Self-development is one of the most searched key words on the internet. A Google search shows 109 million results.
And one of the most popular with internet marketers.
From genuine providers of books, articles, videos and courses that can help people, to others selling everything and anything remotely connected with improving any aspect of life. Sadly the field of self-development attracts a good share of the digital equivalent of the snake oil salesman of old.
Why should this be?
- An insatiable appetite for improvement through learning?
- A quest for a “magic pill” – one secret that will transform lives?
- A condemnation of the education system?
Or is it a result of all three, driven by the flood of information in this digital age and the curse of being constantly connected?
Three separate articles this week point towards a confluence of all the above.
Firstly, a reader kindly sent me this damning report from by Linda Schrock Taylor at LewRockwell.com on the abysmally low standard of reading ability in the USA. Read the article and you will discover that only 28 million adults or 13% of the population are at a proficient prose literacy level.
Her comment that:
“if only 13% of our voting-age citizens can read, evaluate, and act upon complex explanations and suggestions, it is no wonder that we are losing both our liberties and our country”.
Is ably demonstrated in this You Tube video of Mark Dice asking Hilary Clinton supporters to sign a petition endorsing Karl Marx as her candidate for vice president.
If more than 13% of the population could read proficiently, most adults would know who Karl Marx was and know about the millions of people murdered by regimes following his ideology. They would understand the effect of the damage to the economies of the world in the last century by his supporters. They would realise that economic development in many countries was being handicapped by labour unions, “liberal” politicians and other supporters of those failed policies.
The third article was by Jenna Woginrich in the Guardian, about how she got rid of her smart phone addiction by not having any type of mobile phone and reverting to an old-fashioned land line. She writes how she improved her quality of life by removing this major source of distraction.
Her article has attracted 991 comments and 38 000 shares in two weeks; it must resonate with many readers.
In her article, Linda Schrock Taylor notes that literacy levels have declined since the teaching system was changed in 1930. A generation ago, before the Internet and social media, television was seen as the culprit, the distraction that caused children to lose interest in reading books.
Now it’s smart phones and the addiction to being constantly connected.
Self-development and the paradox of plenty.
There’s an old adage in selling that a customer should never be given more than two choices.
Making a choice between A and B, red or green, standard or automatic, economy or premium is quite easy for most of us. Ask a buyer to choose between too many options, and you are asking to lose the sale.
Perhaps the same paradox is at play with the huge number of sources of information, and the level of distraction in the modern world. We cannot make the simple choice to pick up a book, improve our literacy level and work on our own self-development.
As the article on literacy mentions, even if the elementary school system was changed tomorrow, it would not solve the problem for millions of functionally illiterate Americans.