Double tap. Thumbs up. Swipe left. Screenshot. Emoji, emoji, emoji. Double tap some more.
What about simply turning a page?
In a world so dynamic and overstimulating, it isn’t difficult to become consumed with the illusion imposed upon us by social media. The illusion that life is a concoction of glistening adventures — dazzling coastal sunsets, tempura sushi rolls, and aerial shots of marathon finish-lines. All these images ruthlessly spoon fed to us by social media! But what about occasionally creating our own visuals? Social media hampers our minds from flexing their powerful muscles, simply because nothing is left to the imagination. Reading is essential to maintain a balance between fiction and reality. We must understand that portrayal in social media is not an objective pie-chart encompassing the full spectrum of human emotion. Individuals choose the slice of the pie with the most filling, with the perfect crust pictured at the perfect angle under the influence of the perfect filter. What about all the rough, unrefined edges that are a part of life?
I’m not saying the books we read are 100% truthful — but quality reading material strives to portray the world through a nuanced lens, sans the glam and glitter. Reading a diversity of topics regularly ensures a holistic, 360 degree exposure of the world. Reading allows us to probe beneath the surface — to ask how and why, and to receive answers that are not stripped into mere emoticons and 140 characters of over-simplified text.
The truth is, the images our brains are teeming with do not belong to us. There is no originality in being a slave to social media. Reading enables us to create our own images, to design an authentic product that is eternally our own. The visuals we are swamped with on a daily basis — from watching television, scrolling through Facebook, scanning billboards as we travel through jammed city streets, fall through the pores of our memory like sand through parted fingers, rarely leaving a lasting impression on our intellect. Reading, however, ensures we create our own mental fingerprint, our own product that defines how we behave, think and express ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m just as reliant on social media than any other teenager, but just as we’re told to strive for balance in our diets, in our academic and extracurricular activities, we need to consider the balance between the time we spend on social media vs. the time we spend reading. They do not have to be mutually exclusive, but it seems to me like one has brutally trampled over the other.
Reading, in essence, is the antithesis of social media. It is hardly an instinctive stream of consciousness, but rather a platform for diverse knowledge to be shared from all walks of life. In my opinion, teenagers are so absorbed in a world of instant validation, we have forgotten how to value activities that do not give us instant results, that do not have concrete, quantifiable benefits. There are no likes for the number of pages we read. There are no bar graphs explaining how much smarter we’ve become from reading an article. There are no reckless memories created to be posted on our Snapchat Stories from reading about the history of cancer, about slave trading in Nigeria, about the Black Swan effect or inter-galactic wars. As teenagers, we need to break away from craving second-by-second gratification. After all, that’s not the way the world really works! Mammoth results can be generated from seemingly futile acts — results are not always trackable and calculable.
There is no reason why reading should ever be considered a “chore” or a “task”. Each one of us have interests, talents and hobbies which can be enhanced by reading. Anything from a love for baking Apple Crumble Pies to being fascinated with metaphysics to experiencing an unparalleled adrenaline rush from scoring a goal on the football pitch, can give an individual an immense amount of reading material.
Rya Sara Jetha is an Indian-American Year 11 student at Dhirubhai Ambani International School. She enjoys horse-riding, debating, playing the piano, baking pies, reading historical fiction, watching Al Jazeera and writing about teenagers’ relationship with technology.