I recently decided that, as a personal development goal this year, I should spend less time on social media and more time reading. After all, reading brings a whole host of benefits along with it—regardless of what genre you’re consuming—while social media is far more often associated with negative things like depression and anxiety. So why not replace my bad habit of scrolling through Facebook and Instagram with reading, and reap the benefits of an improved vocabulary, less stress and a sharper mind?
While I haven’t been entirely successful in my goal so far (social media is a hard habit to break, guys), one writer recently shared his experiences of his own attempt to read more, and the results will blow your mind. Once he made reading a habit, Charles Chu got through 200 books a year. And using some simple math, he explained in an article in Quartz how anyone can achieve that same result.
Chu calculated that it would take the average adult reader about 417 hours to read 200 books. To come up with that number, he used a reading speed of 400 words per minute (which is a little faster than the average adult’s 250 to 300 words per minute, according to The Guardian) and a total of 10 million words (200 books with an average of 50,000 words each, which is considered “novel length” by publishers).
Even if you go by a more conservative reading speed of 300 words per minute, that would put you at only 555 hours of reading a year (just a bit more than Chu’s 417). That sounds like a lot, but it’s about as much time as Americans spend on social media every year.
According to Chu, Americans spend 608 hours on social media every year—that’s more than 25 entire days (so you know, basically a MONTH!). That’s a number that varies depending on who is providing the research, though. One study by Nielsen found that the average Gen X individual spends around seven hours a week (or 364 hours a year) on social media, while another study by Mediakix found that the average person spends around 116 minutes a day (or 705 hours a year) on social media. So between those two studies, Chu’s stated 608 hours of social media seems about right.
Essentially, even if you’re reading at about average speed, chances are you could finish 200 books a year if you replaced your social media habit with reading. Even if you only replaced half of your social media time, you could easily finish 100 books in a year. And while 555 may sound like a pretty large number of hours, that works out to about an hour and a half a day of reading, which can easily be split up into a few minutes over breakfast, 40 minutes during your commute, half an hour to wind down before bed—you know, all the times during the day that you’d normally spend mindlessly scrolling through Facebook.
Personally, I’ll be trying this Facebook-to-actual-book swap. Something tells me that getting through a few dozen books will, in the long run, be much more fulfilling than simply “liking” a few quickly forgotten posts on Instagram.