2017: Time to Making Reading Cool Again

In order to feel a little less bad about avoiding all of my homework and studying over Thanksgiving break, I picked up a book one day instead of binge-watching Netflix. For the first time since maybe this past summer, I actually read a book. Honestly, it was a little bit sad how long it’s been since I’ve read just for the enjoyment of reading—and it was even sadder that I was surprised to realize how much I still like reading.

Growing up, I was such an avid reader. My younger self would be so disappointed to know how rarely I have a book in my hands. I’m sure a lot of us feel this way, but most of the time it feels impossible to find a single hour of the day to devote to anything “fun,” let alone reading a book.

But, if we are going to be honest with ourselves, although it may be really difficult to fit a chapter of Pride and Prejudice in every night, we could all probably spare a little time most days for reading. Tons of studies have shown that there are countless benefits to reading books regularly, ranging from improved memory, decreased stress levels, and an improved and enlarged vocabulary. One study in particular showed that reading and doing other mentally challenging activities regularly can decrease your likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 2.5 times. So yes, it definitely is in your best interest to set aside some time every day and just read!

And although reading articles (like this one!) online is technically “reading,” it doesn’t carry the same kind of feeling, or even the same amount of benefits as reading a paper book or newspaper does. Your brain absorbs a lot less information when reading online, just because there is so much visual input that needs to be sorted, and also because it’s way too easy to get distracted by other things on your screen. Also, reflected light from phones and tablets and computer screens makes it harder for your brain to relax, and lessens the production of melatonin in the brain, making it harder for you to fall asleep—while a paper book actually makes it easier to have a sound sleep.

I truly believe that modern technology is spectacular and life would be super rough without it—I mean, imagine trying to write a research paper, or really any kind of paper, without the Internet. However, I also truly feel like I’ve been missing out on a really valuable part of my life since I’ve stopped reading books for fun. Also, I think a lot of people, especially younger people, rely a lot on social media as a source for news and current events. Although this is an amazing tool, and makes it easier to stay up-to-date on things going on around the world, social media is also a highly unreliable source for news. It’s been found that 62% of adults get their news on social media. This is kind-of a scary statistic; honestly, because believe it or not, not everything your great aunt shares on Facebook is actually true. The Internet really does lie sometimes! And although a lot of us may say that we catch up on the Times every so often, if we are being real with ourselves, do we actually absorb most of what we read on online newspapers? Do most people really know what the situation in Syria is, and not just based on headlines and photos shared on Facebook? I’m guessing the answer for most of us is no.

I would be such a hypocrite if I said that I don’t do the exact same thing. A lot of my world knowledge lately has come from unreliable social media “facts” too. However, I am going to make it my New Year’s Resolution to actually pick up a physical newspaper once a week and actually read the news. And, I also promise to read at least one book a month, just for fun! I think that these are things that we could all promise ourselves to do in the next year, or at least improve upon a little bit, because we really do owe at least that much to our brains.