Sharing aspects of your life is addictive.
Sharing the way bloggers or avid social media users do has a compulsive aspect to it, I think. At the start of my week off, I found it really odd not to share things I’d read, or photos of what I’d seen or done, or thoughts I’d had, or funny things the kids had said, or insights into my life or… just, you know, ALL the stuff so many of us share so often. I sometimes wonder whether our generation feels that something has only really happened if it’s been shared online – that an experience isn’t really valid unless we plaster various versions of it over our social media feeds and get ‘likes’. I’ve certainly found that in many of life’s lovely moments I’ve felt that urge to capture and share. This week was like having an itch I couldn’t really scratch. There were a couple of times I sent my husband and friends texts just because “This happened!” (whatever ‘this’ was) and the urge to share was too strong, but as the days went by I started to get used to it. The itch got less itchy. Now I feel a bit weird about sharing again. Writing this feels a bit odd, actually.
Despite how often I usually check my phone for ‘likes’… I don’t really need the affirmation.
I thought I would miss the affirmation aspect of social media – the likes, comments and RT’s, the little hearts and thumbs up – don’t they make me feel better? Isn’t it good to feel that approval? Wouldn’t I miss all those little pats on the back?
Er… no. Turns out, when I wasn’t putting anything out there that people might ‘like’ or otherwise, I didn’t need it at all. In fact it was a relief because I wasn’t looking for affirmation and didn’t need to keep checking my phone for it. Not that when I normally post a photo or whatever I’m consciously thinking ‘affirm my life please, people!’ but I guess that’s basically what it amounts to isn’t it? So, take away the ‘look what I’m doing!’ element of social media and I felt free. Much more secure in myself. And that’s because…
Real life is wonderfully affirming regardless of the lack of a ‘thumbs up’ button.
The best, warmest, cuddliest affirmation comes from the people in your life who you are genuinely connected to. That’s a no-brainer, really. It certainly doesn’t preclude online friends but, leave social media for long enough and I’m betting that those people with whom you have a genuine connection will find ways of communicating with you in the real world anyway. I was really touched by the number of texts I got from people asking how my social-media-free week was going. Of course, texts did then kind of fill the gap a bit – I sent and received an awful (wonderful) lot of texts last week, but meh, I never claimed this was a total ‘no typing’ week.
Having just totted it up, I’ve also realised I had more proper, face-to-face social engagements last week that there were days in the week. And some of them were with more than one friend! Little Miss Introvert here had a rip-roaringly sociable time of it. Heavens.
Social media is a barrier between me and real life.
Ok it’s not an impermeable barrier and in fact it’s also a bridge. A sort of bridgey-barrier (look , I’ve had a week off blogging, I’ve forgotten how to express myself here clearly!) It allows me to connect to people but it also means, in the moment, I’m less present. This week both my husband and eldest son have said it’s wonderful that I’m not on social media; that I’m not always distracted by my phone. And I’m not surprised they expressed that, because I’ve felt more engaged and just, well, THERE with people. It’s been lovely.
I’m a better parent when I’m offline.
Given the time I spend on my phone normally… ouch. But it’s true. See above – I have more time for my kids. I am more present.
When I’m not blogging, I have more time (full stop).
Without having to think about blogging this week I had time for other things. I finished the book I was reading (The Pursuit Of Happiness And Why It’s Making Us Anxious – review to follow – interesting stuff!). I did some of my illustration course and started work on the first assignment. This made me very happy. I also had time to spend with my husband in the evenings – we had conversations! We even watched a Rom Com together – neither of us particularly like Rom Coms but we couldn’t find a suitable Sci Fi. Anyway it starred Ryan Reynolds (have loved him since Deadpool) and Isla Fisher (have loved her since Home and Away 20 years ago!) so it wasn’t a bad way to pass an evening.
Oh, and I cleaned the car. I. CLEANED. THE. CAR! Yep, no more melted Chewits in the glove compartment. Get in.
