Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Why my social media addiction must be brought to book

New leaf: an author other than Cecelia Ahern might be inspiring

I've been afflicted by a bad case of reader's block. It's my equivalent of writer's block and has rendered me completely incapable of clearing my mind for more than 10 minutes to read a book.

It's a sad disease to suffer, because there's nothing I love more than getting lost in a good book. I once easily went through a couple per week. I always had to have a book on the go, no matter what. Now I'm lucky to get to a last chapter in two months. Not only does it take me a long time to get there, but it can feel too much like a chore and (once you leave school) that's not what being an avid reader is supposed to be about.

I had time to think about this recently when I was off work for a week and looked forward to getting stuck into the pile of books metaphorically gathering dust on my Kindle.

But try as I might, I simply could not muster up the concentration levels required to disappear into someone else's life. At least I had plenty of time on my hands to think about why this had happened to someone who practically eats books for pleasure. Was it an unlucky run of not-so-great books? Maybe; the last Cecelia Ahern one certainly didn't help. Was I having a particularly busy chapter of my own life? Always, but it's never stopped me before.

I've come to two conclusions. The first is that there are now too many distractions in modern life and the second is that I am very bad at fending them off. I used to do my reading in that quiet hour between the wee one's bedtime and my own, once the kitchen has been cleaned, our hard-working washing machine has been fired up for another load and the ironing done ahead of the next day at work.

Now, I tend to futter on Facebook and faff about on Twitter and before you know it, those precious hours are gone. Instead of chalking up a couple of hours of fiction, I've wasted the time catching up on Kim Kardashian's latest fashion disaster (and I still don't really know who she is).

It's far too easy to get lost in those real-life dramas, to flit from one inane showbiz article to another online, but the satisfaction is nowhere near the same as being caught in a gripping plot. It's just a short, sharp way of reading that doesn't require any concentration or even getting to the end of anything. In fact, just look at the pictures.

There's also the onslaught of 24-hour news, which I find eats into my concentration levels. A large part of my week off was spent keeping up with the latest on the Oscar Pistorius trial or the search for the missing Malaysian plane. There was always something coming between me and my book, demanding my scatty attention more loudly.

So, I did what I usually do these days. I spent an hour looking on the internet for the answers to my daft problems. After establishing that I might be suffering from some sort of attention deficit disorder, I twigged that I was simply exacerbating matters by going online. I needed to close the laptop, turn off the TV, put my phone on silent and find a bloody good book to break this run.

Therefore I needed a new book, so up went the laptop again so I could log on to Amazon. Oh look, I see Amazon is doing a deal on Peppa Pig toys – I wonder what else they have ... ?

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