Have you ever wondered why we need to read books in our childhood and then write in the examinations to get a grade or whatever?
Why reading and writing is the preferable medium for gaining knowledge?
Why can’t it be just watching videos and then answer everything orally during exams?
For most people, watching videos is much more fun than reading books. And it’s obvious as reading takes a huge amount of your mental energy while watching videos doesn’t.
But honestly, I am not writing this article to convince you to accept that one is better than the other. I will share some of my own experiences and recent scientific studies regarding reading and watching.
I mean, whether you read more and watch less or vice versa, it proves nothing. If you read more it doesn’t make your intellect sharp. Similarly, if you watch ore videos or television, it doesn’t make you a complete dumb.
Ultimately it’s your mindset which determines everything. If you read trashy books or watch worse videos, you will be dull. On the contrary, if you read great books or watch good videos, you will be benefitted.
But even then a question often comes to my mind. OK, both are great ways to gain knowledge or to have some entertainment, but which one is superior and why?
One of my friends used to ask me, ‘hey, do you think I.Q of people are decreasing as every generation is passing?
And I said to him ‘why do you think so?’
He used to say ‘we have heard about a lot of great scientists, philosophers, artists in the earlier times (before 21st century), but today numbers have decreased drastically. Why do we no longer have more of such intellectual people? Are we becoming dumb day by day?’
Although he was somehow correct, I didn’t have any proper answer for his queries.
Today I see many people around me who spend night after night watching movies or television or web series on the internet. But most of them rarely have read any book after their college/university. Once they got the degrees from academic institutions, their journey with books finished there.
According to a survey, more than 24% of Americans haven’t touched a single book last year. And if you talk about regular reading than more than than 90% of Americans don’t read regularly. On the other hand, most of them spend 3-5 hours watching T.V regularly.
There is no such survey in India. But I am sure the situation is even worse here.
As I said, I am not trying to judge anybody whether they read more or watch more. But I definitely want to share some interesting studies.
In 2013, a study was performed at Tohoku University in Japan. A team of researchers examined the effects of watching televisions on the brains of 276 children and its long term effects.
It was found that the more TV the kids watched, parts of their brain associated with higher arousal and aggression levels became thicker. The frontal lobe also thickened, which is known to lower verbal reasoning ability. It affected the intellectual abilities of the children later in life. Below a screenshot is taken from the research paper-
These negative effects in the brain happened regardless of the child’s age, gender, and economic background.
In the same year, another study showed the effect of reading on our brain. Gregory Burns and his colleagues at Emory University wanted to see the before and after effects of reading based on fMRI readings.
After reading, people had increased connectivity in parts of the brain that were related to language. There was also increased activity in the sensory motor region of the brain, suggesting that readers experienced similar sensations to the characters in the book.
Researchers also found long term of effects of reading. Reading keeps your mind alert and delays cognitive decline in elders. Research even found that Alzheimer’s is 2.5 times less likely to appear in elderly people who read regularly, while TV was presented as a risk factor.
In short, reading not only slow down the aging of the brain but also protect it from many brain diseases.
But one might think ‘I don’t like to read, what can I do?’
Sometimes, I really find it surprising. To keep your body fit and prevent diseases, you do some sort of physical activity right. You might not like to go to the gym regularly, maybe a few times a week you go. If you don’t like the gym, you go out and run. And if you don’t run, at least you walk.
Anyhow you move your body because you know it’s importance. But don’t you think your brain deserves the same or even more attention. Ultimately your brain controls your body.
Reading perhaps is the best exercise for the body. If you don’t like to read those fat novels, that’s ok. Read something related to your interest. Maybe related to science, history, productivity, economy, money, personal growth, psychology, science fiction, etc.
There are books written on every topic that you can think of. Choose some of them. I don’t believe that you don’t find reading interesting. Maybe you haven’t just found the right kind of books for you.
What separates us from other creatures on this earth?
It’s our brain. Specifically the neocortex part present in our brain. This allows us to think and imagine things that no other creature can do.
Imagination is a superpower given to us. You cannot create anything new if you don’t imagine first. That’s how we have reached to a digital age from the stone age.
Albert Einstein said- imagination is more important than knowledge.
Had Einstein never imagined about curved space-time, we would have never known how exactly gravity works.
How do you feel if something badly affects your imaginative power?
You don’t want to lose the superpower for sure. But knowingly or unknowingly, watching more television, videos, etc. doing exactly the same thing.
A TV show or movie provides the full visual image for us and eliminates any background information or musings by the characters. We turn off our imagination and receive the story as imagined by the director. Basically, we see the imagination of someone else’s not ours. Sometimes it’s ok but frequently it affects us badly.
Whereas, When you read (or just listen) you have to create a vision of everything in our mind. We use our imagination to craft the world and events described in the book. This exercise stimulates many functions of the brain.
When you read, you are free to imagine anything. If a character in a book is written as ‘ a tall man with brown mustache’, you can imagine that character the way you like. Everyone will imagine the same character differently. You are free to create your own world.
I have really experienced whatever is written above. ’13 Reasons Why’ is a very famous web series on Netflix. It’s based on a book ’13 Reasons Why’ written by Jay Asher.
I have read the book and have watched the whole series on Netflix. Although sometimes reading the book might seem little boring but if you continue reading, eventually you will find it more engaging and joyful.
Not just that, studies have shown that reading has tons of other benefits. It can reduce stress, make you more empathetic, develop focus and concentration.
Now, I am not telling to abandon watching videos completely. That wouldn’t be a smart thing to do. Videos allow us learn something quickly.
The human brain likes to visualize things and videos are the visualizations ready for you. Watch videos for introductions to difficult topics, especially something unfamiliar. When it would take a lot of time to understand the topic, videos are really useful.
As I have said, ultimately it’s our mindset which determines the effect of everything, be it watching videos or reading books. Be very choosy while watching videos.
Don’t just watch anything mindlessly Ask yourself first, is this video going to be useful by any means? Watch good content.
If you have to watch TV, watch channels which provide useful information like Nat Geo, Discovery, History Channel, Travel XP, etc.
Similarly, read well written books, not just any book. Even if you read an article on the internet, read only articles with sound content.
Don’t ignore your brain and just workout for your body. If you love watching videos or movies, that’s ok but don’t exclude books from your life. Keep a balanced approach towards both reading and watching.
I remember a great line from one of my favorite books ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
“Many people give up on learning after they leave school/college because thirteen or twenty years of extrinsically motivated education is still a source of unpleasant memories.
But a person who forgoes the use of symbolic skills (reading, writing) is never really free. His thinking will be directed by the opinions of his neighbors, by the editorials in the papers, and by the appeals of television.”From the book ‘Flow’
No wonder, the most successful or impactful people in the world like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Ratan Tata, Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg etc. have made reading a ritual in their life.
If you want to give reading a try and thinking where to start, I am posting some of my favorite books below. I have a page in the website named ‘Books’. You can visit the page if you want to know a few details about the books.
Keep learning. Keep growing.
Have a meaningful week. Until next time.