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The Pros and Cons of Books and TV

I’m willing to bet that the only reading the majority of college students do is required for their classes, if they even do that. It seems that reading feels like a chore to a lot of people, maybe because it requires active participation. You can’t scroll through Instagram or text your friend back without taking your eyes off of a book. Or if you can, you must be either very talented or superhuman. Reading requires your full concentration. Sometimes you have to read a paragraph multiple times, only because your mind wandered the tiniest bit.

TV, on the other hand, you can watch more passively. Of course, some people get very invested in TV shows and let what happens in their favorite shows bleed into their own lives. (Ever watch an episode of This Is Us? Be prepared to cry for five hours.) Others, however, check their phones, start up a conversation, even rest their eyes and just listen, while watching TV. It doesn’t seem to require as much effort as reading does.

It’s not like reading is “better” than watching TV (or vice versa). That’s like comparing The Office to The Sopranos or Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling (I mean, they’re both British). More and more these days, TV shows cover a wide variety of topics ¾ from gang violence to forbidden love¾ and do so in a way that feels natural, real, and honest. Viewers can see what life is like for people of all different backgrounds without even leaving their living rooms; in fact, some claim to be “raised by TV,” which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Since I came to college, I have done a lot of watching TV (aka too much) and not enough reading. I haven’t read for pleasure in so long that I didn’t think I would like it anymore. Last Saturday, I spent almost the entire day reading a novel (disclaimer: I will admit it was for an English class, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t “for pleasure”), and I loved every minute of it. Of course, it helps if it’s well-written or about a topic you enjoy. I never got bored, maybe because it took my full concentration. To my surprise, after I was finished, I didn’t feel burned out and my eyes didn’t hurt like they would after a day spent watching TV. I felt productive, even refreshed!

My experience reminded me of a quote from ICarly. After Sam, who has sworn off reading, decides to pick up a book, she discovers she actually enjoys it and exclaims, “It’s like TV in your head!”. I couldn’t have said it better myself. And if reading brings your own imagination to life, then TV is the product of someone else’s imagination brought to life right in front of your eyes. But if too much TV is making your eyes hurt, give yourself a break from the screen and pick up a book. You might discover ¾ like Sam did ¾ that you actually enjoy it after all.

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