You are what you read

There is a Lebanese proverb, الزائد أخو الناقص, that roughly translates to “the more equals the less”. My Civic Studies teacher used to always leave it as a note on my tests where I’d almost always fill in the spaces of answers I didn’t know with irrelevant information instead of keeping it blank. This is exactly what we’ve been doing with our reading time lately. We’re filling our brains with information we don’t need.

“If you know many things but don’t know the right things, you’re in trouble,” she’d say. She was right. What good does it do if we know things that won’t make a difference in our lives?

I clicked on the “Top Posts This Week” section on Buzzfeed earlier today and this is what I saw.

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“Are your gross lady habits normal or weird?” Really people? Of all the content on Buzzfeed ranging from How-To videos to World News, empty content is the trend now. Click-bait articles are taking over!

I have to admit of a peeve I want to get rid off: I spend a few minutes every now and then on click-bait articles for entertainment. But that’s what they should be, merely entertainment. It isn’t even healthy entertainment. The content on there is a waste of my time and a waste of yours. Time spent on articles like “What does your McDonald’s order say about you” is just as bad as time spent drinking 10 glasses of wine to make the night pass by faster, or spending 8-hours on end playing an xBox game.

Some of you might argue that “well, at least I’m reading”. What good is it if you’re reading the wrong things? If you’re feeding your brain MORE information that makes you as empty as a person with NO information.

Some of us might be taking care of our eating habits a little better thanks to the online trend of flaunting it but we’ve lost touch with a more important habit, our reading habit.

We no longer have time to spend hours on end reading like they did centuries ago. Instead we’re settling to the quick, but meaningless, reads. We no longer take care of how our libraries look like instead we’ve settled for eBooks and kindles and we use that shelf space to stack up our DVDs, gaming consoles and leftover chips. We no longer read a book on our way to and back from work instead we catch up on our texting or update our Instagram posts.

It is now time to take care of your reading habits and here’s the answer to why and how.

It cultivates your interests

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Whether you’re a high school student, stay-at-home parent or a senior engineer, reading will help you be better at what you care about. Reading the right content, on the other hand, will help you be the best!

In your path of self-recognition you will run across several specific interests in your life. Gardening, gynecology, graphics… Whatever it is, it’s out there waiting for you.

Instead of clicking on the articles with time-consuming, futile content on your Facebook timeline head to Medium or Pocket or any other platform that allows you to refine your timeline with suggestions of articles that relate to your interests.

That way, instead of wasting those few minutes a day on articles that help you determine “whether your gross habits are normal”, invest this time into reading about the latest in your field. There is ALWAYS something new.

It helps you grow

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Reading healthier, meaningful content makes you a different person, a more mature one.

Whether it is self-help books, DIY articles or that leadership advice blog you subscribed to, your time is in the right place.

There are many blogs, websites and books that you could head to when you want to divert away from your interests into something more personal.

Here are a few suggestions:

If you want to read about love, check out the New York Times, Modern Love column.

If you want to read about health and fitness, check out Popsugar.

Need some personal development and self-help tips? Go to TinyBuddha or BrainPickings.

It gives you an identity

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You are what you read.

You are! Let me put things into perspective for you.

You’re walking down the street and you see a girl staring down at her phone, a man reading a newspaper, a woman reading Franz Kafka’s The Trial in a cafe and a boy holding “The Theory of Investment Value”. By nature we usually tend to use our imagination to give stories to these strangers. Some might call it labeling, some might see it as a stereotype and others acknowledge it to be the reality of what we do as human beings.

Many would reflect the situation as such. The girl staring at her phone is texting, conforming to technology’s way of robbing our time. The man reading the newspaper is a concerned citizen who chooses to educate himself about current affairs. The woman reading Kafka most probably belongs to the section of the population who choose to cultivate themselves and finally the boy with the investment value book is probably a Business student rushing to his class.

My point? If you’re reading in public, people are probably forming a mental image of your identity.

It doesn’t stop there though. The articles you promote on your social media pages also reflect who you are. Whether you’re liking, reacting to, retweeting, reblogging or sharing an article, you’re promoting it under your name.

Exhibit A: Dania Hawat shared xFeed Post’s article on “Jolie Frustrated at ex-husband Brad Pitt’s new choice of clothes”.

Exhibit B: Dania Hawat shared the Huffington Post’s on “Men’s Restrooms Will Now Require Baby Changing Stations. Thanks, Obama!”.

Both exhibits portray the same person in two different situations. Even if the situation is a virtual one, people will still form a mental perspective accordingly.

Those who’d look at me in exhibit A will probably judge my interests and thus me as empty or silly. Those who’d look at me in exhibit B will probably picture that I am interested in equality or whatnot and thus they might judge me as silly (because there are scums out there that believe women are lesser than men) but they definitely won’t judge me as empty.

Form your identity wisely whether in public or online. It will change how people address you and what topics they address you with.

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