Why reading books is good for society, wellbeing, your career
Gloom and doom-scrolling
Does this mean if you’re older that it’s too late to start reading? No. Our results relate to young people because the data was available. No matter what your age, deep reading has benefits over social media scrolling.
The short-term dopamine rush of scrolling on a device is an elusive promise. It depletes rather than uplifts us. Our limbic brain – the part of the brain associated with our emotional and behavioural responses – remains trapped in a spiral of pleasure-seeking.
Studies show a high correlation between media multitasking and attention problems due to cognitive overload. The effect is most evident among young people who have grown up with social media overexposure.
US social psychologist Jonathan Haidt is among the researchers warning that high social media use is a major contributor to declining mental health for teenage girls: “Boys are doing badly too, but their rates of depression and anxiety are not as high, and their increases since 2011 are smaller.”
Why this “giant, obvious, international, and gendered cause”? Haidt writes: “Instagram was founded in 2010. The iPhone 4 was released then too — the first smartphone with a front-facing camera. In 2012 Facebook bought Instagram, and that’s the year that its user base exploded. By 2015, it was becoming normal for 12-year-old girls to spend hours each day taking selfies, editing selfies, and posting them for friends, enemies, and strangers to comment on, while also spending hours each day scrolling through photos of other girls and fabulously wealthy female celebrities with (seemingly) vastly superior bodies and lives.”
In 2020 Haidt published research showing girls are more vulnerable to “fear of missing out” and the aggression that social media tends to amplify. Since then, he’s become even more convinced of the correlation.
Social media, by design, is addictive.
With TikTok, for example, videos start playing automatically, based on what the algorithm already knows about you. But it doesn’t just validate your preferences and feed you opinions that confirm your biases. It also varies the content so you don’t know what is coming next. This is the same trick that keeps gamblers addicted.