Hi everyone! I know it’s taken me a while to get my first September discussion post of the month up, but what can I say, I’ve gone back to Uni and things have been really busy for the past few weeks. We’ll probably be going back to my usual schedule of two posts a month for Jo Talks as I have a feeling already that this is going to be a busy year for me! Anyway, enough of my rambling, on to this week’s topic. It’s kind of random month this month, I don’t have any real theme for my discussion posts this month, I’m just going to talk about things I’ve been thinking about recently. This week, I’m going to be talking about whether or not reading is an addiction and if that’s a bad thing or not as it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. After all, I’m sure a lot of us would probably say that we’re addicted to books and reading, or call ourselves a bookworm or book dragon or whatever term you prefer, but it all comes down to the same thing, we love reading. But is it an addiction? Well that’s what I’m going to be talking about today.
Addiction is defined (according to Wikipedia anyway, I know, not the most reliable source!), as a medical condition characterised by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. Well, by this definition, reading could not be an addiction because there are no adverse consequences from reading (aside from to our poor bank accounts), but then again it is a rewarding stimulus! However does an addiction have to be something negative? Can something positive like reading be an addiction? Would we want it to be? Positive addiction is a termed coined by a psychologist named William Glasser who claimed that positive addictions “strengthen us and makes our lives more satisfying”. Reading would definitely fit into this definition of addiction as it strengthens our minds and I think all readers would agree that it makes our lives more satisfying. By definition, a positive definition does not consume your life in the same way as a negative addiction, it is limited to a given time frame and you can stop and start whenever you want.
However I’m not sure if I necessarily agree that there can be such a thing as a positive addiction. I think addiction at it’s heart is something that you do to such an excess that it negatively affects you, though these things in small doses are not necessarily terrible for you. Reading isn’t like this, any amount of reading is good for you and it doesn’t negatively affect you if you do a lot of it (I mean you could read hundreds of books in a year and it’s not going to negatively impact your health and life). However there is something to be said about a negative side to reading as people can escape into books to avoid reality, which is not a bad thing in small doses but if you are using reading as a way of escaping real life and not interacting with people at all then that’s obviously not good. But I think reading is so often seen as a good thing that we don’t acknowledge that like anything, if you do it to an excess where you are neglecting family, friends, rest, food, drink and everything then you clearly have a problem. Don’t get me wrong, reading is a positive thing. It opens our minds to new worlds, new ideas, new vocabulary and it is such a joy in my life, but whilst our love of books is definitely something to be celebrated, describing an addiction to books is probably not a great thing for those who are truly unhealthily addicted to books.
I don’t consider myself a reading addict in the way that reading gets in the way of other things in my life, but at the same time, not reading does make me feel bad, like I haven’t done something I should have (blogging has definitely contributed to this though) and I can’t imagine going a day without doing it. Does this make me an addict? I don’t think so, because reading has never negatively impacted my life to a severe extent, but I definitely do have an obsession with books (kind of stating the obvious here!). I would consider this a positive thing because books have given so much to my life and become such an integral part of my personality, essentially, I feel that what I’ve read has shaped who I am as a person but I can definitely see how an obsession with books could turn into a negative thing.
Does the fact that reading is good for you mean that it’s not an addiction? Well no, because plenty of things that can be good for you can also be an addiction if you do it to an unhealthy extent, drinking, food, exercise etc. In some ways, something that’s good for you can be an even worse addiction than something that’s bad for you, for instance, we all know smoking is bad and addictive, but most of us would probably not think of something like reading as a bad thing. But anything that is pleasurable can be addictive, since addictions are triggered by a pleasurable stimulus. There is also such a thing as bibliomania, which is the hoarding or collecting of books to an unhealthy extent, although this is not a recognised psychological disorder.
So whilst all of us would most likely not consider reading an addiction, because addictions are generally considered unhealthy things and reading is a healthy habit, and in fact if we did consider reading an addiction, then we are happily addicted and proudly display our addiction to the world, even something as wonderful as reading can turn into an addiction if it negatively affects our health and relationships (and I have to admit, this is honestly not something I considered until I started researching for this post and found out that there are people with genuine unhealthy reading addictions that affect their lives!). Like everything that is pleasurable, if you read to such an extent that you neglect other things in your life, then it is an addiction in the same way that drinking or smoking is. I reckon as far as addictions go though, if reading is in addiction, it’s not the worst one you can have and just because you read a lot does not mean you have a negative addiction. There’s a definite difference between being so addicted to books that it overwhelms your life and you can’t do anything else but read and just plain loving and enjoying books. Plus if loving books is wrong, I don’t want to be right, and I reckon all you fellow bibliophiles out there would agree!
Over to you! Do you think reading is an addiction, either positive or negative? Would you describe yourself as addicted to books? Can being addicted to books and reading be a bad thing or do you think any and all reading is good? Let me know in the comments!
I’ll try to get my next discussion post done either at the weekend this week or during the week next week, but either way, I think it’s likely that I will only do two discussion posts this month! In the meantime though, I will have a new Top Ten Tuesday post for you guys later on today, so look out for that!