Stop Scrolling, Start Reading
We all started the new year with a list of resolutions. For some, it involves getting back to their childhood joy of reading. For others, it is spending less time on their phones. However, as the saying goes- why not both? Reading is a great habit to pick up for those that are wanting to add a session of destressing to their day and social media can become an unhealthy habit in excess.
By actively choosing to replace social media with books, we create a simple way to tackle our goals and achieve two objectives at once.
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Negative Impacts of Social Media
There is no doubt that there are many positive benefits to social media exploration and interaction. Social media is a useful way to stay connected with the world and communicate with those around us. On the other hand, it’s been shown that it can be harmful as well.
- Poor sleep. Sometimes scrolling becomes too addictive and rather than actively consuming information, we’re just scrolling out of habit. If you are someone who has closed and unthinkingly reopened the same app right after you’ve already browsed it, you understand the feeling. In addition, these scrolling habits can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle. Blue light from our devices is great at tricking our bodies into thinking that we are experiencing daylight conditions (not great if you are trying to tell your brain that it is time to go to sleep). Addictive scrolling can keep us up for hours.
- Worsened mental health. Increasingly we are becoming aware that social media has major impacts on mental health, especially for young people. Users have developed unrealistic expectations of what their lives should look like because of the curated photos that people post on their social media. Although these feeds are just highlighted reels, it becomes problematic, creating anxiety and self-esteem issues.
- Inauthentic connections. While social media was created for keeping people connected, it can have the effect of keeping people apart. It is not uncommon to find a room full of people scrolling through their phones rather than interacting with each other. While social media has been great for keeping in touch, it also causes us to at times forget that interactions go beyond the digital world.
Positive Impacts of Reading
Reading is a great way to combat many of the problems that social media causes which is why it is the ideal swap for those who are motivated to give it a try. No less absorbing than social media, there are millions of books out there for people to enjoy and with the help of your local public library, you can pick out any book to read for free. Here are some of the benefits that reading offers us:
- Reduced stress. We’ve all heard the phrase “escape into a good book.” That’s more than true when it comes to reading. Picking up something you truly enjoy allows you to take a break from the stressful parts of your life and focus on an activity that brings you peace. It has been shown that reading has physical benefits to reducing stress and is like listening to music, doing yoga, or enjoying a nice cup of tea. (Pro tip: try enjoying a nice cup of tea while reading.)
- End-of-day cooldown. Reading is a great activity to incorporate into your bedtime routine. It works out well for those that are used to scrolling before sleep. This gives you something to hold and something to keep you engaged and is much better at creating a calm atmosphere leading up to bed than exposure to blue light and screens.
- Building empathy. If cell phones and social media play a role in breaking down communication and empathy, reading does the exact opposite. Those that consistently read are better at picking up on people’s emotions and can read a room well. This is because many fiction novels and other books allow the readers to see multiple perspectives that can be applied to the real world. Reading also develops your communication and conversational skills.
Making the Swap
The first step towards saying goodbye to excessive social media scrolling is by committing. Create a timeline for when you’d like to reach your goal or milestones to celebrate along the way. For example, you could make it your mission to cease all bedtime scrolling within three months and each time you make it an extra day without grabbing your phone before bed you might reward yourself with a favorite treat.
Another way to stay focused is to implement tiny habits that will help you obtain your overall goal. This might be leaving your phone in another room or always keeping a stack of books at the ready beside your bed and your couch. Put a book in your bag as well to dive into while taking the train or waiting for an appointment.
Need some help getting started on that book stack? Ask your local public librarian for some book recommendations based on your social media interests.
Reading is powerful. Consider a donation to your library or visit www.everylibrary.org to learn about how you can support reading, libraries, and librarians all over the United States.