The Joy of Meaningless Magazines

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Before we begin: I have nothing against magazines. Some are excellent for your mind. There are magazines for almost every interest and hobby. You can get in-depth news, world-changing editorials, industry insights, scientific and academic findings, and profiles of important people.

And then there are the meaningless magazines; the ones you read and then instantly forget what you read. They’re full of bulleted lists and tips you’ve seen a million times before. There’s little of substance; issues are tackled on the surface only. Some of it is gossip, some is nothing more than PR and press releases, and some (at the tabloid end of the spectrum) is simply made up fluff. (Some of which shows an amazing amount of creativity, if not veracity.)

And yet…

There’s something to be said for the pleasure of reading this meaningless drivel. There’s comfort in seeing timeless information presented in cute charts and lists. It’s a chance to turn off your brain for thirty minutes and just read without worrying about absorbing every word. You won’t be tested on the information, you aren’t accountable to a book club, and no one’s going to ask you about it at a cocktail party. It’s also something you can read in short bursts. When you’re too busy to lose yourself in a book, simple magazines are there for you.

I’ve gotten rid of most of my subscriptions, although at one time I subscribed to a boatload of titles. I still read a lot of magazines, but I go to the library to do it. They have everything. I can waste a couple of hours with Good Housekeeping, Money, O, Southern Living, or some dream-home/travel magazines. It’s a way to get my fluff fix for free.

Nowadays my subscriptions are down to Publisher’s Weekly (for obvious, useful reasons) and my two remaining guilty pleasures: People and Entertainment Weekly. Unless they change the formats to something I hate, I’ll keep these last two forever.

I subscribed to People back when Prince William got engaged. I have a small obsession with the Royal Family and I knew People would provide the best coverage in the U.S. It didn’t hurt that they had book reviews, either. (Although they’ve since stopped with “reviews” and now they just do a “What’s Hot” section each week.) Entertainment Weekly is just my source for pop culture nonsense. I don’t watch a ton of TV or movies, but I do like keeping up with what’s out there. I enjoy knowing what’s going on in the world at large, even if I don’t actively participate. They also cover comics and other geek interests. And they have book reviews.

I get excited when the issues arrive each week. Sure, nothing in there is going to change my world or teach me anything useful, but I get about an hour of valuable brain-space each week. It’s relaxing to kick back on the sofa and just let the garbage wash over my brain. I can read without investment or effort. There are pictures! The nonsense and celebrity angst makes me giggle. It’s just pure, silly fun. It’s a little like watching fluff on the TV, except I’m still reading. And there are crossword puzzles and “find the ten changes” challenges, so I get to tell myself I’m enlarging my brain.

I’ve had people tease me for my addictions. They tell me I’m rotting my brain. I just smile and ask them what watching the latest reality TV show is doing for their brain. Exactly. It’s the same thing: Escapism and nonsense. I just choose to consume mine in written form. Neither is right or wrong. We all need time to decompress and let our brains just be. (Of course, if it turns into an all-the-time thing then that may ignal some sort of problem, but for most it’s just a way to shed the stress of the day.)

And I’ve had people misunderstand: They think I’m some sort of celebrity-chaser. I’m not. In fact, sometimes I don’t even know who the celebs are. But that’s the beauty of it: I don’t have to know who these people are to get a kick out of their drama. It has no direct impact on my life, so I’m free to simply giggle about it. (Unlike family or work drama where you end up involved even if you don’t want to be.)

For an hour each week I get to read with no expectations, no responsibility, and no consequences. It’s reading in its purest form, something I haven’t experienced since I was a kid devouring crappy 80’s teen magazines by the handful. Back then I was reading fluff to escape the drudgery of school reading. Now I do it to escape work and family pressure. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I’ve merely graduated from the likes of Seventeen and Young Miss to People. Tease me if you want, but meaningless magazines will always have a place in my heart.

(Photo courtesy of StevePB)

2 thoughts on “The Joy of Meaningless Magazines

  1. mirkabreen

    When I was a young teen, a relative sent boxes of these magazines to us in Israel, and I gobbled them up because to me they were a happy picture of the USA, full of optimism. It seemed you could fix anything from a struggling relationship to an undesirable body part.
    They sort of still are a window into the American soul, now universal. But now they seem to me like a compilation of ads, not only the advertisements but the articles. I pretty much only see them at the dentist or doctor’s office, and they do feel like a treat there..
    They have the transient charm of resting the thinking brain, but leave me feeling that a little is good and a little more leaves a bad taste… Sorry.

    1. Jennifer Derrick Post author

      You’re right about the ads. (The three pages dedicated to the drug du jour makes me wince, if for no other reason than the expense!) And, yeah, it’s totally possible to overdose on brainless magainzes. They’re like chips or cookies. A little is good, more is usually not so good. That’s why I keep my “vices” down to just the two (that I pay for). If I have time to kill, the library is a good free option for a quick fix, but like going out for Taco Bell, best done only once a month or so.


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