In the last couple of years I’ve been using social media less and less. I could go on and on about the reasons why, but it’s a mix of:
- Everything in the Nicholas Carr book The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains.
- While it can be an effective means of maintaining connection with friends and geographically distant family, it also seems to amplify toxic and dysfunctional relationships.
- It’s created a space where massive political and religious rifts have opened up and destroyed otherwise decent friendships; had the political discussions taken place in the context of face-to-face conversation, instead of in comment threads, there would likely have been more grace and less anger.
- I’m happier when I read actual books, and not facebook…
So, what do I do when I’m not checking my social media accounts at five minute intervals? I can’t possibly list it all here but it includes all sorts of amazing things, like actually talking to my children; playing with my pets (not just taking photos of them); spending time in the garden – I hadn’t even realised that I had a pot of flowering miniature daffodils in bloom already until I let my friends know I wouldn’t be on facebook or instagram for a while and logged out of my accounts and stepped into the front garden for the first time in ages; working on my creative writing (NaNoWriMo is only three months away, so it’s time to plan!); I paint and draw; take the kids down to the public library and spend longer time there just unhurriedly perusing the shelves – they have terrible phone reception there so I can’t check my notifications, so sometimes the temptation is to rush through the experience; playing my guitars and ukulele; listening to music for the sheer joy of it, and not just so I can say, “Check out what I’m currently listening to”; I do much-needed maintenance work on my RedBubble online art portfolio; instead of reading emails while waiting for the kids to finish piano lessons, I did some Sudoku puzzles and it was good; I go through the huge stockpile of library books and books borrowed from friends; I listen to lecture videos and theology podcasts and classical music radio; I meet up with in-real-life friends and we go have coffees and talk about things that matter; I do housework; I play video games and it is fun (Age of Empires III for PC and Townsmen for iOS are my current go-to games); I help the kids with their homework; I harvest fresh food from the veggie garden (currently producing heritage lettuce, kale, rosemary, mint, lemons, mandarines, cat nip, potatoes and fennel); I meditate and practice yoga and mindfulness (recent additions to my life); and, as you may have noticed, I blog more consistently. I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t think of it right now.
I know that my friends (very kindly) say they miss my stream of consciousness postings on their social media feeds, but I also know that I’m a much happier, calmer, friendlier and more productive human when I put strict limitations on the amount of time I spend on social media. Unfortunately I’m one of these all-or-nothing types, who struggles to balance my apparent addiction to distraction with real life, so outright fasting from social media works better for me than, say, being the kind of person who can check it a few minutes a day and then ignore it. So until I find that balance I’ll stick with cycling through seasons of fasting and using social media.