Are Readers Just Anti-Social People?

I had a conversation at work that was particularly frustrating. The higher up colleague who shalt not be named was talking about a beach vacation that he had just gotten back from and how he only got about 20 pages into his book. Mind you, the colleague doesn’t really know me all that well since I’m new but he does know I like to read.

Me: Oh man, I have to at least get 2-3 books read while on the beach to feel relaxed. (not in a braggart way at all..he knows I’m obsessed with reading)
Colleague: Yeah, well that’s because I ACTUALLY socialize.
Me: *shudders* I talked to my family on vacation and played with the kids and did a lot of things…
Colleague: How can you do both?
Me: I just can. I make it a priority…

This conversation, while not really a big deal, just irked me because it seems like there is always that stereotype of readers as being the most anti-social people in the world. I’m sure it is true for some people but I don’t think it is something that is inherent of all readers. You cannot say that all anti-social people are readers nor are all readers anti-social. It’s just not so. I do not spend every waking minute of the day with my nose in a book..shutting out the world. While that is a famous position you can see me in, I have a fiance, friends, family and many many activities outside of reading. I am a very active person and LOVE LOVE LOVE to talk. Ask anyone who has met me in person!

I remember in elementary school and middle school hating being called “a reader.” Being a “reader” didn’t just mean liking to read when you are growing up. I remember that “reader” had the label as a loser, a “smart person (because God forbid you be smart!) or a shy loner. I don’t know if this happened to others but when I was younger and reading become “not cool” anymore..I usually kept that dirty little secret to myself.  But WHY the labels when you say that you are a reader? Seriously? Just because I like to read books doesn’t mean I shut the world out or that I have some social disorder..just like you liking to cook doesn’t automatically mean you must be fat.

I’ve said it before during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, that I love how technology has evolved reading from a largely solitary activity into a social activity like never before. I can read a book and that talk about it on Twitter, blog about it and talk through comments, share my thoughts on Goodreads, participate in group reads or reading challenges, etc. etc. I can go to book signings and events like BEA and meet authors and other readers and just socialize until the cows come home. And the beauty of it all is that, while most of those conversations start about books, they move into other areas of interests and a level of personal sharing. Being a reader has probably made me MORE social than I ever was before. I’m not afraid to go to a book signing by myself and strike up a conversation with someone I don’t even know because we clearly like the same book. And obviously everyone is not like me. Some people ARE less social or more quiet and reserved.. and they happen to be readers. We read. Get over it. It doesn’t mean we are anything you THINK we are…we are just people who have better hobbies than you 😛

Anyone else have any similar experiences with people thinking that being a reader makes you anti-social or quiet or weird? What other stereotypes do you feel get attached to readers? WHY the thinking that reading is so uncool? Do you think the rise in popularity of YA books & how “mainstream” they’ve become (being especially propelled by the success of Harry Potter and Twilight) helps to make reading “cooler” in the eyes of children and teens?

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.

Comments

  1. I hate it when people react like that! I never mention to anyone in the real world that I've already read 140 books this year because of this.
    It's only the last 2 years I think that people actually know I read a lot. I used to keep it hidden, because like you mention, you get labeled as anti-social and just uncool.
    Now, I don't care so much anymore, because I've discovered bloggers and seriously, the bookish bloggers I've met are some of the most awesome people I know! And yes, we do have better hobbies 😉
    I do think that the popularity of Harry Potter and Twilight has helped somewhat, but since they're also made into movies, I don't really think it had that big of an impact. The 'cool' kids have still probably only seen the movie 😉
    Or maybe that's me putting labels on people.
    You know what's another label people associate with reading in my opinion? Mousy. I HATE that label. It's even done in books and movies, the mousy girl in the corner reads a lot.
    I think my rant is done 🙂

  2. Ginger @ GReads! says:

    After reading your post, the first thing that came to mind… the dating scene. When I meet a new dude & they ask about my hobbies, reading is usually in the top 3. I like to read, a lot. And no, I don't necessarily have to date someone who likes to read, but I figure they should know that about me too. I've gotten mixed responses to this hobby of mine. Some dudes turn up their nose & automatically think I'm some nerd. When I see that, I immediately think "red flag!" and walk away. Why date someone who is that closed-minded? Or I've also gotten the polar opposite and have met dudes that think I'm all philosophical because I know how to open a book. Um no. I never said I went to Harvard or Oxford lol.

