We live in an age of instant gratification. And I’ll be the first to admit, as an Instagram addict, regular tweeter, and serial Netflix-binger, that I am a victim of this. Yet it saddens me all the same, because not only has this new lifestyle negatively affected our self-esteem and attention spans (and that’s only for starters), it’s also reduced the popularity of many beneficial pastimes that were once commonplace.
It seems that one of the most gratifying hobbies of all – reading – is becoming less popular with young people. Nowadays, it’s becoming an unusual thing for young people to do, with many teenagers turning away from books and towards the instant satisfaction brought by social media. And this is something which, for the long-term good of society, must be changed.
Books very much have the power to enrich lives. Much like music and films, books allow us to form connections with other people, fictional or otherwise. Take my personal favourite fictional character, for example – The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield. Introspective, sulky, and misunderstood, he epitomises the feelings of many teenagers even more than 60 years after the book’s publication, making him a relatable and endearing character even to this day.
In fact, it was Catcher and Salinger’s other stories which brought me to realise the power of literature – after reading them, I felt as though I’d made a friend in Salinger and his characters. There are few better feelings than seeing someone else describing a thought or emotion that you believed was unique to you. And this is an experience everyone could benefit from, teenager or not. But books don’t solely connect you to fictional characters and authors you’ve never met – whether it’s a meaningful friendship or a brief conversation with a stranger, a shared love for books can spark connections between people every day.
All this is not to mention the more obvious benefits of regular reading – increased creativity, wider vocabulary, improved writing skills, and even greater empathy. In fact, reading can also improve academic performance, as it’s also been found to enhance memory and your ability to think analytically. It’s undeniable that books are good for our minds, as they feed our imaginations and increase brainpower. But they also offer comfort, entertainment, stress relief, and are even a way of making friends. Social media is definitely good for some temporary boredom-busting, but reading a book can be a really special experience.
So, if you’re not much of a reader, why not pop into a bookshop next time you see one? Have a look around, as it’s basically a guarantee that you’ll find something of interest (one of the beauties of literature is its variety). And the next time you’re about to check Twitter or Instagram, or start another show on Netflix, open a book instead. It takes a bit of willpower, sure. But it could just change your life.