In My Opinion: The art of getting lost, one way or another

It's easy to get lost in the nearly 20,000 books at Hollywood Canteen on the Danforth. PHOTO: Josh Sherman

Do you remember the first time you caught yourself “lost” in a book?

For me, it was Super Bowl Sunday and I must’ve been about seven years old. The book: a pink-covered paperback, part of Scholastic’s Sleepover Friends series, which was sort of a prequel to The Babysitter’s Club, pre-teen novels full of grade-school drama and age-appropriate morality.

That Sunday, I curled myself up on a chair beside my family in our living room, the television blaring with the sounds of American football and advertisements, and read that book cover-to-cover. It felt like I didn’t look up once. I don’t even remember the game day snacks.

My mom loves to tell this story; she’s proud she raised a reader. She says I closed the book, looked at her with wide eyes, and said, “Wow. I forgot you guys were here!” It was a big moment of discovery for me, realizing I could open a book, shut out the chaos around me, and enter into another world all on my own – well, all on my own with the help of my parents’ library card.

I’m glad I still have the ability to get lost in a book, but I do have to remind myself to put away my phone and pick that book up. Increasingly – and this is not a new phenomenon, losing yourself in a book seems to give way to losing yourself in social media.

Starting awake after a deep scroll of Twitter or Instagram, or a back-and-forth in the Facebook comments can mimic that feeling I first felt at seven. “Wow. I forgot the real world was here!” But instead of a feeling enveloped in wonder, for many of us it is often steeped in something less joyful, less imaginative.

Local author Lisa de Nikolits (whose latest novel you can read about in this issue’s Beach Books) recently revealed to me that she takes every December off from social media. No online activity at all! She’s an active and enthusiastic participant on many platforms, so you’d think she would miss it. But in fact, she says it is “lovely.”

Google “social media detox” and you’ll see Lisa is not alone. Article upon article offers tips and tricks alongside reasons why taking a break from social media can help your physical and mental health. Think: stress relief, improved focus, curbing the urge to compare, living more in the moment, even relief from neck tension – “text neck,” a spine ailment that comes from looking at our phones with our necks at a 45-degree angle, is a relatively new thing.

This is not to say that social media is only a vice – used responsibly, it can connect, inform and bring a lot of good into the world.

Heading into the holidays, many of us are already thinking ahead to January resolutions – the Whole30 diet, a sober “Dry-uary”, a new yoga membership, a gratitude journal – but before we get to January, consider unsubscribing, deactivating, or taking a Hootsuite hiatus for a few weeks.

Just like how a physical or nutritional challenge offers a chance to reset, a social media detox gives our online habits a refresh, allows us to better take in the physical world around us, and helps us assess which of our online connections are beneficial and which might be causing us unneeded stress and strife.

And hey – at the very least, think about all of the time you’ll have to get lost in the wonder of a book.

Anna Killen is the editor of Beach Metro News.

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