thing. Scrolls and scrolling both involve looking through information and reading, yet in today’s day and age it has lost its value. I have been guilty of facebook scrolling, whenever I am trying to be productive and work on a paper or finish extra credit blog posts, I find myself somehow clicking on facebook once more and scrolling through it. I get lost in the funny pictures or interesting posts I see, to the point where I realize it’s been 10 minutes and I haven’t been productive. It is easy to get distracted, especially with the technology we have where practically all of the world’s knowledge can be accessed in the palm of our hands. It gets to a point where, sure we have the ability to learn anything we want such as a second language or how to make a sculpture, yet we choose to scroll through meaningless posts like technology zombies.
    Thank you,
    Stephen Corrales

  16. Dear Dr. Rich,
    Like most of your posts there is a certain level of not only receiving wisdom that I can use in life with my social skills in a workplace to something as simple as meeting someone new but there is a certain level of fun and thought that goes into your execution that is so intriguing to the mind that captures our attention and respect. Also I'm a sucker for satire. Thank You

  17. My biggest pet peeve is when I see couples out to dinner and neither of them are talking to each other because they are too busy on their cell phones. What is so important that a digital screen is more important than the individual sitting right in front of you!

    I will scroll and scroll and read and reread the same information over and over again - without even realizing it! It's toxic!

    I've actually begun limiting the amount of time I spend on my cell phone. Ever since the beginning of the semester, I am more aware of the usage and the uselessness of the act. I love that I now pick up my phone and there's posts I've missed. It really makes me not care about the social media mindset we've grown to have!

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Hey Dr. Rich,
    First off let me just say I really enjoyed reading this post. This was one of the first I read simply because of your love of hating technology LOL. I am sad to report that after reading this however, I may actually be addicted to scrolling, shame, I know. there was one point in time when I decided to do off of Facebook for personal reasons and for the 3 months or so that I was off, it killed me literally every day I would open up my phone as if I was going to the Facebook app. in other words I was forgetting that I had deleted it, and then I would rebuttal and turn to instagram. I remember saying to my mom "I think I going to get back on Facebook, I need my daily fix". At this time I was taking the bus and that is how I would drown out the others on the bus by scrolling essentially. Even to this day sometimes I find myself waking up and reaching for my phone to scroll. It’s really sad and I will however work on changing that. Thank you for taking the time to make these blog posts they are really appreciated. (This one will count towards the poetry class)

  20. Hey again,
    It’s me Jasmin here; I’m going to comment on this post a second time but from a writer’s stand point. Although Ashley stated in the previous comment that she found that she is addicted to scrolling, I want to offer a few pointers from a writer’s point of view as to how she can possible cure this habit, some of which have already been suggested in class. For starters let’s say that some great ideas, although they may be cliché, have come from online scrolling so there isn’t anything wrong with it as long as it’s controlled. However a way you can stop this is to replace the time spent scrolling for time writing. For example whenever you feel like picking up the phone to scroll, pick up a pen instead and write whatever comes to mind. Or if for some reason the scrolling can’t be stopped then by all means scroll, but after you must make a commitment to write about what you saw in your scrolling. I have done this a couple of times and believe it or not it actually works. There is also a thing called timed scrolling, LOL I made it up. When you want to scroll get a timer and set it for the amount of time you want to scroll. These techniques are meant to help not cure your condition of scrolling but they appear to be full proof. (This one will go towards the writing class)

  21. Hey Dr. Rich

    I thought that this post was very interesting. The comparison drawn between the ancient form of scrolling, and the modern "scrolling," was really interesting. The contrast between Khamet having defined muscles and spreading himself out to read, versus Jenifer being curled up and having health problems as a result of scrolling on her phone was also really enlightening. Often, when I'm on my smartphone scrolling, my head is down, or I'm curled up on my bed, and focusing my attention on the screen, rather then the real world sprawled out before me. It really is an addiction, and doing the media freeze both times really showed me how addictive that "Scrolling" can be. To combat my own tendencies, I try to take an hour or more outside when I can, keeping my phone off (or in my room when I am home) and spend time alone or with my dog, just taking in the air and clearing my mind from the distractions of social media. Both classes (senior seminar and poetry) gave me a chance to reflect on my own behaviors, and make positive changes that I will continue to make long after I graduate.

    - John P.

  22. Dr. Rich,

    You make very valid points about technology. I see peo0ple scrolling and I swear it is not a conscious behavior, rather, the body craves the feeling of the thumb gliding over something in repetition. However, through personal experiences, I cannot agree with cell phone usage being as mindless as it is made out to be.

    I use my cell phone as most twenty-year-olds do. I use two social media platforms. I cannot say I am addicted to them. I cannot say that I text very often. As I am typing, the last text that was received or delivered by my phone was over 24 hours ago. I am simple. However, I understand that my demographic as a whole is not the same. I personally find that cell phones are good and better us. Of course I see cyber bullying and thoughtless acts when I am on the internet. But I see the news. I see facts and evidence and information that I likely would not have such easy access to if it were not right in front of me.

    I thrive on a hunger for education and for finding meaning. Based on those two factors, I utilize my phone in a way that allows me to search for both. I can connect to people and better myself as a person by relating to other people's stories and encounters. I can learn more about other cultures and other facts that might interest me. Again, not everyone uses cell phones for those purposes. So with that in mind. I do believe that the misuse of a cell phone and advanced technology should be considered the 8th deadliest sin in the modern world. To use such a complex invention for the ignorance of scrolling, twatching, and all of the other mindless uses, I think it is ludicrous and, quite frankly, ignorant.

  23. In this blog, I really liked the comparison of the importance of scrolling back then and how scrolling is meaningless now. Essential documents, parts of the history of humankind, the Holy Book was inside those scrolls back then. It makes me wonder, how far have we come? Hearing stories like this keeps grounded and fall in the same abyss of this generation that is addicted to their phones. As a mother, I also have the responsibility to teach my children not to follow the same steps. During my first semester in college, I have a fantastic history teacher that showed me a video called Look up by Gary Turk, is actually a poem form of a video. I always come back to this video because it makes think about how many moments I could lose if I spend most of my time in my phone or connected on the net, how precious life is, and how fast goes by, and with all these distractions all around, most people do not stop to appreciate what is really important, and what really matters. One of many parts of the poem says
    “All this technology we have, it’s just an illusion,
    of community, companionship, a sense of inclusion
    yet when we step away from this device of delusion,
    you awaken to see, a world of confusion.”
    To me, when a person has too much technology is just a false impression of friendship, or to feel that you are a part of a community, but in reality being so fixated on our devices, everybody is losing touch with each other. Moments are not really cherished when you always need to take a selfie. People instead take a video on a dangerous situation than to call for help. How many car accidents need to happen so people can wake up, and realize we are not like robots!
    Here is the link for whoever likes to see the video: