Cellphones, Internet distract students from reading
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 17:03
Remember when we were younger and would get in trouble for reading in class? My classmates and I always had a book under our desks and the teacher would take them away whenever he or she caught us. As time went by, people started having cell phones and you never saw people reading in class anymore. Of course, talking to your friends or seeing what is happening on Facebook is more fun than reading—or is it? Regardless, I’m still surprised, even with myself, that nobody seems to be reading books these days.
It’s interesting how I’ve gotten away from one of my favorite pastimes and replaced it with Facebook and Twitter. There are a lot of great stories in the library but nothing about what my friends are up to. And yet, here I am sitting on Facebook wishing I wasn’t so bored like everyone else. Whenever there is nothing good on TV, or no movies out I want to watch or haven’t seen already, it is easy to forget how many books out there I would enjoy reading. Why do I even have a Facebook?
When I hesitate to read, the feeling is similar to when I hesitate to go to the gym. I know that once I’m there, I’ll enjoy myself and I won’t want to stop. But the difficulty lies in getting started. I don’t understand why, but reading feels more like an accomplishment when it should feel like an experience. When I was younger I remember vividly being sucked into the world of Aramanth in “The Wind Singer” by William Nicholson, experiencing a futuristic Mexico in Nancy Farmer’s “The House of the Scorpion” and not being able to fall asleep because I had to find out what was making all the noise in the walls of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by J.K. Rowling.
I feel like I used to go through books a lot faster too, even if they were particularly long. These days, all I do is procrastinate. It took me about six months to finish Stephen King’s “The Shining,” whereas it took me about a month to log more than 70 hours playing one of my favorite video games, “Mass Effect 3.” I’m a huge fan of the “Mass Effect” series and I wouldn’t be able to put any hobby before playing a new game. But when I beat “Mass Effect 2,” I spent two years waiting for the sequel to be released—why didn’t I pick up a book? Altogether it probably took about four hours to read “The Shining.” I enjoyed reading it and it was pretty suspenseful, so how was I able to procrastinate for two years?
I think Facebook certainly serves as a distraction—quite possibly an addiction. However, that doesn’t explain why we don’t want to read as much as we used to or why I’m still able to get absorbed into video games but no longer books. Maybe all the reading we have to do for school is getting in the way? All the dull, boring textbooks make reading, which can be as little as 10 pages, feel like a laborious task, and in a novel, you have 300 pages to get the whole story and it can feel like a monster chore. You might say to a friend about a book, “Once you get past the beginning it gets better,” just like you’d say, “Getting past the first mile makes running easier.” “Getting past,” the beginning doesn’t sound like fun, and I don’t think, “getting to the good part,” feels any more rewarding. A good book is something you’re curious to start and then compelled to finish, not something that’s assigned as an arbitrary number of pages at a time so that you can be prepared for a pop-quiz.
There was no deadline for me to finish “The Shining,” so I guess that’s why I took my time with it. But I often found myself putting it off the same way I would an assigned reading that wasn’t due for several days. Just now I’m starting to realize that when we were younger, we were less often assigned novels to read, and we didn’t think of reading so much as work as we do now. Interestingly, whenever I am at work outside of school, my favorite thing to do during my lunch break is reading. There I’m able to think of it as being a pastime instead of homework, and I can get absorbed in a novel all over again. Just as Mark Twain said in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”
Jason Hewett is a guest columnist for The Review. His viewpoints do not necessarily represent those of The Review staff. Please send comments to email@example.com.