I’m pretty dismissive of new year-related resolutions—they’re too superficial and too fleetingly discarded. I’m more of the mind that you should set your goals and refresh yourself on them daily. That’s what I do. And yes, I understand if you want to slap me. What a prattish, self-congratulatory thing to say.
But I will admit I am using the impending new year to add a two-part goal to the list—one I’m a bit annoyed and ashamed I even have to add.
And no, it’s not lose a bajillion kilograms and get fit and toned. That’s a perennial. It’s that I need to make time to read (see below for the books I’m thinking I should start with and please feel free to suggest any).
I’ve read very few books for pleasure this past 18 months, which is entirely out of character for me—I’ll hands down always choose a night in with a book over any party.
I’ve been excusing away the not reading by saying I’m swamped with reading for study. That’s partly true. And yet it’s not. These days I spend an inordinate time reading, perusing, generally going into the black hole that is the internet and social media.
Meanwhile my thesis is exploring how author–activists may use tools such as social media to better tell such issues as climate change. So yes, I need to spend time wading through the quagmire of hyperlinked-to-the-hilt social media.
But I spend too much time doing so. I’m on there even when there’s nothing to read. I’m reading things I really, really don’t need to.
And my attention span has been whittled to a time so short I’m guess it’s around the minute mark, if that. This from someone who used to lose herself to reading without raising her eyes or shifting about for what was probably hours.
I can’t even count how many times I scurried off to check social media in the time it’s taken me to write this article. It was—no exaggeration—probably each time I finished writing a sentence. And that isn’t counting the times I hit the Facebook icon to refresh the feed even when there wasn’t anything to refresh.
I’m not going to say the internet and social media are ruining the world—quite the contrary if they’re used well. I’m just saying I’m not using them well and have instead allowed them to overtake and eat away at me.
I’m particularly worried about what this means for my concentration span in the short term (Think how much of my silly thesis I could have written by now if my attention span wasn’t these days my enemy!), but also my reading long term.
I used to read at every available opportunity: in a quiet moment, on public transport, and to send myself to sleep—although when it was a particularly gripping book, it often did the opposite of helping me drift off.
But I digress.
Now, I not only don’t carry books with me—not physical ones and not even electronic ones on an iPad, despite the fact that both are readily available—I rarely read them at home. Every ‘spare’ moment is possessed with using social media. I even, I’m ashamed to admit, Pinterest myself to sleep.
While I’m a huge advocate for social media—it offers author–activists, in particular, some fantastic boons in terms of connecting with audiences and getting our socially and environmentally minded messages out—I’m also aware I’m these days not using social media to best effect.
So, my resolution is to spend less—a lot less—time on social media specifically and the internet more broadly this coming year. I don’t mean go away from it altogether. I simply mean being savvy about my usage.
Whether that means limiting it to a couple of times a day or only on my phone or using block-out tools such as Freedom or removing the social media apps from my phone or simply turning off the internet at the wall in my home…I don’t yet know.
Either way, I’m putting it in writing so I can be called on it this time next year: I through that in 2015 aim both read more books and to wrestle my attention span back.
Books I’m thinking I should start with including (any suggestions welcome):
- This Changes Everything (technically this is also related to my uni)
- Animal Liberation (as above)
- Only The Animals (even though I suspect this is going to be wrenching)
- The Paying Guests (seriously, how many people have been raving about this?!)
- People Who Eat Darkness
- Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere (if you didn’t hear him interviewed on Conversations with Richard Fidler, download that podcast now).