I used to read, but then I joined social media.
In my previous blog post, I suggested that social media caused me to hate reading. I believe that to be true. I also believe that I don’t really hate reading; I just developed unhealthy habits that resulted in a bad relationship with reading.
It’s like eating healthy. You decide to make a healthy change and start eating well for several months, but then the holidays hit, and before you know it, you’re back to your old ways of eating junk and garbage. Once you’re eating junk and garbage, it’s hard to imagine yourself eating healthy because, well, that’s gross and broccoli and kale can’t compare to fried foods and sugar.
My relationship with reading is precisely like that. Thank you, Twitter.
I loved reading as a kid. As a teeny kid, I always wanted my parents to read to me. When I began learning to read, I would get so excited about being literate that I would run around the room screaming, “I’m reading! I’m reading!”
I continued to be an avid reader in school. AR tests? Aced them. Finished an assignment early? I spent my free time reading. I always went to the school library when I could and always had as many books checked out as they’d let me (and they were promptly returned as soon as I finished them). The Scholastic Book Fair? That was as exciting as the annual South Plains Fair!
I joined Facebook when I was thirteen. I believe it was the following year when I joined Twitter and Instagram, eventually joining most other social networking sites. If I could do it all over again, I’m not sure I would make any of the accounts. I’m a self-proclaimed Twitter addict who has tried to quit several times with little success. (It’s not all bad, though! I’ve met so many amazing people online and have even met a few of them. My best friend, whom I met online, and I converse almost exclusively through Twitter DMs, and we like it that way.)
I remained a book lover until I was fifteen or so. As a young teenager, I was reading through two Beverly Lewis novels a week for the most part! But I slowly started reading books less and less while my time online was becoming more and more frequent.
By the time I graduated high school, I didn’t read for fun anymore. Picking up a book felt like a chore. I preferred to mindlessly scroll the social media timelines for several hours, however. Why was this? I have a hunch that it’s social media’s fault.
Why I Blame Social Media for My Decline in Reading
1. I was conditioned to the restraints of 140 characters.
Before Twitter allowed 280 characters, we were only allowed 140. That isn’t a lot of space to create complete thoughts, and it can only hold so much information. I learned how to confine many of my thoughts to just one or two tweets, even if I had much more to say. Many of my technical writing classes taught us how to be concise, so learning to do this wasn’t necessarily bad; however, there is a downside to this, and that’s my second reason for blaming social media.
2. I was conditioned to believe that short blurbs of information are enough.
Why read more if I can read less? Why bother reading an entire news article when a headline gets to the point? Why read a book when accounts like @ASmallFiction exist? Obviously, the answer is because news articles offer more information, and books are more satisfying, engaging, and meaningful. But for me, spending so much time searching for quick snippets of information led me to become lazy. I couldn’t be bothered to read because it would take too long.
This leads to a more in-depth discussion of instant gratification. Reading a book takes some time. Reading a headline does not. I became too accustomed to receiving information instantly that I began to hate acquiring it the “old” way. I’m not sure if this is a characteristic of the lazy or of the generation that was raised online. I know there are many people who spend quite a bit of time online but also love to read. My third point might be my answer.
3. I became addicted to social media and/or my phone.
It shames me to say it, but I got to a point where sometimes I couldn’t read two pages without checking my phone! Fortunately, I’m able to combat this by locking my phone up with an app or silencing it and putting it on the other side of the room. I often think about how disappointing it is that I allowed my phone to control me this much. It isn’t healthy, and reading isn’t the only area of my life that my social media/phone addiction has affected. While I was in college, it was so hard to focus on homework at times because I was so concerned with what was happening on my phone. Mind you, I was often trying to have conversations with friends, so I wasn’t necessarily itching to read the timeline. At least I was able to buckle down and work when I absolutely had to.
These three things are what I attribute to my bad relationship with reading. I was struggling throughout all of this in college. Of course, most of the learning in college comes from many, many reading assignments, so I did not enjoy reading all that much in school. Clearly, I rarely read for fun during these four years!
So, now what?
Now, I’m trying to regain that love I once had for reading. Over the years, I’ve learned that if I don’t read, I don’t write. Guess what I haven’t been doing much of for several years now? I’m starting out by making myself read for a little bit each day, and I’ll work my way up. I know I’ll fall back into it easily if I can break my current habits and form new ones.
It’s okay to move in and out of hobbies, but reading is one of those hobbies that I sometimes feel bad for not enjoying. This world is full of talented people with beautiful things to say, and as a writer, I really need to read to connect with other writers. I often feel guilty for not reading, but I’m going to “get better.” Life is all about making improvements, and I think that I still love to read. I just need to get past my short attention span!
If you have a book, series, or author you love to read, let me know in the comments! I’m currently finishing Carrie by Stephen King that I started last year, but got too busy with school work to complete. I also have The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins sitting on my shelf that I’ll begin as soon as I finish Carrie.