Why reading is no longer a popular sport

Talk to any young person and you realise that the one habit that has taken the maximum hit due to other temptations of the modern world is “reading”.

It seems that many youngsters have simply either given up reading, or have restricted themselves to the narrow niches of their professional needs. Broad, generalist readers are a diminishing community. If things go the way they are, it’s a matter of time before a fitting RIP is written for this tribe.

Why is this happening? Some reasons I think are important –

  1. False illusion due to social media : Since a lot of youngsters spend a lot of time doing social media networking, there is a false sense of having done a lot of “reading” directly or indirectly through social media itself! Nothing could be far from the truth. The superficial, cursory and utterly peremptory scanning of the written content on Facebook or Twitter can hardly qualify as genuine reading. Still, many feel so.
  2. Lack of peaceful reading time : The lifestyles of many do not allow clear reading time slots. There’s just so much noise. The mobile radios, the iPods, the earplugs, the incessant chatter online… it kills the very concept of locking oneself in a corner of your home/room and dedicating some time to pure reading pleasure. This gradually develops into a pattern – people just give up reading. And when it is indeed available, the depth of silence feels too heavy.
  3. Strong negative spiral : Unfortunately, once you lock yourself into a negative pattern of habits like the one described above, there’s little chance of breaking free. Partially because one does not realise it, and partially because there’s the lack of a relevant shock, things continue the way they are. And deteriorate further. Reading is like tilling a land.. you stop and it degrades.
  4. Lack of inspiring seniors : College and schools do not inspire youngsters much when it comes to reading. Neither do seniors who can drive young people through sheer example. So a kind of societal stamp is acquired unknowingly and the bad habit of poor reading proliferates!

The damage that this does to young professionals is immense. Some pointers:

  • Lack of depth : many youngsters just do not understand issues as deeply as they should
  • Shaky confidence : scratch below the surface of claims being made, and you realise there’s little gravamen below. It’s positively scary
  • Poor decision making skills : the more we know about the world around us, the better we can connect the dots and move ahead in a more concrete fashion

All these are rather demoralising facts! But no damage is permanent. And you can do a lot to rebuild the edifice. Some simple suggestions:

  1. Visualise yourself making better decisions : think of yourself in a complicated decision making situation. And imagine that you knew a lot more about the world, its working components, human behaviour, the economy, the nations in turmoil, and so on. There’s a fair chance that you will react much better to the challenges facing you.
  2. Keep a slot everyday : start small. Fix a slot of 10 minutes religiously, per day, that you’ll devote only to yourself, sitting in a corner/on your study table, with serious reading stuff. Let this time slot grow slowly, gradually. There’s no hurry.
  3. Cut down on your internet consumption and TV time : Try reducing your social media time, and the time you spend in front of the idiot box. While it is wrong to ask of anyone to eliminate TV from their schedules (given the amazingly high quality content that appears frequently on TV nowadays), there’s a lot of sick and ordinary stuff that cuts into precious time you could devote to your self-development.
  4. Read what you like, first : In order to not get bogged down by stuff that does not interest you, read what you like, first. Don’t get into reading things that do not instinctively interest you. As you grow in stature as a reader, your interests will grow too.
  5. Get into debates and discussions : Nothing stimulates your desire to read more than a pleasant experience of “showing-off” your knowledge in a discussion ? I mean that in a positive and healthy way. So get into debates with intelligent people often. Talk about what’s happening in the world – the Arab spring, the resurgence of oil and coal, the uncertainty of the Chinese economic miracle, the problems facing developing nations, gender equality, financial planning, etc. It’ll stimulate and grow your existence manifold.

Reading was, and remains, the best self-development tool. Do not underestimate its importance. Start now – it’s not too late. Invest slowly, steadily and let it work for you. All the best!

Perhaps I should rephrase the title to “Why reading is no longer a popular sport – and what can be done about it” ?