I used to be a bookworm. I could sit still and read for hours, getting lost in far away worlds with exuberant and colourful characters. My favourites heavily featured pixies and dragons, but I threw in good share of historical fiction too. I would carry my novels with me and read in the car, between (and even during!) school lessons, while I ate breakfast and dinner, every night before bed. I never wanted to put a book down – it was like I’d never met a bookmark. It was always let me finish this paragraph, one more page, one more chapter, only 30 pages left until the end…. Nowadays, I hear myself think I’ll just finish watching this youtube video, one more tiktok, one more scroll on Instagram, I’ll just see what this update is on facebook….
I didn’t see a big problem or unhealthiness with my reading, especially as a child – it was an intellectual addiction, innocent and all-in-all pretty harmless. As a kid, there was little for me to neglect in favour of reading. But my phone addiction looks far more harmful now. I have a lot more responsibilities with real and harsh consequences if I neglect them.
Sadly, now as an adult, I struggle to read for leisure or practicality. It’s not a lack of time that stops me, or that I’ve grown up too much to enjoy stories. I just can’t keep my attention on a page. I can’t get engrossed in the world the author has created. My brain just won’t connect to the story in any meaningful way. I struggle to even read fun, fantasy fiction books, let alone my dull plotless textbooks. The speed and instant gratification of social media has given me an incredibly easy means of escape. Making my eyes move across a page and comprehend the squiggles printed there is much harder than scrolling and letting an algorithm choose braindead for me. Reading is actually quite a difficult thing for our brains to do, and when we don’t practise we lose our ability to process the written word quickly. My obsession with reading has evolved into a far less satisfying obsession with my phone. I felt happy and fulfilled when reading – I don’t get the same hit from social media.
In the big picture, if I spent all of my phone time reading, that would still be problematic. They’re both escape techniques, just different brands. But reading is more fulfilling for me than my phone. So while all escapism needs moderation, the reading is better for my happiness than social media. It’s a more productive waste of time, because when the time comes to get work done, I’ll be in a better mood. Reading is difficult to do right now, but I can begin by returning to my childhood favourites, even if they are written very simply. Trying to jump into more sophisticated adult reading won’t bring me happiness yet, but returning to familiar books with associated happy feelings will be the beginning of a bright future with books. I have mourned the hibernation of my love of reading, and now I can start anew with whatever I feel like – young adult fiction I think will be the genre that allows my triumphant return.