    Telling someone that I read, when it comes to dating, is actually a good way to weed out some tools. I want to be able to walk into a bookstore with my dude. I want to be able to open a book & be comfy reading & not have him criticizing me.

    Great topic to discuss!

  3. Bethany (youngbooklove) says:

    I am a book person, and I am super introverted. It actually tires me to socialize with other people for a long time. I've sort of found this to be true for a lot of book readers (not all!).

  4. I haven't really thought about it because I am, in truth, kind of anti-social. I'm an introvert who often gets flummoxed in conversation and sometimes I'd rather have my nose stuck in a book than look approachable. Oops, I probably help perpetuate the stereotype. *hides in corner*

    I think part of the misconception comes from this belief that there is something wrong with introverted people (usually the perception that extroverts have). Introverts need alone time to recharge, while outgoing people are the opposite way. For some reason society has decided that instead of introverts just being different but valuable in their own ways, they are in the wrong to not want to be around other people all of the time. And reading is a somewhat solitary activity so it falls under something that introverts would do and therefore is not preferable. That's just my theory, based on what I've learned in reading about introvert/extrovert behavior.

    So I guess it doesn't bother me to be labeled anti-social (even though I'm not always that way), but I don't understand why wanting to read a book sometimes instead of being a social butterfly all of the time is a bad thing. For the most part people like me might not be super outgoing but are not total shut-ins, either. I like spending time with friends, but I can handle being alone too.

  5. fishgirl182 says:

    Most of my friends are actually quite impressed that I read as.much as I do and still socialize and don't think reading us uncool at all. But I guess that's one of the reasons we are friends. The internet and blogging has actually helped me be more social since I am shy. It's a great way to interact with people who love to read just as much as I do. And while I don't expect everyone i meet to share the same love of reading that I do, I do expect them to respect it.

  6. We Heart YA says:

    We think there is definitely a stereotype about readers… and writers too! But we're proud to be "word nerds," and we do think books like Harry Potter (but not necessarily Twilight, unfortunately) have made reading a cool activity again. Hopefully more books will become popular and help raise the idea that literacy is a good thing, instead of a sign of someone being awkward or withdrawn.

  7. Excellent comments everyone! I plan on replying after work 🙂

    Also, We Heart YA, I'm totally proud of my nerd status..just hate when others label it for me 😛

  8. You colleague probably was just ashamed that he didn't read as mush as you. Maybe he spent all day just watching tv…just kidding!

    But I do think he meant to say that only to bother you. Don't worry about it. I have to work all day, spend time with boyfriend and family, watch movies, play video games, study, blog…etc! and also read! How we can read while doing so many things? I don't know, probably we read faster than most people, but mostly because we love it and we make time to read while others just don't.

    I remember being called a Reader like it was a bad thing in high school. But luckily those days are over and now I have a bunch of friends who actually read, maybe more than me! 😉

  9. Jasmine Rose says:

    I've never really been the best socializer, I'll admit. It still bothers me when people make some stupid little side comment about my reading as if it's a bad thing or I do it too much.
    I remember one time in middle school, though. I was having a back-and-forth with one of the guys in my class and the best comeback he could come up with was "book girl." He said this like it was a bad thing and everyone actually laughed at him. It still makes me laugh that someone would try to make fun of me for something I'm not ashamed of 😛

  10. Christy (Love of Books) says:

    You know what's even more annoying? When people will say how they're too busy to read, or they don't have time. But then they are consently on Facebook and/or twitter saying how bored they are. Don't act like my life isn't busy because I do read, and then turn around and complain about having nothing to do. If you don't like to read, just say so… you don't need to act like your life is too important to spend time reading a book. Okay, rant over. Great post Jamie.

  11. I bring a book where I go and sometimes I read when I'm out with friends. Most of the time my friends are on their iPhones when we aren't talking or doing something so I don't see my book as anything different. If we start a conversation, I'll put my book away. Most people don't do that with their iPhones!

