We read things every day. We read the text messages, the funny names of our Uber drivers, and the eloquent Facebook posts of our friends. But, nowadays, it seems reading is twice as hard when affronted with a 350-page novel.
I used to blame social media for our deteriorating reading habits as a nation. If you think about it, social media, indeed, affects the way we live. Ever since the rise of instant messaging and live updates, our attention span has plummeted greatly. When you have your phone in sight, it’s virtually impossible for you to finish a page without feeling the urge to check your News Feed on Twitter or look at new posts on Snapchat. Social media compels you to do anything else but stay online and, inevitably, live online.
Now, I only blame myself. I blame myself for giving in to the addiction despite having many chances to stay away from it. But now that I am self-aware of my obsession and want badly to relive my love for books, I chose to do something about it. Quick.
NOUGHTS AND CROSSES
More than a month ago, I deleted most of my social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat. The only ones I couldn’t get rid of were YouTube and Goodreads. I used to think turning notifications off and deleting apps on my phone were enough, but I needed a more permanent cleanse if I wanted to start reading again.
A day in my life with social media would look like this:
|6:00-7:00AM||Wake up. Check phone and scroll through Twitter. Check Snapchat. Walk my dog. Get dressed haphazardly and run out the door.|
|7:00-9:30AM||Sleep or watch Facebook videos while in transit. Scroll through Twitter again. Check Snapchat again.|
|6:30-8:30PM||Open all social media accounts until I fall asleep in transit.|
|10:00PM-3:00AM||Open all social media accounts until I pass out.|
That doesn’t look so productive, does it? That’s more than 10 hours a day spent on just going through social media sites, which I could have easily used for reading. After I quit social media, however, this is what my daily routine looks like now:
|6:00-7:00AM||Wake up. Get ready at my own pace and walk my dog before heading out for work.|
|7:00-9:30AM||Read a book or sleep while in transit.|
|6:30-8:30PM||Listen to audiobooks or read news articles on my tablet.|
|10:00PM-11:00PM||Read before bedtime until I fall asleep.|
In the last month and a half that I’ve been offline, I have finished three novels and more than ten short stories in total. That’s more than what I’ve read in a year while active on social media.
THE BEAUTY OF READING IN TRANSIT
I know that not everyone can quit social media. You could be a professional social media manager or you could be relying on social media for promoting your own work. Whatever the reason may be, there are other ways you can begin reading again.
One, for instance, is reading during your long commute. We spend more than a couple of hours a day traveling from home to work, and vice versa. A lot of the time, we sit and stare at our phones for the entire trip.
Swap your idle hours for a few pages into your book. Instead of burying your nose into your phone or staring out at billboards and street ads, read a novel or a short story collection. If you have motion sickness, read at the terminal or stations while waiting. This way, you’ll also be less annoyed at the long lines before you hop onto the bus and train.
READING BEFORE SNOOZING
Remember when you used to stay up all night because you couldn’t put down that Harry Potter book? Well, while I don’t encourage you to do stay awake until the wee hours of the morning, there’s something else you can do.
I challenge you, reader: let a book be the last thing you hold before you go to sleep every night. Not a laptop, not your iPad, not your phone. A book.
For about thirty minutes or an hour, read. While the light from a screen of a mobile phone can mess up your body’s natural circadian rhythm, a book before bed helps you rest better.
I don’t believe someone when they say, “I don’t have time.” If you want something, and want it bad, there will always be time. And it’s up to you to make it.