I ran into a conundrum yesterday in posting the above meme, of all places, on my Bob on Books Facebook page. It is a page that gather readers to talk about books and share their common love, and offers everything from humor to serious articles about book-related topics.
The conundrum, as some who are on the page noted, is the act of posting something like this does the very thing it discourages, taking us away from the book we were intending to read. It could probably be argued as well that hosting the page, and blogging about books, takes me away from reading.
It may be observed that there are other things beside books, including the communal act of talking about books and ideas, hopefully civilly and substantively, rare things in our society, and even rarer on social media. I also post humor, because I think it is a healthy thing to laugh at ourselves as the quirky creatures who love books and reading and all things related, like libraries and bookstores.
But I also realize that it is possible to help dig reading’s grave with digital distractions. Apps like Facebook are exquisitely designed to do just that. Of course, we can say we are “reading,” and sometimes we really are. I find a number of great and interesting articles, that in the reading, enhance my understanding of authors, bookselling, and you name it connected with books.
Perhaps this is another aspect of the double-edged nature of many technologies, maybe all technology. Atomic energy can kill cancer, or kill people. Opioids can provide a merciful release for those in intense pain, or addict and kill. Likewise, social media can point us to worthy books, and distract us from reading them.
So what is one to do? Perhaps the best I’ve come up with is to have social media time, and book time. It may mean having the phone in another room while one reads, or to turn off all notifications. Of course this is a problem for those who read on their phone or tablet computer with non-reading apps. Probably most of us need to set some boundaries on social media. Increasingly apps can even be set to allow us only a certain amount of viewing time per session.
I think managing digital distractions, which is really self-management, is just a reality of our modern lives, at least for most of us. Such self-management is what allows us to appropriately and not inordinately use such technology.
At least that’s what I tell myself as I curate my page. I assume we’re all adults and have learned, or are learning to set our own boundaries of social media use. It does seem that this is so from the titles and numbers of books people report having read. Maybe the meme above is nothing more than a “gotcha” moment we all laugh about.
But I’ve not stopped thinking about the conundrum, and trying to discern the line between ordinate and inordinate. I’d love to hear from others who host social media or blog sites as to what they think about this.