the Little Red Reviewer

Does book blogging enable anti-social behavior?

Posted on: April 16, 2011

I know i’m not the first (or second, or third or tenth or hundredth) person to come up with this, but does reading (and then book blogging) enable antisocial activity? Sure, we talk about books we read and enjoy, and often start conversations with strangers over the summer reading table at Barnes & Noble, but that’s like a 10 minute conversation only after 8 hours of reading.

I’m already a fairly non-social person, does my love for reading (a solitary activity if ever there was one) enable me to be even less social? I’m not a complete hermit, I do hang out with friends quite often (well, often for me). I do get out of the house. But compared to a lot of people I know, I’m pretty non-social.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the company of others. Just sometimes I enjoy my book more.

I’m sure most of you have been in this situation: you’re at work, peacefully eating your lunch in the break-room on at the picnic table out back, thrilled to have to time to enjoy your new book. You’d think the “nose in the book” look would give the tactful impression of “kindly leave me alone”, right? A co-worker (I’m guilty too, I did this to someone last week, and felt awful when the conversation went more than a few minutes) will invariably and usually loudly plop down next to you and ask “whatcha reading?” and a discussion of the book deprives you of your only quiet time of the day to enjoy said book.

On that note, what the hell is wrong with not being super-social? “anti-social” has such a negative ring to it, maybe I should use the word non-social instead. It seems like the parenting tip of “sign your toddler up for day care so they can learn to socialize!” has turned into the idea that adults who don’t socialize as much as possible are defective in some way. That our parents only signed us up for a half hour of daycare once a week when we were 2 years old, so we grew up to be raving anti-social bibliophiles. Or something.

Do you consider yourself to be social? Not very social? Would you rather sometimes spend the afternoon with a book than a person? Has “getting serious about this book blogging thing” enabled you to be even less social than before, because damn it, you really need to finish this book so you can get the review started!

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18 Responses to "Does book blogging enable anti-social behavior?"

I’m sure most of you have been in this situation: you’re at work, peacefully eating your lunch in the break-room on at the picnic table out back, thrilled to have to time to enjoy your new book. You’d think the “nose in the book” look would give the tactful impression of “kindly leave me alone”, right? A co-worker (I’m guilty too, I did this to someone last week, and felt awful when the conversation went more than a few minutes) will invariably and usually loudly plop down next to you and ask “whatcha reading?” and a discussion of the book deprives you of your only quiet time of the day to enjoy said book.

OMG YES!!

This happened all the freakin’ time at my old job, and it drove me bonkers. Furthermore, it wasn’t like the people were really INTERESTED in what I was reading, they just didn’t have anyone else to sit with and I was there and they couldn’t stand to be by themselves so they interrupted me. It drove me BONKERS.

I don’t have this problem now, but I feel your pain. There is a certain level of anti-sociability to being a reader. For example, I’ve wanted to read at places where my husband’s said would be BAD TIMES, like during my nephew’s or niece’s teeball games. But on the flip side, this might be antisocial behavior, but people like you describe and the same people I deal with, the ones who interrupt? I suspect there’s a case for people being TOO social, people who don’t know how to be by themselves and therefore, in a twisted way, aren’t socialized properly either.

If the interrupter was really a friend, I wouldn’t mind. Nor would I mind if the interrupter was someone REALLY interested in books. But when it’s just an excuse for the interrupter to have someone to talk to? I’m happy to be antisocial! :)

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Great post, LRR. I have to admit there are times when I’d rather have a quiet weekend at home reading than most other things. But I don’t think that my reading or blogging about it makes me less social. If I read less I watch TV more or find other non-people things to do. How social I am has more to do with the people in my life and, to be honest, my own state of mental health at the time. Usually, if I have an option to do things with friends I will and I have more real friends (most of them avid readers btw) now than at any other time in my life. Went out for Karaoke with friends last night, going out to brunch with friends this morning. I’m sure that there are times when I have used books to escape the rest of my life, but blogging? No, I don’t think so. For me the blogging part is very social-prompted by a desire to share and interact with people that are passionate about the same things I am. Finding an online community that shares my love of books and SciFi has made me feel more connected to people, not less.

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For me the blogging part is very social-prompted by a desire to share and interact with people that are passionate about the same things I am.

and you have just touched on part two of this discussion! stay tuned!

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This is what turned me to book blogging as well. I already read a lot and had discussions with some people about what I had read. The book review blogging enabled me to have more online (and offline) sharing and discussions of the books I loved (or hated) and made my solitary reading feel more social.

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Well, for me reading and my introversion are two separate but overlapping things.

I can behave well enough, even extrovertedly, in a social situation, but they are always uncomfortable and exhausting on an internal, libidinal level. I need down time from people, down time from talking to people, downtime from sharing space with people. I take days off, sometimes, turn off my phone. No more people! So for me introvertedness is an independent thing.

On another note, I read. I have been reading for myself since I was five or so. I actively like reading, I like seeing things put down in concrete words – even if the words are inadequate. I like looking at theme and character. I like visualising something that I have never been near. It’s over 20 years now and I have evolved (though not necessarily progressed) as a reader, and I find that I enjoy the sorts of thinking reading can allow me to do. I enjoy finding layers, and looking at them to see what they’re saying.

