*peers into the gloom*
Do I still have any readers after my month off? I hope so. I’ve missed you!
Giving up Facebook and Twitter for a month was surprisingly easy, but giving up DorkyMum was hard. I’ve filled half a notebook with scribblings that need to be turned into proper posts over the next few weeks, but I thought I would start with a few reflections on the four-week social media detox.
(A few reflections, ha! You just know I’ll still be banging on 1500 words later…)
For the first few days of the detox, I was still in the mindset of wanting to share things online. I wanted to ask what other people thought of Harry Connick Jr as a judge on American Idol. I wanted to go on Pinterest and look for good vegetarian recipes for a friend who was coming to visit. I wanted to gloat about how excitingly low our electricity bill was. (I took a screenshot of it. I am that sad.) It wasn’t actually very low at all. In fact it was jaw-droppingly expensive, but they included a graph to show that our energy consumption is what you would expect for the sole occupant of a one-bedroom house, which made me feel like all the energy efficient lightbulbs and the nagging about phone chargers has actually been worthwhile.
It didn’t take long to identify that there is a late afternoon spell every day – between about 3.30pm and 4.30pm – when I feel a little ‘meh’ and reach for my phone for company. It’s that time pre DorkySon’s dinner that always drags, when we’re both getting a bit tired at the end of the day and it’s too late to really start anything new, so under normal circumstances we’d slouch on the sofa together, him with the TV and me online. I realised early on that I’d have to make the effort to fill that witching hour with other things. It became the time of day for making gingerbread, reading a book in the kitchen, listening to music, or getting out some easy games that DorkySon and I could do together.
There were a couple of other very specific times when I missed being online. A couple of our favourite restaurants have fairly unpredictable hours that they only advertise via Twitter and Facebook, so dinner plans were scuppered on a couple of occasions when I showed up hoping to be served up a tub of pulled pork or a box of tacos and found them shut.
One day I was sitting on the sofa and looked out the window to see smoke swirling around the hills near our house. It was a hot day – 102 degrees – so I knew it would be a bush fire, I just didn’t know how near it was, or whether I should be worried. Twitter could have told me the answer to that in about thirty seconds, I would have searched #TasFire and immediately found updates from the Tasmanian Fire Brigade and numerous locals. But with no Twitter I had to hunt a little harder before I found the info and reassurance I needed.
And in general I’d say I missed the immediacy that comes with social media. The knowledge that no matter what time of day it is, you can pretty much always pop online and find someone to have a blether with. But I did have some lovely email exchanges and text conversations with far away friends, so I didn’t feel completely cut off. Poor Penny at Being Mrs C bore the brunt of my ramblings and random observations, and I am very grateful to her for humouring me!
After the first week, the whole thing became much easier. I didn’t have as much of a productivity boost as I’d hoped for – I found plenty of other ways to procrastinate – but the lack of white noise definitely freed up some space in my head just for thinking.
Oddly enough, some of that thinking was about things that were still connected to my use of social media. I reflected a lot on the nature of friendship, and how social media has changed that. I am convinced that making new friends gets harder as you get older. You know instantly whether you have a connection with someone or not, and become less patient for small talk if there isn’t one. But I also realised that blogging makes non-blogger friendships harder. There’s a level of intimacy with blogging friends – an existing knowledge you have from reading their posts – which means that when you meet in person there’s a level of comfort and intimacy that makes small talk unnecessary.
In ‘real’ life, if you blurt out the details of your difficult birth or your political views the first time you meet someone, you tend to scare them off. Blogging friends already know all those things about you. We spend most of our days oversharing the more embarrassing details of our life in the hope of getting a laugh or a few extra page views.
At a work dinner with DorkyDad a few weeks ago, I found myself several glasses of wine to the better, wondering if it would be appropriate or not to share a fairly hilarious story about a doctor’s visit a few days previous. Thankfully the gods of discretion were with me that night and I decided to err on the side of caution, but I know that had I been at a table full of bloggers that I was also meeting for the first time, I would have happily spilled it out.
Somewhat related to that, I thought a lot about the need – my need, mainly – to relearn the difference between public and private writing. For the past three years everything I’ve written has gone on the blog. Obviously I’ve done some filtering – there have been things that I’ve chosen not to write about – but every time I’ve sat at my computer and typed something up, it has gone on here. I think I need to become more thoughtful about different kinds of writing. I definitely need to write some stuff just for myself, so I perhaps it’s time to start some kind of journal or diary. I know that I want to keep the blog going for the foreseeable future, with the same mixture of content – photos, rambles, memories – which it has at the moment. But I also want to start taking some of my better pieces of writing and getting them out to an audience beyond my blog. DorkySon tells people that I am ‘a mummy and a writer’, and I’d like to become enough of a writer that I don’t feel embarrassed when he says that.
Once I’d got all the navel gazing out of the way – and, believe me, I’ve spared you a lot of it – the last two weeks were spent actually getting out and DOING STUFF!
I went to the aforementioned work dinner with DorkyDad – something I’m a bit out of practice at, but really enjoyed. We had some friends to stay one weekend, and some family to stay another weekend. We went out to MONA by boat, which was amazing, and I can’t wait to go back for a longer visit soon. DorkyDad and I went out to dinner just for fun. We went to Seven Mile Beach. I’ve been running, and started doing pilates a couple of times a week. I’ve found a new acupuncturist, and a doctor, and have been eating more healthily, probably because I’ve been sitting down and paying attention to what’s on my plate, instead of scrolling through my phone with one hand and shoving a jam butty in my gob with the other. I had a lovely coffee and playdate with another Hobart mum (who also happens to be a blogger!). I read oodles of articles online about the Scottish independence referendum, so that I can now offer at least a semi-informed opinion when I’m asked about it.
A month offline has definitely given me a lot to think about, or it has at least given me the space to think a lot. It was easier than I thought it would be although also, somehow, less momentous than I had expected. I’m slightly disappointed that I had no epiphanies about how awesome or awful social media is – I just had moments when I missed it, and moments when I didn’t – but I’m going to take that as a good sign that my use of it is fairly healthy and reasonable.
I’m also going to try and continue some of the good habits that I picked up from being offline. I’m not reinstalling any social media apps on my phone, so that if I want to use them I need to go to the effort of turning on my laptop. Hopefully that will make my online time more intentional, and will give it more purpose.
Would I recommend a social media detox? Definitely. If a month feels like too long, then try a week. Or even say to yourself that you’ll take one day each week where you stay offline and see what happens. You’ll probably be surprised how little you miss it, and how much you gain.