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.
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.