In the overlap? I read when I need to destress, to unwind – usually old favourites that require no energy investment on my part anymore. And yes, I do dislike when people butt in on my reading time, though I’m adaptable that way now. What I *dislike* is being interrupted by strangers on buses or in waiting rooms. You are a *stranger*. I do not want to talk to you. I *reading*. I want to continue to read.

Writing is a social activity for me, and I’m surprised to note that part of the reason I find it so tiring is that I think of it as something that I am directing *towards* other people even if I’m doing it *for* myself.

I’m not sure that reading necessarily leads to non-social tendencies, or that non-social tendencies automatically lead to reading, blogging, television-watching, what have you. we do have to admit that the two go well together, though.

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When I have hobbies that consume a lot of my life, I always ask myself, “Am I doing any of this to avoid something else in my life?”

Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. When I am, it usually takes time for me to admit it.

As far as I’m concerned if a hobby is derived from and fueled by passion that’s great. If I’m using it to avoid dealing with something in my personal or professional life, then that’s a problem.

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I’m not a hugely social person, but I do try to adhere to a people-over-books policy. If I’m reading in public and a friend comes over, I put the book down and spend time with my friend. Even if I’m at the absolute bestest part EVER.

I try to give random people the same courtesy, but it’s hard. Last year, I had an incident where a student came up to me while I was on my break and started asking me about a job posting (for my job, actually; I’d just quit). I did my best to answer her politely, but she’d come up to me right when the main character’s heart was breaking into a thousand itty bitty pieces. I just wanted to sit there and cry.

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Good question. I think there is a tendency these days to equate being alone with being anti-social (in a negative way). And certainly with social media, we’re supposed to be “plugged in” all the time.

I think there has to be a place for alone time — thoughtful time that’s spent reading, listening to (or better yet, playing) music — and if the mood strikes, collecting thoughts for a post or review. I think it’s mentally healthy.

Of course, like most things, there’s probably a moderation aspect. If someone reads and blogs to the exclusion of all other activity — well, naturally, that’s going to have some negative effects.

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I agree, it seems there is this huge deal made that the only social that counts is face-to-face. but what about message boards? tweeting? forums? blogs? it’s not face-to-face, doesn’t it count? in this digital age, it HAS to count.

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Great line – “… I enjoy the company of others. Just sometimes I enjoy my book more.” I may quote you…

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I actually see blogging as a social activity, in a way that solitary reading isn’t (though I do like discussing books with my sister when we meet up). I never see reading as bad or anti-social – after all, I interact all day with colleagues at work – reading is my quiet time.

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A great post!
I’m not sure whether I’d call myself a non-social person and whether it is related to my reading. The thing is, ever since I learned to read, I’ve never stopped reading as much as I can. So, basically, I’ve been like this since I can remember. :)
I enjoy spending time with my friends and have a lot of activities I attend regularly but when social activities start taking me away from my reading I get cranky and I’m generally then a not very nice to be around.
I need to read in order to be able to function socially. Does that make sense?

P.S. I’ve been known for prefering books to human company. :)

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Personally I’ve never felt reading had anything to do with one being a more or less social person. I think if a person is naturally geared towards having a certain amount of “me” time built into their day then they are going to find it whether it be reading or some other hobby or simply just being alone. If reading has any effect at all I’ve always felt that it gave a person to be a chance to be more social because of finding other book lovers and sparking natural conversation with them. I certainly have a few very good friends that I never would have connected with otherwise had not we discovered in each other a shared love of books.

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Great post! I often feel this way. At lunch time I find the most secluded spot possible to read. The worst for me is on the train or my neighborhood shuttle. I see these people every day but I don’t want to talk to them. I just want to read my book. Especially in the morning, when I’m even more anti-social than the rest of the day.

So should we feel bad about not wanting to talk to people, or is it okay? As an introvert, I need my down time. Reading at lunch time or after work is MY time and I don’t want to give it up. Maybe others should feel bad that they don’t read as much?

But I know I miss out on making friends or I worry about appearing rude. Sometimes I get sucked into a conversation that I find I really enjoy.

Blogging IS a social activity, but is it the same as really talking to people? I’m not sure yet.

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Lots of great responses! Like I said, i’m not a super social person. I got a couple good hours a week of people time in me, and then I’m done. I suck on the phone too.

Most of us are on the same page – non-social does NOT equal negative (no matter what the TV tells us), and some alone time with a book is healthy.

And I think nearly everyone got where I was going with this, that all this online stuff we do? spending hours blogging and editing and commenting and tweeting and retweeting and responding? That IS social!! Anyone who thinks we are not social cuz we’ve got our nose in a book doesn’t really know what they are talking about.

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interesting post! hmmm…I noticed I’m more hesitant to go out with friends and would rather stay home and read. But there are times where I just feel like taking a break and a bit of socializing helps. However that doesn’t mean I want to go out EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND. My friends don’t get it :P

Lately it’s been a good balance of going out, and spending several hours a day reading. It’s going good. For now.

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This post reminds me of a wonderful book I read: Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe. It takes on this societal idea that we’re “supposed” to be social. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that a cultural tendency is not actually an incontrovertible natural law. Some of us just like time to ourselves!

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Hi Cheryl, I’ve heard of that book, I should really get it from the library some time. I’ve always been fairly introverted, and it wasn’t a problem until I started interviewing for corporate jobs where they wanted to know how much I’d been involved in athletics and extracurriculars in school (none, theatre, too busy w/school & part time job).

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