  12. Most of my reading happens in private, or with my hubby, who also is usually on the computer or reading. We are "anti-social" together! Since I'm a librarian, my coworkers know I like to read (duh) but it's not like I sit at work reading all the time — heck no! (That would be GREAT, though…) Most other people don't even know about my reading obsession. Not many people know about my blog, either.

    I WAS one of those kids that walked down the halls in school with a book in my nose, though! (Nerd alert!) I outgrew that in high school, though, and had quite a normal social life!
    Interesting thoughts!

  13. Emily @ Books and Threads says:

    Oh Lord, Christy, yes! I HATE that. I'm a knitter too so I get it on both fronts. "Oh, I'm just too busy to read (or knit). I don't know where you find the time!" It's such a patronising thing to say! Especially with all those implications that the reader must be a sad loner who has nothing else to do.

    No, sorry, I have a family and friends and a job, and I read to relax instead of watching TV (mostly). How is this bad?

  14. I'm naturally an introvert but I do still do plenty of other things than reading. For the most part, though, reading is still that "dirty secret" that I don't talk about because people automatically judge me and assume something by it. Which I guess is fine, but so many people I know in real life don't GET it at all so I just don't talk about it. I used to think that books like that would get people reading but I think all it really did was get them to read THOSE books. I know "non-readers" who read those books but don't have any interest in readinig anything else.

  15. Sam (Tiny Library) says:

    I hate how society at the moment thinks learning or anything vaguely related to it (like reading) is uncool. I am a teacher so I'm always going on about how I love to read to my class (I teach 10 year olds), in the hope that they will grow up and love it too. The kids love it if I'm reading something at the same time as them.

    I am more of an introvert. I do think reading is an activity that will naturally appeal to introverts, but I do also have a life alongside reading. I think we all just prioritise and don't watch as much TV! 😛

  16. I totally agree with what you said. People tend to assume that, just because I love to read, it's natural for me to be an introvert and anti-social. Not true! I may love books, but I love to talk to and it's always fun for me to attend events and meet people.

    Thank you for this post. I'm retweeting it to share with the world! 🙂

  17. dooliterature says:

    I am a pretty extroverted person, but sometimes I make up an excuse to stay in to finish a good book, not going to lie. I always have things to do, but I make sure I have time to read. Whether it be an hour before bed or on my lunch break at work.
    My mom is actually the person most likely to bother me about my reading habit. Whenever I come home from the library or the bookstore, she always asks me, "Don't you have enough books yet?" She doesn't seem to understand the fact that every book is different! 😛

  18. I agree with you. I am not anti-social and I LOVE to read. My fiancee is somewhat anti-social and reads (but not nearly as much as I do). He's into sports and movies. I like reading and blogging. We do stay in much of the time, but I am generally the one out with friends and family and he stays in. LOL

    I don't think there should be stereotypes for anything. People do not fit into little boxes, neatly labeled with things like book nerd, jock, etc. People have more to them than that one word association.

  19. I have to admit, people have always associated me with being a reader and the conversations about it have been one of interest, not scorn.

    In school the teachers and school peers who weren't my friends would think something was wrong if I didn't have a book in my hand. My best friends would swap books with me and tell me what I should get from the library.
    The strange thing is the 'popular' kids in my school thought being smart was a good thing and most of them were smart and not afraid to show it- they were just lazy with it. And I was also bullied, but not by the 'popular' kids and not because I was smart or a reader (I was bullied because I dreamed outside the box and the girl always needed someone to put down through her day.)

    Also in my last job, my co-workers were more in awe of how much I read, rather than seeing me as dull, probably because they could see that I socialised. I chatted with them if they were in the staff room and went out at the weekends with them if they asked me.

    I remember having one conversation with a lad who was more bothered by how his football team were doing that week than finishing his university essay. He saw me with a book for the umpteenth time as I was leaving and the conversation went:

    co-worker: Do you read every day?
    me: Yes.
    co-worker: Every day?!
    me: Yes. Do you read?
    co-worker: No. I hate the time it takes up. How much do you read?
    me: Depends on the book and how much time is on my hands.
    co-worker: But you read every day?
    me: Yes
    co-worker: I wish I could do that, they just don't interest me enough.

