Monday, June 05, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 15, 1444 H
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The stark reality of modern life...


One of the greatest Arab poets, Al Mutanabbi, has once said: “The cherished place in the world is a saddle and the best companion of the time is a book.”

Much later, English playwright and poet William Shakespeare wrote: “A beggar’s book outworths a noble’s blood.” Now there are no takers for such words of wisdom.

This dearest and most prized place is nowadays occupied by none other than WhatsApp. This is a stark reality of our modern-day life. The reading habit and practice of exchanging books has been washed away in the tide of the Internet. There are also apprehensions that this change would have serious implications on the culture and awareness of the people. It will also harm their capability of deep thinking about their future.

The flood of the Internet has reshaped our lifestyle, robbed our times, controlled our practices and compelled us to focus on the mobile phone screens round-the-clock just for some entertainment or as a consumer.

Sometimes, jokes and disgraceful audio and video clips are also exchanged. All this reflects the wide changes which have taken place in the culture of all segments of the society pushing them to the abyss or at least near that.

When we argue about this issue, we also find that the Arab world is also not far when it comes to spending time between a book and mobile screens.

If we hold other factors responsible for this change, the education system is also to be blamed for this change in habits and practises. The education system is not strictly centred on serious reading which actually helps in deepening the thought process as well as sharpens minds and imagination for literary creativity.

Whereas the traditional and social media has temptations in its visual contents, illustrations and images. This has developed a high-rise wall between the new generation and the old — the book. Books on the shelves are waiting for the dust to be removed from them. The same is the case in Oman. It also requires taking care of the issue as reading of books is the foundation of deep thought process and practical knowledge and learning from other’s experiments and thinking.

According to the data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information, more than 94 per cent of Omanis use social media.

They spend six hours per day on an average. The most popular social media platform they use is WhatsApp. It is used by 93 per cent of them followed by YouTube which is used by 70 per cent, and Instagram by 50 per cent.

These statistics clearly reveal the volume of the problem. This can be solved only by certain practical steps. Students should be made to read a physical book. If they are expanding their activities into the electronic spheres, they should equally focus on reading and spending time between covers of books.

This will restore the thinking of the new generation and change the methodology of research and studies. This will reduce the time spent on the world wide web. The culture of reading should be promoted. Competitions should be organised to meet the objective.

Students should be encouraged to attend book fairs. They should be motivated to balance their time between books and the Internet. This is important for their brighter future. Of course, there are youth who go on reading and stick to it. They value the habit of reading to attain knowledge and get information. But a large part of the new generation is still glued to phone screens.

They need to be liberated from this prison. We are hopeful that the authorities concerned will formulate new and innovative methods to bring the youth of the country back to books. The parents, guardians and the entire family must play a pivotal role to restore the habit of reading.


Ali Al Matani

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