Coronavirus Completely Changed My Reading Habits

I no longer read for pleasure; it’s all coronavirus, all the time.

I love to read. I have been reading for living for more than 20 years, yet I have always read for pleasure as well. Before the coronavirus, I used to read books all the time. Literally, every day I would have one or more books that I was reading. I wasn’t very picky either. I read fiction and non-fiction, historical and present day stories, mysteries and romances. Really, anything would do. Reading was how I relaxed, escaped from thinking about work, or took a break during stressful times.

However, I rarely used to read magazines unless I was in a doctor’s office. I did not read much news either. I might check a bit of news on my phone occasionally, but mostly I did not read on my phone. I rarely even kept my cell phone with me when I was at home and often left it at home when I went out.

Since late February, when the coronavirus started to look as if it would become a pandemic, I haven’t read a single book. Don’t get me wrong, I am still an avid reader. I still read many hours every day. But I find myself reading so much news and scientific articles that I don’t read books any more. Somehow, I feel that I must keep up with the science and it doesn’t seem right to read just for pleasure.

Instead, I keep my cell phone with me most of the time. I check multiple news sites multiple times a day. I have even subscribed to a few news sites and listened to press conferences. Things I would not have done previously.

Before this coronavirus, my news intake was mostly centered on times when the news would most likely affect me. I tracked a little local news and paid more attention as elections drew near. Occasional events would capture my interest, like the hearings for Brett M. Kavanaugh, but mostly the news was just a curiosity not a necessity. The news I followed most closely related to scholarly publishing and so was rarely in the mainstream media.

I find myself checking social media more often than I used to as well. I get a lot of coronavirus scientific news and tips about new articles from social media.As someone who is a self-employed editor, writer, and scientific consultant, having a visible and active presence on social media is important and I have been quite active since launching my consultant company.

I get a lot of questions from friends through social media. I feel an obligation to answer. Often this requires researching the literature and figuring out whether some news is legitimate or baseless. Between using social media to get information from other scientists and communicating with friends, I spend far more time on social media than I ever did before.

Now, I find myself so consumed by the news related to the coronavirus and the deluge of scientific content about the virus and the disease it causes that I cannot bring myself to read for pleasure. Even though I think if I could just tune it out, I would feel less anxious. I just can’t seem to do it.

As a pharmacologist and scientist, I have been reading about medically related research for decades. There is always a new question or a new study. However, I considered that “work” reading. I typically read a book while commuting or eating breakfast or lunch. I didn’t read science on the weekends or evenings usually. That was work. Books were leisure.

I never felt that the science was critical to know NOW, not tomorrow or next month or even next year. The outcome was unlikely to impact my life today or in the next month or two. So, it was easy to set it aside and compartmentalize.

Now, my work reading and my leisure time reading have completely merged. It is all coronavirus; all the time. My sense is that this is contributing to my constant low level state of anxiety. My goal is to get back to my escapist reading for pleasure.

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