Millennials aren't reading anymore - here's why

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and not to be attributed to HIFI Public or its editorial team in any way.

“What book are you reading right now?”
“…instagram.”

Alan Moore once called any creator the only living being able to harness the abilities of making something out of nothing with mere strokes of ink. He said this was as close as man can come, to being wizards and working with magic; because that’s what writing a good book was: magic.

Today however, Alan Moore’s quiet ways of avoiding general human contact and living by himself in the woods may just be more relatable with a book lover than that that brilliant quote above. Statistics and common sense would dictate that now in 2018, with smartphones integrally integrated into our daily lives, the amount of reading any human being has done in the past must have been brought up exponentially.

We spend almost all of our free time buried in little screens, reading up on our friends, catching up on the news, reading listicles on Buzzfeed; Smartphones do more than just connect calls and take photos, and the vast amount of content on the internet in terms of visual entertainment is disheartening to sympathetic readers. Sherry Turkle has said in her book (reclaiming conversation) that there is a rising trend in children not making eye contact and goes further to accuse smart phones and the internet as a cause; she argues that the use of continuous virtual space makes it prone and prime environment for a sort of boredom to set in, one which ironically is the very result of trying to outrun boredom.

Even Dave Chappelle agrees as he points out on one of his shows that back in his time they did not have as much coverage and thus what they showed the youth on television mattered; however today, our smartphones are flooded with news reports all over this big planet, and as a result we have become the hardened judge with the gavel and wig who is increasingly desensitized to the cases presented before him. Everything on the internet is gradually becoming more and more forgettable, and yet, being present and in time for discussions for those very things is paramount to achieving a somewhat proper position on the social ladder.

What bothers this writer is this generations need to be watched and gratified at all times of the day by others around them. This incessant need to be seen by others is a worthy contributor towards the decline of reading in millennials. However, that is not to say that social media is the only cause; just a very strong one.

Two more contributing factors would be the immediate readily available access to cheap streaming sites and of course, social stigma heavily supported by the media, entertainment industry. With the introduction of entertainment streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and their capitalist low prices, many previous book lovers I personally know have stopped reading. Upon asking why they respond with “have you seen how cheap it is?”.

This brings us to time and money, both of which are a giveaway once any book is involved. Through an interview conducted by this writer, it’s been established that many a times a book reader, once he/she is past a few years of puberty, will be bought over by things of much more personal value: family, friends, sports, relationships and in the end write ups and Facebook posts which are physically short and perfect for the low attention span, along with a sudden desire to spend said free time wisely, most certainly not with a book.

Social media itself is designed to make users spend as much time as possible on the site, scrolling away till eternity. A recent ex-Facebook technician has admitted to such intentions being principle to development of such social media and apps, with obvious capitalist goals in mind.

It’s common place today to want to be everywhere at once. Upon asking electronic store clerks about most popular items bought this Black Friday/Boxing Day, I received the somewhat tragic but expected response: external and portable chargers. The second item was a smartphone itself. The continuous need to be attached to it has proven to be unhealthy not just for the eyes and your brain but for your mental prowess. When looking for somewhere to be all the time, our eyes only dart from one corner to the other, while our minds are the ones that try their hardest to keep up with all the information, news updates and subsequent ideas. Therefore each morning and each night on our smart phones, we walk along the endless yellow brick road away from boredom and towards fulfilment, while ironically being bored at the same time on a journey that never ends.

In times like these a book almost seems like an escape; not just from the world and its terrible problems but also from everyone else. It seems like a pitstop on another constantly moving but fixed-in-position hamster wheel where otherwise we run on and on trying to get somewhere while only glancing at minute details, all happening in the cage we can name social construct.

The reason we don’t read anymore is because the priorities have switched from being informed to “having the ability to say anything without the consequence of backing up statement with necessary proof”. If we leave books behind, the next thing we read (or don’t read) are articles mostly on Facebook or some other social media. However, even coming across an article that would take at most ten minutes to read, people wont dare click on it and yet will proceed to comment and make his/her opinions be know. Another factor is that most would not consider a book entertainment as one would television or a two hour feature film.

I understand that there was never a golden era in which reading was held above all other facilities of human life; however the decline in readers today has never been stronger, even with revolutionary book helping technology like the kindle and audiobooks. I also understand that human beings are inherently very different from one another, a trait that makes the very existence of so many good pieces of writing from all over the world possible; as a close friend has pointed out, the genre of a book matters deeply, regardless of whether it’s a reader in question or not. I have to not only fully agree but vehemently support the fact that there IS a book out there for everyone, one that might not make the reader read more, one that might not make the reader encourage others either, but one that the reader will definitely fall into and not climb out of till he/she is finished.

A book is a wonderful thing and if more readers would understand a non-reader better before suggesting a book, it would perhaps make the entire process of conversion a lot easier. The most important role to play in this case is that of the teachers because as with anything in life, once you start to enjoy something when you’re young, its hard to let go and even harder not to forget.

It is this writer’s hope that this generation can get over their FOMO (fear of missing out), put away their social media, find a book and spend some time with themselves and a coffee.

(PS – I don’t advocate for caffeine, it’s a terrible decision).

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and not to be attributed to HIFI Public or its editorial team in any way.

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