Last month, on Twitter, I mused a bit about how I dislike the idea/term “social reading” and a few people chimed in with their thoughts, also. (It’s a topic I’ve touched on briefly, here, last April, in Reading Alone Together.)
I mentioned how, as an introvert who likes my alone time with my books and reading, tagging “social” onto “reading” seems an attempt to change an introverted activity to an extroverted one. Being social, after all, seems to garner more respect than the opposite of being social. Is anti-social ever a good term? Being social, though – it’s doing something! With other people! It’s as if reading alone isn’t cool enough — it now has to be something more.
Next thing, reading won’t be enough, either — it’s better to be writing than reading, so why not just offer readers writing opportunities instead? Cause books and reading alone are boring. It’s passive and not doing something.
During the Twitter conversation, a few others noted that with reading, it’s the relationship between the reader and the book; the immersion of the reader into the reading experience. An experience that is not social, and is changed when others enter into it.
So, of course, it was with interest that I read one of YALSA’s the Hub recent posts: The Next Big Thing: Social Reading.
I know it may seem odd, my dislike of the term and the idea of it, given my use of blogging and other social media to discuss what I’ve read. Maybe I’m being too literal. But to me, at least, all of those activities are not about reading — it’s about what we do after we put the book down and stop reading. Sharing notes of what we read while we’re reading it? Not such a big fan — I’m reminded of buying used books. I get a bit annoyed at seeing the prior owner’s notes or underlining because instead of me reading the book, I start wondering why someone else saw something as significant. I’m out of the book, I’m out of the reading experience.
The observer effect is about the act of observing something changes it. That, too, with books — except now the “social reading” shares the reading experience and not always to the best. Oh, don’t get me wrong. At times a discussion about a book can make me like the book all the more. Appreciate new things. It can be fun and exciting. But not always. As a general rule, in the real world, once I know I like a book that someone else dislikes I end the conversation about that book. I may read reviews that disagree with mine, yes. But that is also not social: I pick if and when to read that review. It’s not as if while I’m reading, I’m seeing those notes saying “so unbelievable” or “boring.”
So, what are your thoughts? Social reading — yay or nay?