How using social media may decrease reading habits?

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A good book can keep you hooked. It can take you to a different world where everything else becomes meaningless as you are so absorbed and well connected with the book. All this gluing to book is happening because of sustained attention and your mind’s curiosity to find out what happens next. Now let’s imagine that you want to read a book but you are constantly being distracted.

Reading requires attention and focus. It is virtue of the attention and your mind’s curiosity to find out what happens next in the book that can keep you hooked to the book for hours. If for some reason, your attention gets affected, you might not be glued to the book and may find it difficult to read and make sense of the content. If these book reading difficulties persist, you might start to find reading process boring and uninteresting and may give up altogether reading.

In the recent times, we have seen decrease in reading habits. This might be attributed to plenty of causes but let’s look at how the structure of social media might be affecting our attention span.

If we look at the above image and try to decide what the image is trying to communicate? Can we pin point the main idea? Well no, because every sub-image in the above images is unrelated and is altogether a different entity. A potential problem here is that for some people, presenting information in this format can cause information overload. This can cause mental fatigue with the result that our brain may feel that it has had enough and it needs break now. What if we’re spinning in a vicious cycle? We become fatigued from information overload and take a break. Once our brain has recovered from information overload, we again access social media and end up experiencing potential overload again and the cycle continues.

Another side effect of the information overload could be that just like we have need to do certain tasks, activities and hobbies which make us feel good such as going out for walks, exercising etc. If you struggle with reading already and you are checking social media before picking up a book to read, you might feel that you have done enough reading for the day. According to InformED, average internet user is exposed to almost 63,000 words everyday, which is akin to length of a novel. Now imagine that if you are already reading that many words per day, you will naturally like to take a break. You may also feel that your reading needs is met, and it’s time to perhaps do something else other than reading.

What we can do is to be aware of the way we access social media; when and how many times to access social media, how many groups/pages to subscribe to, when to become aware of the information overload, responding to notifications etc. The most important conclusion will be to believe that social media is purely for meeting social needs, not a place to fulfil your reading and learning apatite.

Written by Muhammad Wasif Haq (2019)
Perth, Australia
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