Over the past few years, I've become a huge advocate for social media breaks. I am no stranger to the siren's call of a really funny tweet, a gorgeously crafted Instagram post, or all the memes. But there is an undeniable dark side to social media and when I was going through a year-long bout of constant daily anxiety, I decided to take a step back from social media. Not only did that space help me work on my mental health, surprisingly, taking a break from social media made me a better reader. There are a few reasons for this, including starting a mindful meditation practice, but the biggest reason was simple: time. And now the Omni Calculator is proving just how much the internet can suck up our precious hours — especially when it comes to reading.
The Omni Calculator was designed by Mateusz Mucha, a sociologist who wanted to offer an easy way to solve a bunch of day-to-day math problems — how many bricks you need to build your patio, whether your brilliant business plan is actually viable, and, of course, just how much time you're wasting on social media.
Here's how the calculator works: You provide the number of social media visits you make during the day, and the average time of each visit. The calculator then tells you just how long you're spending on social media cumulatively, and then translates those hours to all of the other activities you could have done instead — how many seasons of Friends you could have watched, how much energy you could have burned during a workout, or how many books you could have read. And the numbers are truly shocking.
Here's an example: Say you visit social media once every hour, for 10 minutes each time. According to the Omni Calculator, that is 2.67 hours per day spent on social media. The calculator then takes an average book page-count (240), the average number of words on a page (250), and a reading speed of 200 words per minute — all of this is entirely customizable so you change the page counts and adjust your reading speed — and finds that if you spent those 2.76 daily hours reading instead, you'd be able to smash 195 books per year. Yes, that is your teetering TBR stack giving you the side-eye right now.
The app also includes some cheeky calculations — with 2.67 free hours daily you could apparently also listen to "Despacito" 42 times each day, and re-watch all 10 seasons of Friends a whopping 11 times per year — but for readers, the book calculations may feel particularly damning. Even just making a small change to your daily social media habits — checking it every hour, but only for five minutes instead of 10, for example — makes a huge difference in the numbers: You'd only miss out on 97 books instead of a whopping 195.
Spending less time on social media is easier said than done, but there are simple ways to lessen usage. I turn off push notifications so I'm not drawn to my phone every time it lights up, and I turn off my phone at least two hours before bed. I haven't gotten to 195 books a year yet (Bon Appetit's YouTube channel still exists after all) but I've noticed a huge change in how much I enjoy reading, which just makes me want to read more.
If you've always wished you had more time to read, take a look at your own time spent on social media and resolve to give your bookshelves the attention they deserve.