Phone calls are lovely
Do you remember those hours spent chatting on the phone with friends in years gone by? These days, apart from to a few family members, I don’t spend much time on the phone at all so when the phone rang earlier in the week and one of my friend’s names appeared on the screen, it felt quite unusual. He was phoning me with a question –normally he would have FB messaged me but since I was off social media, he called instead. And it was lovely to talk to him. Actually hearing people’s voices is so different to seeing their words on your screen. I could hear his wife (one of my close friends) in the background and they were kind of teasing each other and saying things to me and I it felt like a snippet of real life. There they were, my friends, just being themselves in a house not too far away – it was oddly reassuring and affirming. And if that sounds a bit soppy it’s because…
Without distraction, I’ve felt life more intensely.
I’ve very much been feeling ‘all the feels’ this week. Admittedly, this is what I’m like anyway – I’ve said before that I sometimes feel like my heart isn’t so much on my sleeve as hanging around my neck on some kind of loose chain that bounces around and catches on things as I go through life. It also has wings and has a tendency to try to fly off – it’s all a bit dicey. Well, this week it’s been that feeling times ten. And its been almost entirely positive too. I keep thinking how amazing people are. All that socialising and those lovely texts helped. It’s been a week of warm fuzzy feelings. Maybe if you put the warm fuzzys out there they get a chance to grow (fuzzier?!)?
There will always be a lot going on in my head
I have a noisy mind – a stream of constant chatter. I’m always thinking something or working something out or getting a new idea. And into this fits social media with its endless stream of other people’s lives and thoughts and ideas that send my thoughts off in seven (thousand) directions at once. I thought that without social media it would be quieter – I thought that without that input my own chatter might die down. Not a bit of it, I could just hear myself more clearly. So I’ve had to accept this is how I am. What it does make me think though, is that given how much there is going on in my head – do I really the social media input? Do I need more stimulation? Answer: big fat no. Which brings me on to…
I feel happier without social media.
I was intending to log back into the hive mind – or ‘dive back into the swamp’ as a friend (lovingly, I’m sure… ) put it – this morning but I couldn’t really bring myself to. I went onto Instagram and hurriedly shut it down. Skimmed though Facebook scattering likes then quickly thought ‘enough now’. I didn’t get as far as Twitter till after six and even then I only responded to one tweet. It’s just too full-on. Despite the constant chatter in my head, it is definitely more peaceful without social media. The nasty demon of comparison hasn’t been able to needle me and I feel better for it. I’ve just been reading a book all about happiness and the damaging effects of social media on it and this makes total sense to me now. It’s been a happy week. Why would I want to risk all that and return to my newsfeeds and timelines? Why? Well…
It has its lovely side… and I’ve missed that
A friend from my ‘What I’m Writing’ group said to me that it was noticeable that I wasn’t around because she’s used to me flitting around the group being supportive and tweeting people’s posts and writing nice comments (Thanks T!). She also said that she and others were stepping up to fill the gap though. And I thought, ‘that’s my gang – all there for each other!’. There is something wonderful about our What I’m Writing group and beyond them the other lovely people in the blogosphere too. Yes, I missed you!
And that means:
Social media and blogging play a role in my happiness.
This part is crucial. I just said I’m a better parent when I’m offline – that’s a pretty damning indictment really isn’t it? If it makes me a worse parent then I should ditch it, run away from it, leave it in the dust… surely?
Well, no (here comes the justification bit… ). The thing is, over the past few years blogging has become a part of who I am. I love the connections I’ve made (my online friends mean loads to me), and the whole experience has been vital to my writing ‘journey’ (inverted commas because I can’t take the word ‘journey’ seriously I but I also can’t think of a better word). I don’t want to just cut and run. Social media is part and parcel of blogging. Twitter also brings me #ShapeChallenge and other creative kicks up the bum which I know are good for me. Facebook can be a great place to keep in touch with real life friends, and both can be a source of intellectual stimulation.
All of that is important to me, and I want to keep it in my life. Giving it up would make me a worse parent for a whole different set of reasons.
Something has to change.
That much is crystal clear to me now. I haven’t yet worked out quite what all the changes will be but, for starters, I’m not reinstalling Facebook or Twitter on my phone (Instagram is basically unusable otherwise so I’ll put that back). I’m going to have to work out a better balance for blogging too. I need to blog less. I want more time for creativity and friendship and being a decent parent. There’s no going back now.
And there’s one final thing I’ve learned:
No matter how much extra time I have in my life, I still won’t do the ironing.
I just won’t.