What type of reader are you: Fast or slow?

A quick test: 

Are you skimming this blog post right now or reading it with contemplation? 

If you’re a fast reader, you may enjoy skimming the blog post for the main ideas. You’re most likely to skip the intro, look for number lists or bullet points, and scan for keywords in each paragraph.

On the other hand, as a slow reader, your goal is not only to extract the gist but also to understand the whole thing. You’ll pay attention to the metaphors, stories, examples, research data ‒ all the “supporting” elements that speed readers often ignore. 

I used to worship speed reading…

When I was in primary school, one group of people came to our class to demonstrate the technique of speed reading. A group member picked up a random book from us, flipped through the pages and recited precisely what the book was about.

I was mesmerized. How cool it is to possess such an awesome skill. I could learn lessons in matters of minutes, pass the exam with ease, read a lot more to stay updated and expand my knowledge. 

In grade 11, I took an exam called IELTS ‒  an English language assessment test for non-native speakers. One compulsory part of the exam is reading in which the examinee was required to read three lengthy passages and answer 40 questions in less than an hour. 

I guess that’s when I got to practice scanning/skimming. 

I scoured the Internet for tips, tricks to increase my reading speed. I also got into the habit of scanning everything before my nose. 

Slow reading irritates me ‒  I felt uneasy spending too much time on a piece of text. I had to move on to the next page. 

After some time, my reading speed increased, so did the amount of my reading. Every day, I jumped from one website to another, divulging tons of articles on the Internet. 

When I got to learn about the world of blogging, I read even more posts for countless tips, advice, hacks on writing, making money with blogging, finding niches, etc. Out of the scale of 10, my reading speed went up to 20, 30. 

For a while, I thought I felt proud ‒  I’ve read so much during a short period of time after all. 

But then reality set in… 

Despite reading loads of how-to blog posts, I hadn’t progressed much from where I started out. 

True, I was able to access more information in less time. But I didn’t actually digest everything that I consumed. 

I realize fast reading isn’t such a desirable skill if used wrongly. 

Although it might be helpful to skim through a manual book, a restaurant menu or textbooks for your upcoming exams, getting into the habit of scanning every piece of text will do you more harm than good in the long run. 

Here are 4 ways why speed reading can take a toll on you:

1. Shorten your attention span

It takes great focus to speed-read a piece of text. Your eyes move quickly along the page as your brain works hard to process new information. 

Ironically, as speed-reading turns into a habit, maintaining concentration while reading is not so important. 

You’ll adopt a complacent attitude towards reading ‒  scan for keywords instead of trying to understand the whole thing. As a result, you become more prone to distractions and can’t stay focused on a piece of text for long. 

2. Batter your long-term memory

Although speed reading helps with short-term recall, it doesn’t have much of a positive impact on your long-term memory. 

You may remember the key points of a book instantly with speed-reading techniques but forget all about it after a few months. 

Truth is, reading isn’t all about acquiring the knowledge, it’s also about experiencing joy, sadness, compassion, frustration, etc. 

These emotions deepen your impression of new information, which allows your brain to create stronger memory links.

Since the speed-reading process is mostly devoid of such “emotional experiences”, your brain will find it more challenging to turn fresh data into long-term memories. 

3. Lose the ability to analyze written text

The Internet has changed the way we find, read and consume information. Type in a keyword of what you want to search for and you come up with millions of results. 

This abundance of choice not only damages our focus but also lessens our engagement with the information you consume. We prefer scanning the text for the gist to understanding it in full. 

But as we hyperlinking from one website to another looking for snippets of data, we lose the ability to contemplate on what we read. We fail to make the judgment, merge the author’s opinions with our own to form new ideas. 

So despite wolfing down tons of information, we become more “shallow and ignorant” than ever. 

4. Forget the joy of reading 

Imagine sitting on your couch, immersing yourself in a riveting book while sifting on your steamy cup of coffee. Doesn’t it just feel wonderful?

This is part of the reading’s joy. To get lost in your own world without any distractions. To get away from it all ‒  stress and hustle of life, duties, and jobs, etc. 

When you speed-read, you’re saying no to the opportunity to escape the madding crowd and ever-moving world.  

You’ll miss out on the experience that could give the peace and relaxation the world is so in short of.