Reconnect with yourself… a few thoughts following ‘Offline October’

It’s 1st November and I’ve just had a month completely away from Twitter and Facebook. When Sarah Pinborough suggested this self-imposed exile, I jumped at the chance knowing I spend way too much time trawling timelines, getting dragged into stupid rows about things I don’t care about and losing hours and hours of working time.

It was easy

I’ll get straight to it. I cannot recommend time away from social media highly enough. I know some people have to monitor it for their jobs but the rest of you have no excuse. The benefits were immediate and obvious and the anticipated downsides trivial by comparison.

I wondered if I would find it impossible not to sneak on, even anonymously, and see what was going on… whether I would feel I was ‘missing out’ in some indefinable way, whether I would feel excluded. Was there a risk of feeling isolated by avoiding online social contact?

Well, perhaps I’m not such an addict as I think I am because it was embarrassingly easy to keep away. Not only that, I felt liberated. No longer did I feel I had to check in, to be there, to be a presence of any kind. I didn’t have to think about what I might tweet or post. No longer was I measuring my intellect or the impact of my humour, my worth, by the number of likes and retweets. And before, that’s what I did and I feel sure that many of you reading this do the same. Let’s be honest, it’s a bit pathetic, isn’t it? I wasn’t conscious I was doing it either, which is somehow even worse.

Beyond that admission, the greatest revelation was the sheer amount of time I found myself with during a normal office day. It’s obvious when you stop to think about it but from constantly dipping in and out of social media to check on those cursed likes, shares and retweets, to getting sucked into a debate or an argument, it is incredibly disruptive. But I don’t think I’d realised quite how disruptive and again, I’d sleepwalked into it, assimilated it as just part of life and it’s stupid frankly. Because writing novels and the like requires uninterrupted focus. Simple, really.

As you’ll expect, having read so far, I’ve been far more productive. I’ve also found more time to watch saved up TV, read books, do exercise… I feel more connected to me and the backlogs of this and that are falling and that is a very good feeling.

What surprised me in the early days was how much calmer I felt. I’m not writing this to knock social media because it is wonderful for many things but too often it is an echo-chamber of hate and fury and unfairness and bile and cynicism and try as I might, I’m drawn in to respond. I have no desire whatever to go back down those blind alleys.

Coming next…

The question is, I suppose, how do I handle it all now the month is over?

I haven’t ever considered abandoning social media altogether, it has too much of a positive side for that and it would deny all the enjoyment I’ve derived, the friends I’ve made and the benefit it’s been to me as an author and actor. But it’s the at-times appalling negativity in all its forms that needs to be avoided, or minimised at least. What I am tired of is engaging in a thread that goes wrong and ending up feeling cross half the day. I don’t want to engage with people who appear to be angry nearly all the time. It’s destructive of time, mood and morale. There’s plenty enough bad and fury-inducing news emanating from every news outlet daily as it is without enraging myself with it further on social media.

The plan is this. One: a cull of Facebook ‘friends’. It’s an echo chamber of hate far too often and it needs a serious pruning. Second, not to trawl timelines anymore, rather to keep up with the people I most care about in a more targeted manner. If there’s anything that eats most time, it’s reading post after post, tweet after tweet just in case something sparks my attention or anger or disgust or whatever. Third, not ever again feel internal or external pressure to post or tweet something erudite/pithy/witty… that’s a sorry self-obsessive road and life is too short to waste on such things.

Who knows how it’ll go from here on in but I changed my priorities last month and I want to keep it that way. I honestly don’t think I’ll be on social media as much. This break has (re)opened my eyes and it has been so refreshing.

If I have one recommendation, it’s to think about your relationship with social media. Take a step back and consider if you’ve absorbed it so deeply you cannot comprehend a day without it. Be honest, and if that is you, take a week off, or just a couple of days even, and fill up those days with all the stuff you’re normally so busy posting about loving so much.

Re-connect with yourself on your terms.

James Barclay

November 2016

• November 1st, 2016 • Posted in All the rest, Blog, News • Comments: 0

Radcliffe faces ending her career feeling incomplete…

Yesterday’s bad news for Paula Radcliffe is far more long-term than Beijing 2012. It doesn’t just represent a risk to one of our key medal hopes. Looking ahead, the real sadness here is that a truly great athlete faces ending her career without an Olympic marathon medal of any kind and that is truly unfortunate. The debacle of Greece aside, where all the reasons for her failure seem a little feeble, Paula Radcliffe has been a staggeringly good marathon runner with an almost peerless race record to go along with her world record.

But she has been unable to demonstrate her undeniable greatness on the most important stage of all. We can only hope that her assessment of her chances is more than a pipe-dream. With preparation time running out, pardon the pun, we are left fearing she will either be unable to be competitive or unable to run at all. I find it hard to believe she will still be at the top of her event when the games come to London in 2012 and that means Beijing is her last best chance of Olympic gold.

An athlete of her class needs these opportunities not to feel robbed at the end of their careers. And there will be a big hole in the centre of her trophy cabinet if she fails to make the games this year. My fingers are crossed. So should yours be.

• May 23rd, 2008 • Posted in All the rest • Comments: 0

Magic Darts

We saw the best and worst of darts at the PDC world championship this time around. And, with this blog title nodding respect to Sid Waddell, we had classic commentary from the great man too. It will be a sad day when he retires. Please don’t, Sid. Not ever.

