Reading in the Age of Social Distractions

Reading in the Age of Social Distractions

Growing up, I’ve always seen reading as an activity in romance. 

Abandoning all activities, curling up in any corner of my house, not getting up until I’d turned that last page, yes, reading was an activity akin to love, for me. 

I still remember reading my first book at 6, outside of the prescribed textbooks. My dad had brought a discarded, torn copy of Mahabharata from the army library. With unlimited amounts of curiosity I went through the entire thing within the very morning. 

What an adventure it was! No wonder it still remains one of my favorite stories of all time. And it's not surprising I used to view reading as an activity in romance. Not anymore.

The world has surprisingly changed in the last decade and more, for better or worse. 

But the onslaught of social media has meant more and more polarization over the years. 

Wherever you go, there’s an abundance of half-baked opinions without any space or time for nuance. 

You are either this side or the other. You are good or bad, the oppressor or the victim, the underprivileged or the overprivileged. No middle grounds, no empathy towards opposing views.

With such increasing chaos and noise without any meaning, I cling to books more tightly than ever. 

They won’t scream at you, they won’t judge you for choosing to look at and weigh a counter opinion, they won’t accuse or blame you of any decisions of yours. 

Anne Frank won’t call me a fascist if I go on to read "Mein Kampf" after reading her diary, and Gandhi won’t accuse me of being a religious zealot if I read "Why I Killed Mahatma" after observing his experiments with truth.

And this is why I cling to books more tightly than ever. 

Because they’re a central part of my existence, making me who I am and who I think I am. 

They make me question every opinion I have, every philosophy I subscribe to, every notion that I hold dear. 

And why wouldn’t you want your views to be challenged unless you’re unsure of them yourself? 

Why would you discard other perspectives just because they don’t "feel" right, because they go against what you currently believe in?

I’ve been a part of this space called Bookstagram [books on Instagram] for a while now. 

It never ceases to amaze me how easily conclusions are reached, how easily the other side is decided and boycotted, and how easily opinions are formed by some, even there. 

Without any research, without any depth, without any nuance, be it a debate about cancel culture, tolerance, art versus artist, religion, international issues, or domestic. 

And yes, it’s a community of readers, to be very clear. 

This is why the need arises for all of us to step back and evaluate ourselves, I think. 

Drink a glass of water. And read. And not just read, but read all the sides, read different perspectives, and most importantly, think for yourself.

With time, with the rise in epistemic bubbles and echo chambers everywhere, reading had to cease being an entirely romantic activity to me and more of an activity born out of necessity. 

Yes, it’s fun too, yes it’s beautiful too, yes I often fantasize too, but it’s grown into something so much more than that. 

Yes, I smile reading Zusak, cry reading Hosseini, but I do make sure to include a Frank Furedi or an Amartya Sen into the pile now. 

I really hope you do read something you're truly passionate about too, without falling into the traps of instant news and quick validations. 

What do you feel about it? Want to share any experiences? I'd love to know in the comments!

ABOUT OUR STAR AUTHOR

Amritesh is a chemistry student and a freelance writer. He is the one who breathes books, or rather, the smell of books. 

He prefers to call himself an introvert for the purpose of aesthetics, but his ambivert personality means you can often find him gushing about random stuff. Oh, and gift him a book (from his wish list) to make him fall in love with you for eternity.

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