    Most people who've asked about my reading has gone along the same vein as that, so it always surprises me to hear when people have other people around them assuming readers don't socialise and that during in school it wasn't the cool thing to be a reader or smart. Maybe I just had it lucky, or maybe it's because I don't leave any room for someone to put me down for it. I think it also helps that if someone doesn't understand the amount you read, or that you're a reader full stop, when you ask them about their hobbies and explain that you find that completely boring and wouldn't dream of doing it but I don't start putting them into a stereotype about it. Each to their own.

  20. Laura Ashlee says:

    Honestly, Jamie. How on earth could someone think you're antisocial? You're pretty much the most social book blogger out there. I can't imagine that it's any different at work.

    I've gotten this kind of thing from people too, but mostly from my friends that are younger than me. They all like to go out in the middle of the week and stay up until three in the morning or something. I can't even fathom that since I'm usually up by 5:30. And sometimes on Fridays I'd much rather sit at home with my boyfriend and read or watch TV than go out because I'm so tired from working all week. None of them get it, but none of them are readers either. They think I'm being anti-social when I really just want to relax. I don't know why people who don't like to read seem to be so weird about other people reading. At least my boyfriend doesn't mind so much anymore. He used to poke fun at me all the time when I started blogging. Now he's so busy with school work he just tells me to bring a book if I want to come over.

  21. Jessica A. says:

    I hate when people judge me for how much I read. My husband's family likes to do that to me. Him and I have only been married for 2 years so his family is still getting to know me. They think it is so weird that I always have a book with me for those "just in case nothing is going on for a few minutes and I can sneak a few pages in" times, or that I have a notebook full of favorite book quotes, or that I could waste the day away in a bookstore.
    But I am far from antisocial. Especially compared to my husband's brothers and brother-in-law. They would rather be cooped up in their rooms playing video games. I love being around people and talking and all that other socializing stuff.

    But, I guess it is what it is. I try not to let it bother me too much. My husband doesn't mind my book habits and that's what really matters 🙂

  22. Wanna hear a really bad conversation? A school LIBRARIAN said she wished she could read as much as I do. Uh what the what?

  23. I think every reader has experienced this many times. I still get raised eyebrows and confused looks when people find out that I read as much as I do. My favorite is when they get offended because I have not read a book that they may love. It's like we are damned if we read, and damned if we don't read.

    I do think it is because people feel so threatened by voracious readers. There is no threat with a gamer, who may or may not spend as much time on the computer as we do in front of books. Yet, they are not threats because books are univerally seen as enlightening. I guess we should be impressed that people feel this way about reading. It doesn't make it easier.

  24. picky girl says:

    I get this a lot but mostly from students. But it usually turns into…but HOW do you read so much?

    Then I ask: what do you do when you go home? The answers are usually "watch TV, play videogames, play on my phone." I tell them: I read. Then I ask: what do you do when you're waiting at the doctors office/for a meeting/in traffic? They answer: "play on my phone." Again I tell them: I read.

    People are not necessarily socializing any more than readers. They just don't consider reading a useful way to spend time (mostly). There is a stigma. I think the rise of YA is still small in terms of the majority of our society, so no, I think reading is still "uncool."

    I don't let it bother me anymore. I like to read. I like to do a lot of other stuff. I find value in all that stuff.

  25. Vy (Vy's Blog) says:

    Oh gosh, This!

    I just started reading (like reading, reading) in 8th grade around the end of the year so I didn't go through the whole labeled thing, but a lot of IRL people started finding out about my blog and when I entered Freshman year I was "the reader".

    I couldn't go to homecoming because I had to attend a formal dinner party but people automatically said, "oh, are you going to read instead?"

    Of course I laughed it off but I kind of thought to myself, "really? I talk to you guys everyday and sit with you at lunch and the games and you still do this?"

  26. Heather @ Between the Covers says:

    I get this type of reaction from people all the time. When I worked full-time, my co-workers would always give me a hard time about reading on my lunch break… instead of gossiping with them. Gee, which sounds more fun to you? I'll take a book over that mess any day.

  27. Chrisbookarama says:

    I'm an introvert but I'm not anti-social. There's a difference. I don't want to be at a crowded bar with loud music. I do like being with small groups of friends and have a few drinks though. Sure, I prefer to read on a Friday night but every once in awhile I'll tell my husband that we're having a game night and invite people over.

