Do not exclusively read articles online. Think of online articles as portals to books. Articles may answer an important question, give insight into an issue, and help us to know what to seek and to know.
But books deliver the contemplative ruminations that thinking requires. Online articles are an appetizer. Both are important. And the media of books and the internet are here to stay.
But there is an ordering. First the short article. Then the book.
Here is how I think of social media, online articles, and the rest. Social media can connect you with the greatest thinkers alive today, if you follow those thinkers. You can open up your eyes to ideas that are profound. But you can only skim the surface. These great thinkers will link to great appetizing articles and books.
Podcasts stand in the middle. A good podcast might allow you to learn something by overhearing an intelligent conversation. It replaces medieval disputations. A good podcast might also contain a lecture, replacing the older University system of lectures. Students used to choose to listen to a lecture. Now they choose to listen to a podcast.
We can deny it all we want but podcasts in some ways have replaced traditional forms of education. New media does that. It is the way of things.
What marks of books from other media is this: a good book marks the summation of someone’s intellectual journey over the years. It represents hours of research, hours of conversation, and hours of teaching (often). It ties together all the formats above but represents a longer rumination than an online article or podcast can deliver.
A good book offers a long meditative reflection on whatever topic it speaks on. Here, I am distinguishing a good book from a bad book which does not do this. A good book requires us to slow down and work hard at not acting.
Activity often manifests a form of laziness. We act because we do not want to think. It’s easier to work in the garden all day than to complemplate physics. Not all activity does this, mind you. I am referring to the universal truth that manuel labour can at times simply cover up our inability to sit in a room alone with ourselves for long periods of time to contemplate the true and the good, physics and biology, philosophy and theology.
This contemplative work is what allows us to perceive the good life. Active work often distracts us from the deep thinking required to live well. Books are a life line forcing us into complementation against our internal compulsion. They are in this sense the front line in our defense against becoming mere machines who work and live and die as cogs in the economic process.
So remember the ordering of things. Use the internet as an appetizer. Use books as a meditative feast. And always, balance the active and contemplative life. Both are necessary. We have forgotten the second to our very deep harm.