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This article was published on September 3, 2018

Reading novels on Instagram has validated my social media addiction

Reading novels on Instagram has validated my social media addiction

I used to have an app that tracked how long I spent on my phone and reminded me of how often I picked it up during the day.

After discovering that I spend around five hours a week just endlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed, filled with glamorized holiday pictures and perfectly structured lunches, I took the assertive decision to do something about it — and deleted the social detoxing app.

I enjoy pointlessly scrolling through Instagram, is that so bad?

But I must admit, I can’t justify the five hours spent on Instagram to only watch cute Golden Retriever videos and snippets of Game of Thrones bloopers.

As much as I enjoy the therapeutic hourly Instagram scroll, there’s always a hint of self-loathing as I realize I could be doing something more productive with my life — like reading a book.

Since my relationship with my phone has become more profound over the years and I rely on it for almost everything, most of my free time is spent on it  either on Instagram or some other mind-numbing app.

Weirdly enough, the only thing that might persuade me to change my behavior is a library.

New York Public Library introduces Insta Novels

Being the guilty Instagram addict that I am, I was intrigued when the New York Public Library (NYPL) announced its latest project, Insta Novels.

NYPL’s latest scheme is to get the younger generation to read more by using Instagram Stories to make classic novels more accessible and enticing to read. Since we’re a digital culture with the attention span of eight seconds and only attracted to pretty pictures, Instagram is the perfect place to start.

NYPL has teamed up with the creative agency Mother to try harness our addiction to lazily tapping away Instagram Stories and turn it into a more meaningful experience. The novels will be uploaded in full form to NYPL’s stories and highlighted on its profile impersonating a digital bookshelf.

The debuting novel on NYPL’s story is Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by Magoz, a popular animator. NYPL has also announced that two other Insta Novels will be released in the next few months: “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman illustrated by Buck Design, and The Metamorphosis, a novella by Franz Kafka illustrated by César Pelizer.

Just like you’d view a friend’s Instagram Story of their holiday, you tap each page away or hold your thumb to pause the page until you’ve read it. If you’re a quick reader you can let the story run on it’s own.

Mother says that “the Instagram-specific design includes stills and videos that mirror the unique layouts of the original works. The background is a warmer white that’s easy to read on screen, and the font is Georgia, a typeface that pays homage to the history of the written word in both print and digital,” as it was one of the first fonts designed to make the reading of long-form texts on a screen both pleasing and easy.

Does it actually work?

I was eager to try NYPL’s Insta Novels when it came out, but I have to admit that I struggled to finish the whole of part 1 of Alice in Wonderland. There’s no doubting that it’s a great idea, however, as I was appreciating the illustrations and the way the page turns just like a book, I was always too conscious of the fact that I was on Instagram.

When I read, I think it’s important to switch off and fully escape with a book. I’m a strong believer that you can’t beat a good ol’ fashioned paperback book, as I’m sure NYPL would agree too.

I’m therefore not confident that Insta Novels will make many young people read more (unless they publish current books) especially because a study found that even Kindle users absorb less information than on paper  so does Insta Novels really stand a chance?

However, even though I might not read a whole book via Insta Novels, I did feel inspired to pick up a physical book. Reading the snippet from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland reminded me of how much I enjoy getting absorbed into a book — which might have been NYPL’s plan all along.

As much as I love the idea of Insta Novels, I don’t think it will substitute traditional paperback reading, which in my eyes isn’t a bad thing. But I do think there is a place for classic literature on Instagram as it makes my social media addiction much more meaningful.

The Kardashian’s can’t keep up with Alice.

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