As I was scrolling through Facebook last night I came across an article posted by The Book Club (ABC). The heading was simple – Warren Buffet reads 500 pages a day AND if you spent as long reading as the average person does on social media you could read 200 books a year! So I clicked and read and then pondered. I’m a pretty average person, no Warren Buffet, but hey if I read 500 pages a day maybe I could be.
The pondering from this article was centred on two fundemental elements. Firstly, why do I spend so much time on social media? What’s the point? I should say here that I think I might actually be a bit below average, but it’s still a lot of wasted time and on days where I’m not working it can really be a lot! According to the article the average person (American I’m assuming) spends over 600 hours a year on social media. You only need a little over 400 to read those 200 books. For me, I really only use Facebook. I’ve toyed with Twitter but find it overwhelming and frighteningly abusive at times so generally speaking I steer clear. I’ve also had a poke around Instagram but find it often vacuous and materialistic so again it’s not for me. Facebook is good for keeping up with friends and family I don’t hear from often and following blogs, news sites and so on, but on the other hand, it’s full of advertising, fake news and click bait. It’s probably time I detoxed from that too. My new weakness is Litsy. I love Litsy! It’s an app/social media site for book lovers to share bookish things. It’s almost entirely positive, no trolling and full of open-minded, intelligent readers. But sometimes I find myself spending so much time reading reviews and looking a gorgeous ‘shelfies’ that I forget to actually read.
The other big issue with my use of social media is that I often do it while trying to pay attention to something else. Mostly, the something else is not my kids or other people but a TV show or an audiobook. Sitting down to watch a TV show is one of the few things Mr Good and I do together these days. It’s only a couple of times a week and we’re pretty selective about what we watch. It might be the latest series of House of Cards (so good!) or Sense8 (how could Netflix cancel this one?) or finally getting to season 1 of Fargo. There’s a lot of interesting, really well made TV around right now. But inevitably I find myself reaching for my iphone during a slow bit, scrolling through Facebook or Litsy and the BAM! I’ve missed the vital detail. It happens all the time. Why do I do it?
The second path my pondering took was why I would WANT to spend time in that world of social media (Litsy excluded). Just this week there has been a sh*tstorm over Carrie Bickmore’s timing for the launch of her Beanies for Brain Cancer drive and another over the, granted incredibly insensitive and thoughtless, comments Mia Freedman made in a podcast introduction for an interview with Roxane Gay. The comments section on any article written about these two women were horrendous. And this happens ALL THE TIME. There’s been much written about the way individuals, and especially women, are treated on social media and on why other individuals feel that they have the right to abuse and attack people who have stuck their heads above the parapet for a second which I won’t go into here, I’m no expert after all. Needless to say though, social media can be a hotbed of horribleness. I wouldn’t choose to associate with people who spoke such vile things, why would I want to spend time with them online?
I’ve also seen how destructive social media is for kids and not only because it is a minefield of bullying, shaming and humiliation, but also because they are so distracted by it that it’s stealing their moments too. As an emergency teacher, getting kids to put their phones or ipads away and get on with their work, or listen to instructions or show respect for the fellow classmates is what I do ALL day. It’s the first thing I say to a class (“Put your devices away and look this way please”), it’s what I repeat ad nauseum during every class. It got to the point that I was so concerned about use of device in class that I started doing a bit of reading up. And the research isn’t good. In one study, in the US, two classes in the same school were compared. In one class students were allowed to have their phones with them but were only supposed to use them for academic purposes and with permission (but of course this is rarely what happens). The other class had their devices removed at the start of all classes. By the end of the year the results showed a significantly higher GPA for those without devices. Now this study is not perfect and the results are not definitive – other factors could have been at play – but the results are supported by other research. It frightens me that social media could be stealing the opportunities and potential for some students. It also makes me remember, with fondness, the start of my teaching career, where there was no such thing as internet connected phones. I didn’t not appreciate that time enough! In the past I have championed the use of technology in the classroom and I have worked in one to one ipad programs with some success, but I do wonder and worry about the overall cost to schools and teenagers especially, of this constant connection to the internet and thus social media.
And so with all this in mind I’m going to attempt to withdraw myself from the field in some ways. Firstly, I’m going to pick up a book instead of my phone when I want to kill some time (I do this reasonably frequently already), I’m going to put my phone in another room in the evenings so I don’t get distracted by it when watching something with Mr Good and I’m not going to use my phone at all in front of the kids. I’d like to show them that you can be just as ‘connected’ in life without an iphone in your hand and hope that it rubs off just a little on them as they get older. I’m going to try to take back the moments that I lose, distracted in a world I don’t even like. And perhaps I’ll read 200 books in a year?
I’ll keep you posted.