    I totally agree that while some people are watching TV or playing Angry Birds or staring at the wall, I'm reading. I choose to spend my free time reading, just like other people choose to do whatever they want with their time.

  28. Jen (Makeshift Bookmark) says:

    When people tell them I read around 100 books a year, they gasp and get all slack-jawed and crap. But luckily, they don't assume I'm anti-social. I think they're aware that my crazily busy schedule doesn't allow for much in the aspect of "leisure activities." My co-workers ALWAYS see me with a book cracked open and laugh at me because I'm TOTALLY slacking on studying at the time. Reading keeps me sane.

    I hang out with friends outside of Twitter/the blogosphere quite frequently. Not so much as of late, since school has begun, but usually every weekend my husband and I will go out and socialize. I'm loud and obnoxious and I love being around people! Sure, there's always those times I love to just be alone or chill with my husband, but it's not because I don't want to hang out with people, but because I'm so effing tired 😛

    So, while I do think it's stupid that people assume that all readers are socially challenged, I do think that in some cases, it rings true. But then again, it rings true for those who play video games for 15 hours on end or watch TV or go to the gym and run with their iPod blasting, not speaking with anyone else.

    Like I said to you yesterday on Twitter, there are weirdos in ALL walks of life, not just reading <3

  29. Everyone has always known that I read a lot, and while I've never been ashamed or embarrassed by it, I'm willing to bet that at least some of those people have considered/would consider me a geek, dork, or nerd for reading a lot. I don't know if that applies as much now that I'm older, but when I was in middle school and high school, I'm sure it did. No one every said anything to me, though, and a lot of people have supported my love of reading, so it's hard to say for certain.

    What really bugs me is the use of the term "antisocial," especially when people use it to describe those who love to read. Most people use it to mean that they just don't like to go out and socialize, and while I found one definition of "antisocial" as being not sociable, the primary definitions are much more psychological:

    1. unwilling or unable to associate in a normal or friendly way with other people: He's not antisocial, just shy.
    2. antagonistic, hostile, or unfriendly toward others; menacing; threatening: an antisocial act.
    3. opposed or detrimental to social order or the principles on which society is constituted: antisocial behavior.
    4. Psychiatry . of or pertaining to a pattern of behavior in which social norms and the rights of others are persistently violated.

    What I'm getting at here is that most people don't use the term antisocial correctly, so to call readers like us antisocial really irritates me off, whether someone else calls that or we refer to ourselves in that way. Sorry for the gigantic response.

  30. The bf and I were just talking about this the other day. I forget exactly how he worded it but he said something to the effect of that he loved that I read and discussed books on twitter and did all these bookish things. That it was like I had a secret life that he was one of the few to see. He meant it in a good way and it was really sweet I promise.

    I don't understand why reading is viewed so negatively. If someone's hobby was fishing, very few people would say "oh, how do you make time to fish when you work and have a family?" You make time. That's how hobbies work whether or not your social or antisocial.

  31. I think reading makes it actually easier to be a social person because you're constantly learning and relating and hearing stories whether fictional or true (not that fiction isn't ever "true"). I can't tell you how many times I've been able to connect with someone new because of the books I read.

    Anyway, I'm with you re: vacation reading and luckily my husband (I just wrote fiancee and had to delete it, not used to that one yet!) is too. We just got back from our honeymoon and I have to say that I have especially fond memories of the times we took a break from being tourists and went to a pretty place to read our books.

  32. My little brother, who was about 8 at the time, actually made fun of me for reading and said that I must never go outside. I couldn’t believe he said this and wondered where he got this idea. At the time, he was reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books… and sure enough, there’s a geeky little character who reads during recess and “never goes outside” and I’m pretty sure that’s where he got that kind of idea. I was 22 or 23 at the time and it really upset me that my own little brother (who should totally look up to me) actually thought readers don’t go outside and do fun things. >.<

