THE greatest glory of a holiday is the book shopping ahead of it.
As anticipation mounts towards the break from work, commitments and general real life, the most enlivening part is the knowledge there will be time for reading.
Or there was, once.
I’ve found myself – and I’m hoping some public shaming will go part way to solving my problem – obsessed with Facebook videos.
The scourge of social media is oft and well discussed.
Encouragement to delete your apps and have an online blackout is much and frequent.
I do have a horrible tendency to become stuck on scrolling through Twitter.
While I used to take naps as a means of procrastinating my way through life I instead read tweets endlessly, endlessly.
But this pastime has become usurped by the Facebook video.
It started with cookery clips in my newsfeed.
You may know the ones – shot from above, usually without words, and featuring a pair of hands deftly turning little bowls of pre-chopped this and that into a delicious meal.
I was obsessed. If only my kitchen had cast iron skillets and perfectly sized receptacles for smoked salt and sliced samphire I too would be a cookery wizard, glowing with vitamin-packed good health.
Ah, but those days feel so innocent.
Now I’ll watch anything. Anything being short videos of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
I have my feminist concerns about cheerleaders but I’ll watch these ladies do a kickline into jump splits on repeat for hours.
Which means that, of the three books I took on my two week holiday, I have finished… one. A paltry, shameful one.
Because social media has broken me.
I live for reading books and yet I cannot seem to settle down the way I once could without reaching for my phone.
Once the phone is in hand and the videos are playing that’s me done. The book, the poor ignored, undernourished book, will be resting in my left hand while my right thumb scrolls through brainmeltingly nonsense videos.
Suddenly it’s 2am and not only is my novel untouched, my holiday rest is ruined and my eyes and head feel sickly with the strain of staring at tiny flying cowboy boots and shimmering pompoms.
I feel dirty. Physically uncomfortable.
While reading a book – by which, for the record, I mean an actual book and none of your clatty e-reader nonsense – I feel nourished and at ease, reading from a screen is straining.
As well as making me feel ill, it’s ruined my concentration spam.
There was an interesting discussion on the radio this week asking whether readers should complete every book.
Or is life too short and it’s better to sack off a novel you’re not enjoying?
Until around, say, five years ago I would never have dreamt of not starting what I’d finished. I have always been a stupidly compliant human and would have lacked the imagination to leave off halfway through a book, even one I hated.
Such laziness, such disrespect to the writer and such a waste of money. Though, of course, the right solution for that last is the library. Support your local library, readers.
Reading is for pleasure but also for eduction and self-discipline. What do you learn if you read only what you enjoy without pushing yourself?
I thought about this as I surveyed my sofa where four books, all with bookmarks slotted at varying points within them, rest in a sloppy pile.
I have started what I have not finished. Now, the reasons vary.
One is a quick read fast food of a book, being saved for a treat day when I have a little spare time and want to switch my brain off.
Another – Melanie Reid’s The World I Fell Out Off – is being savoured. Toni Morrison’s Love is on hold because it’s the only one of hers I haven’t read and when it’s done, it’s done.
But my current main squeeze, Edna O’Brien’s Girl, has fallen foul of this unedifying internet addiction.
I used to panic about all the books I wished to read, measured off against the diminishing amount of time I had to read them. My personal existential crisis was measured out in the awful, repetitive chore of washing dishes (I cleaned these only yesterday, why must I again) and books read.
Now I panic that I’m wasting my reading time – and, therefore, my life – on social media.
And so, even more so than before, no completed book is a waste of time, even when not enjoyed. Because it means I’ve stayed off social media long enough to read it.
What a sorry state of affairs. I’ll Google how to fix it. Oh.