I Took A Break From Social Media, And It Unexpectedly Made Me A Better Reader

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A couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed to take a break from social media; and more specifically, from Twitter. I'm not the first person to take a step back from platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. And, in fact, this is not the first time I've undertaken the ubiquitous social media hiatus, either. I first decided to delete my Facebook back in college, and I never looked back. I got crazy obsessed with Tumblr and couple of years ago, and cut back so considerably on my daily reblogging time that I have stopped using the site altogether. But this time the catalyst for my Twitter break was a bit more serious than just unfollowing annoying classmates or eliminating a source of procrastination.

We all know that Twitter has been a hub for resistance activity, especially since 2016, and while it is crucially important to stay informed right now, it can also be overwhelming and unhealthy. I found myself erring on the side of anxious for more hours in the day than I was calm, and it was affecting my brain in ways that I only fully realized when I finally decided to take a step back. After a few weeks of meditation, earlier bed times, and now, avoiding Twitter completely, I have noticed a huge positive difference in my productivity and overall state of mind.

The result of eliminating constant timeline reading and retweeting was definitely expected, but what wasn't was how much it completely changed the way I read.

I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. So when social media became such a huge part of my day to day, I never really thought about how it might relate to the rest of what I do. Sure, the procrastination and distraction social media can cause was a given, but it couldn't possibly affect my reading... could it? But after a week of not being on Twitter, I had a conversation with one of my fellow bookish pals and it was incredibly illuminating.

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I realized that for most of this year, and probably for the past couple of years, too, I had been reading faster and faster, but absorbing and enjoying the books less and less.

That's not to say that I haven't loved reading just as much as always, or that I haven't found reads in the past few years that have become beloved favorites. But it was almost as if I were reading books like tweets and Instagram captions, scrolling through each one with my mind already on the next, only really paying attention to beautiful quotes for a fleeting, forgotten moment, or noticing more in-depth themes and symbols only when I needed to for work. Otherwise it has been like an unconscious race I never realized I joined, to get to the next thing, the new thing, anticipating what was coming next before it was even here. I think that Twitter in particular, had a huge role in retraining my mind this way, especially recently.

With something new happening what feels like every minute of the day, it's almost impossible to absorb all that needs to be processed before the next big breaking news story, meme or controversy is flooding our screens and our brains.

While I haven't necessarily been reading any faster or slower recently, I have already found my mind starting to work in different, and better, ways. And when it comes to books, that means savoring the stories and words more than I have in a long time. Not thinking about what I'm going to read next, but focusing only on the book in my hands right now. Taking a moment to write down favorite quotes, connect ideas, and just enjoy the process of reading. Plus, with taking away that constant tick of reaching for my phone every three minutes to check Twitter, I am more present for everything I need to do, including reading.

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If you've found yourself easily distracted, overwhelmed with the world, or underwhelmed with your reading, I can't recommend giving social media a break more highly. Try it even just for a week, for the length of a single book; I think it will make a huge difference in so many aspects of your life. I promise that your TBR will wait for you and, for better or worse, the news will be there when you get back.