Books vs. Social Media

I deleted Facebook from my phone last weekend.

It took me a long time to get Facebook on my phone in the first place. I didn’t really want it there. I was totally fine with going through the “work” of opening my laptop and pulling it up on the Internet.

But then I got it because, as a journalism student, it’s social media or bust. So I got Facebook and Twitter on my phone. To be honest, I am a nimble live-tweeter, but Twitter isn’t my favourite social media platform. The only social media I really love is Instagram.

But back to Facebook. After I broke down and downloaded the app, I discovered its magical distraction powers. In school, if a class was dragging a bit or if I thought I needed some kind of “inspiration” to help me think through an assignment, I’d pull it out and scroll, scroll, scroll. It became a habit super fast.

I wouldn’t say I was ever addicted to Facebook, but it was there. Scrolling happened. I think I wasted more time on it than I actually know.

But this weekend I deleted it.

Here is why: I realized that I hadn’t read an actual book in ages. What I had been reading was headlines and captions in a constant, monotonous stream that had started to make my head feel like it was full of cotton balls. I started feeling strangely annoyed at the world and a little bit anxious, too. I realized that the time I used to spend devouring books had been replaced by skimming headlines.

I went to Indigo last week, as per my normal routine, and I bought a couple of books that I really wanted to read, one of which was a novel. I think it has been two years since I’ve truly read fiction. I studied Literature and Rhetoric at the University of Waterloo, and at one point I was ploughing through a novel a week. While it was awesome, I think I had to take a fiction break for a while after I withdrew from university. Almost two years, though, is a little bit excessive, I’ll admit. It was beyond time to crack open a novel. So, last week, I sat down and carved out time to actually read.

The thing about reading a book rather than staring at a screen is that, for me, it is a real experience. When I read 50 pages, it feels more like an accomplishment than scrolling through Facebook for 30 minutes. I’m not bashing Facebook or social media: I think they are awesome tools when used in a controlled way. However, in my opinion, reading a real book is way more intellectually stimulating. I am more fulfilled when I close the covers. It also inspires me to write more, whereas my phone makes me feel kind of sleepy and bleary when I turn it off.

I’ve declared this to be my summer of reading. The reading list is super short so far but  am sure it will grow quickly. This is what is on it so far:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I have actually just finished this book. I highly recommend it. It is a commentary on race, a story about immigration, and it has a bit of romance sprinkled throughout. I thought it was engaging, the prose was so well written, and it made me think more deeply. That’s almost everything I want in a book.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I know I’m kind of late to the party on this one, but I picked it up in Indigo, read the first page, and I had to get it. I am sometimes skeptical about books with tons of hype, but this one, as I’m reading it so far, is well written. The type of books I like are the ones that get straight to the point, and tell things in a pithy yet interesting way. So far this book is doing that. It’s also a bit of a travel memoir which is one of my favourite genres, so I might be a little biased in my opinion.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I saw this book on my visit to Indigo today (yes, I go to Indigo at least once a week) and I saw it again on an Instagram post today (yes, I still like social media) and it looks really intriguing. I am thinking of ordering it, especially after reading the little sneak preview on Amazon.



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