Read a Book Not a Phone

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Years ago, I took about 10 boxes of books to Half Price Books, and sold them. I declared myself bookshelf free as I offloaded 20 years of books. I got a Kindle. I just couldn’t get used to the thing. I started reading on my phone, and when I look up, the whole world is out of focus. I began to acquire books again, but now I pass them on to someone else. Why did I return to the physical form of a book?

Holding a Story

I’m not much of a non-fiction reader, so those books tend to pile up on my bedside table and never get completely read. I am a diehard lover of fiction. Good fiction. Literature. A story is meant to be held. It is meant to unfold as the page turns; not as your finger scrolls. The artwork, the printed words, the feel of paper and cloth. The physical presence of that story sitting on your table, waiting for you to come back to the world within. The final line of that story, and the sensation of closing it into your heart and mind as you shut the back cover of a book.

I truly believe we lose the opportunity to lose ourselves in words when we read from a tablet or phone. First, we’re distracted by text messages, social media, push notifications and anything else that interrupts our focus. Reading should be relaxing, and all the extra information coming from a handheld electronic is far from that.

Imaginations are enriched when we read undistracted. Ever find yourself saying, “the book was better than the movie”? That’s because your mind is so good at building the rich settings and characters in a way that guides you into a place of excitement, joy, fear, love, sadness, outrage, and action. No film can satisfy the power of your mind the way a book can. Don’t get me wrong. I can lose myself in a movie as easily as a book, but most of the time, I think the book is better.

A Book is Healthy – Electronic Screens? Not So Much

A few things are at risk when we do all of our reading on electronic devices. Eye strain, and some research suggests that the blue light from screens can put us at risk for macular degeneration. Although more recent research attempts to debunk that notion, the eye strain is real.

Circadian rhythm is the big risk factor, in my opinion. Our bodies rely on light to help set our body’s rhythm of wake and sleep. If someone reads from a phone into the wee hours of the night, they risk upsetting their own natural rhythm. They aren’t getting solid and healthy rest. I’m as guilty as any bookworm or reading a book late into the night, but it’s not a regular thing, and I’m not leaning into FOMO that seems to lurk in our phones via social media.

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Honestly, I’d rather dig into some fictional character’s inner world than know what some acquaintance had for dinner. I’d rather understand the highs and lows of humanity as told through a story rather than view posts about someone’s financial troubles and need for donations, or read overblown “life is good” posts that, to me, seem to be posted to hide the exact opposite. I don’t think social media creates any form of compassion fatigue for me, but I think it can unnecessarily drag us into situations we have no intention of actually getting involved in. Butt out and read a book.

Books Make Me More Authentic

I don’t think I’ve ever found myself drug down the social media hole, while reading an online book, that stirred my emotions in a way that made me take action to support a cause I believe in. However, I have been deeply rattled to the core by books. I’ve come to really understand humanity through the ages, and it would not be an understatement to say that my authentic self has been enriched by stories tucked between the hard covers of books. I hold that emotion in my hand. I feel the weight of it. I think about it for days, weeks, years.

Kudos to those who can slip deep into their heart and psyche while reading from a device. I can’t do it. Downloaded stories don’t get me excited. Books do. That physical thing is there, in three dimensions, asking me to pick it up, put my day and my worries aside, and go deep into the world of a story. No matter how much our lives continue to be transformed by technology, remember that a book is the healthiest way to use words for enlightenment, education, relaxation and inspiration.


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