  33. I have to admit when i am reading i am very anti social i am sat in my room or on the chair and the world around me don’t exist it’s me and my book. I have tried reading groups but i don’t like listening to other people read the only person who ever read to me was my grandad coz he always had a great adventure to go with it he made the story his own, when he died i just couldn’t listen to other’s read. It don’t help that i am pretty anti social person anyway i can sit in a library from the moment it opens to the second it closes it’s like heaven to me. I know this ain’t helping trying to tell people where not anti social, i think it really depends on the person and there own personal preferences. x

  34. Okay, so I’m often quiet, definitely shy and sometimes just plain weird. But… I’m absolutely not antisocial. Ask me to talk books or movies and I won’t shut up. I have LOTS of opinions. Of course I’m not thrilled with people who stereotype all readers into one group. Because there are very different types of readers .

    Sure we like to disappear for awhile into a book, but it’s not all we like to do. Some read more than others. Some like to be labeled “readers” when they’re really just book collectors.

    But I’ve come to learn that people like their labels. You wear all black to school for more than one day in a row and you’re a goth or freak or whatevs along those lines, you show up in a team jersey and you’re a jock or sporto and such.

    People don’t like to interact with people if they can’t slap a darn label on them. So if they see you with a book you’re one of those shy, quiet types, antisocial, etc. And maybe some are, but I doubt it’s the majority. Especially with so many amazing books out there to read and so many different types of people of all ages reading them.

    Reading is becoming more mainstream for younger people, but those who don’t like to read or might feel less intelligent will still probably throw “braniac” or “anti-social” labels on those who do read.

    If the stereotype doesn’t fit you don’t try to cram yourself into it. At least that’s my opinion. Be a social reader – and many of us are because we just can’t stop talking about the books we read, the characters we meet and the authors who craft those amazing stories (hello bookclubs!) – be an introverted one. Be a mix of both.

    Then just roll your eyes at the person who wants to fit you into this one tiny label so that they can feel they understand you better, and just know you’re way more than that.

  35. As I was growing up (still am but you get my point) I was always “the girl who reads” and it sucked because it really wasn’t the only trait I attributed to myself, ya know? I’ve had friendships begin from the fact that we both had the same books appear in some website category called Favorite Books. I’ve met people at bookstores and befriended them, I’ve started conversations about LGBT issues, death, friendship, love, etc just because of a book.
    This post is great.

  36. I consider myself a people person and love talking to people. Reading is a personal activity though. I love a lot of activities to do alone

  37. Saying reading is uncool is such a middle school way to think! In fact, when I meet someone who answers my “what’ve you been reading these days?” question with “Oh, I just read magazines” or some version thereof….I want to scream! That person almost has to earn their way back into my heart from ground zero. As far as being anti-social, I too have friends and interests outside of reading. But, I am an introvert and I like to read to recharge my batteries between social interactions. An entire beach day with no reading would make me so sad, but I also don’t read the entire time I’m on the beach. I like a mix of both.
    Great post!

  38. Se há uma indústria fraudulenta atrás da idéia do aumento
    do pênis então é porque homem deseja isso, mas não tem alguém
    que diga a ele que ele está certo em querer melhor pra sí,
    mas que ainda são poucas as opções e melhor ainda, que há vários estudos a caminho – células tronco principalmente, que portanto aguarde, não vá atrás de milagres.

Trackbacks

  1. […] while ago I ranted about how stereotypes about bookish people infuriate me. Another workplace incident happened  that I’ve still been stewing over and […]

  2. […] – Read with a group: Whether it’s a real life book club, an online book club, a group read-a-long or just a few friends…read a book in a group! It’s amazing the discussion and the new understandings that come from a group read. Plus it’s way more fun to have people to be reading the same thing as you so you can freak out about something or mourn the death of a character knowing that someone is experiencing it right along with you. It also really helps to continue to make reading a social activity. […]

  3. […] get. Talking to my former co-worker spurred two really great conversations on here — about assuming readers are anti-social or about how sometimes people think negatively about my hobby. I’m sure there are more […]

  4. […] is one of my favorites, as it has often been applied to me. Nor am I the only one who has been treated to this idiocy. I suspect this objection comes mainly from extroverted people […]

  5. […] is one of my favorites, as it has often been applied to me. Nor am I the only one who has been treated to this idiocy. I suspect this objection comes mainly from extroverted people […]