The community of the highlight

It’s always sort of an interesting experience when I’m reading something on my Kindle app and I run into one of those20140628-134344-49424122.jpg passages where the app marks it for you and lets you know how many other people have highlighted it. It’s interesting to me because sometimes I agree that it’s highlight-worthy, and I enjoy musing on the reasons for my agreement or lack thereof, but also because it’s a moment where what’s usually a relatively solitary experience – sitting somewhere and reading – becomes deeply communal.

We often do experience books among and with others, now. We talk about them on Twitter, on Tumblr, on book blogs, on review sites. We talk about what we love and we critique what we didn’t. We share recommendations and we offer warnings regarding what’s to be avoided for whatever reason. The web provides so many sites for conversation about what we’re reading.

But then there are the moments where we’re immersed, just us alone lost in the world of a book, and suddenly other people are there with us. I see what others found noteworthy. I no longer experience the passage in isolation from the thoughts of others. It changes the way I read and think about what I’m reading.

Probably some people would find this intrusive, but I like it, these little snatches of the experience of community in the midst of being mentally by myself. It’s like we’re passing each other on a road through beautiful countryside, and we exchange a wave. Hello, how are you? Fine day, isn’t this lovely? Well, I’ll be seeing you. Take care. I don’t know their names; I don’t know anything about them except for the fact that we were, for a time, traveling the same road.

And I don’t require company. But it’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

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