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The bad and the good of micro texts

Updated: 2014-02-13 07:36
By Zhu Yuan ( China Daily)

The bad and the good of micro textsThere are both advantages and disadvantages that come with the joining of micro text message groups. One of the advantages is reestablishing connections with old acquaintances with whom one may have long lost contact, while one of the disadvantages is the amount of time eaten up reading micro text messages, which are difficult to resist.

Since I joined several micro message groups, whose messages you've got to go through once in a while, I've felt the relentless passing of time, and I've made up my mind that I will spend as little time as possible reading them, skipping most of them.

Veteran Chinese writer Wang Meng recently said something to the effect that one of the saddest things about information technology is that micro text messages have considerably reduced people's time for reading and therefore their capability for independent thought.

On the subways, most youngsters bury themselves in their smartphones and very few read books or magazines.

Of course, there is the possibility that some are using their smartphones to read a book. But I doubt it. I believe that most of them are updating themselves with whatever has been forwarded to their WeChat, or Weixin accounts, as Tencent's popular app is known in China, or else they are sending what they have downloaded online to their friends.

In fact, there are fewer people reading on the subway in China today than there were reading on the tube in London when I was there in 1995. I don't know whether there are still as many commuters reading on the tube in London, and many no doubt do it on their smartphones rather than reading the physical books, but it is still likely to be more than the number of people reading books, whether paper or electronic, on Beijing's subway.

This is simply because the majority of Chinese people have not developed the habit of reading books, despite the fact that the number of institutions of higher learning and the number of students on campus have increased manyfold over the past three decades.

That may explain why 115 members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference jointly proposed the making of a law to promote reading among citizens in 2013.

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