The worst…

Chris Mason’s pathetic, unprofessional and totally unwarranted outburst after his defeat to Phil Taylor. Yes he got a right hammering but that happens in every sport and the true professional shakes hands, says ‘well done’ and goes back to the practice board to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Instead, Mason chose to blame Taylor for his own failings on the night, basically accused Taylor of taking the piss by constantly making his third dart count after two poor darts (and how ridiculous is that… the ability to stow a fine third dart after two poor darts is what separates champions from also rans, Mr Mason) and most laughably of all, consdered the best way to end the match was to take care of business in the car park. Good grief. Darts does not need players like Mason on this showing. Taylor’s threat to walk away was over-the-top dramatics but I agreed with his sentiment. No one deserves to be abused or threatened while at work. Unless they are reality TV contestants, then it’s probably OK.

Phil Taylor has a reputation for arrogance. I must confess I have never really seen it. Sure, he’s supremely confident but you know, he’s 13 times world champion. I reckon we owe him that.

My advice to Chris Mason is: go and work harder. If you think you must humiliate Taylor in some way (and this makes you weak to begin with since desire for petty revenge is a despicable emotion) then do it on the oche. In the car park? Give me strength.

The best…

The final. Pure and simple. Phil Taylor vs Raymond Van Barneveld. An astonishing match that I almost turned off at 3-0 to Taylor because it looked like it was going to be an embarrassment for Van Barneveld. It ended up as the best match of darts I have ever seen. I know darts has many detractors and the section above unfortunately adds fuel to their fire, but this final was tension and magnificent theatre right from the moment Barney began his fight back at 3-1.

For those not quite in the know, it’s the first to seven sets. To win a set you have to reach three legs. To win a leg you have to score 501 points and end on a double (that awfully narrow ring around the outside of the board). Never mind the rest of the match, the final set was extraordinary. These two players, neither consistently at their best, both managed to pull out supreme shots under the greatest of pressure. The final set went all the way to a sudden death leg. Barneveld won. But what I loved was the technical skill on display as the match reached three hours and more. Both men able to use the barrel of the preceding dart to direct the next just where they wanted it. Both men taking cover shots that kept up the pressure on their opponent. Both men burying doubles when to miss would be to lose.I could go on and on. Really stunning stuff.

And at the end, great respect from both combatants after a true epic. Oh, and Taylor, having lost his crown in what could be considered the cruellest of circumstances, turned round and said it was the greatest final he had ever played in. Perhaps you would like to take note of that reaction, Mr Mason.

• January 2nd, 2007 • Posted in All the rest • Comments: 1

An opening salvo of sporting issues


Here it is, the first post in a new blog. And it’s just to tell you what’s coming up because if you want to know why I’ve popped up here, then you need to click on ‘About This Blog’.


Christmas and early new year is a perennially busy time in sport. For footie fans, the Christmas and New Year programme is swiftly followed by the FA Cup 3rd Round… surely the best day in the English football calendar (unless you’re Bury and have just been chuckled out, of course. Don’t get me started about excessive punishments for minor administration issues).

Football, though, is in danger of eating itself. Never mind the wages and all that mullarky (though they are plainly obscene) worry much more about the on and off field behaviour of players and managers and begin to wonder when people will start saying ‘enough’ in big numbers and turn away. It would be a tragedy.

Football is a peerless spectacle when played with skill and spirit. But it is nauseating when played with no respect for players or officials; and where the most common sight is an incandescent player practically vomiting his rage at an official despite being guilty, and very often when in no position to have an opinion. Grow up. Be men (in men’s football). Have some dignity. Some pride in your performance. Take responsibility for your actions and those of your team mates.


This year we’ve been treated to why the Aussies are still the world’s number one cricket team and why it is that the job only just begins when you win something big. Like the Ashes.

Still, two tests to come and despite the fact that the urn is lost, pride and revenge are massive motivators. This time, there will be no such thing as a dead rubber, I can assure you. But is it time to be able to appeal desicions as a batsman in the same way you can in some tennis events? Now this wouldn’t necessarily have saved England losing the ashes but Andrew Strauss’s last three dismissals were all not out. I think we’d be looking at 2-0, not 3-0 if he hadn’t been out so early on the last day of the second test.


The PDC World Championship of Darts kicked off this week and it is simply marvellous to watch from the players walking through the crowd to the final dart that is sunk in double top. And to all those who think it merely a pub game. Try it. Really try it. From the right distance away too. See how small that treble twenty bed looks? Now get all three of your darts in it. Regularly. And even if you don’t, get them very, very close. Still laughing?


Early next year we have the start of the tennis season from Australia. Henman is still there and still dangerous (and let me get one thing straight, anyone who gets to number 4 in the world and stays in the top ten for five years plus is a player of extraordinary talent who should be respected utterly) but I do expect great things from Andy Murray. He has the game, the aggression and the coach. It’ll be his head that determines his place among the greats should he attain such status.


Six nations rugby union is coming early in 2007. What can England hope for? Well, with Brian Ashton in charge, perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned on. He has spoken of the need to get the enjoyment back into the players and that is a laudable if challenging goal. If he can do it, England are up there with the best. And if he can maintain it in the face of top class opposition, if the players still play with freedom and lack of fear, we can yet come close to retaining the world cup. But it’s hard. Remember Sven Goran Eriksson talked about much the same things when he took over England football. Didn’t last did it? We can hope, though, and that is the essence of supporting any sport.

Well, plenty of issues raised there. I’ll tackle them all in the coming weeks. If you want something discussed sooner rather than later, post a comment and I’ll get on to it. But bear with me… baby Barclay is due on 14th January. Let chaos reign.

• December 22nd, 2006 • Posted in All the rest, Cricket, Football, Rugby, Sport Tech, Tennis • Comments: 3