Updated: Aug 28, 2019
The weeks leading up to my recent holiday saw me feeling increasingly anxious and overwhelmed. It was a realisation that I was taking more notice of what was happening in the digital world and getting obsessed with what I am not achieving than actually enjoying what I do do .. so I took the chance to have a total break - this is my journal. I was going to split it into 2 parts but it's only 8 minutes - so make a cuppa , switch off your notifications and take some time to read .. with out a ping or bleep to interrupt you.
It’s Saturday – we are due to go on holiday tomorrow with the prospect of no Wi-Fi and so I am starting an experiment – to come off social media and all related on line activities for the whole week – the thing is I am the advocate for getting reconnected with the real world – but lately I have become a victim of the very thing I support others on .
I am stressed!! ... this will be our first week away for over 6 months and our first week away with not the entire tribe for over a year. I am tired ... tired beyond belief and stressed – did I say that! There is no switch off time – I am an introvert who is peopled out, through clients, through work and more than anything else through the constant interruption. And yet these interruptions are totally within my own control and yet they are not. Every moment of every day I am receiving notifications, bleeps, updates and I am checking that bloody phone at least 30 – 40 times day, perhaps even more I would imagine more. Perhaps I am in that category discovered by Arianna Huffington who saw that individuals checked on average 150 times a day!!!!
I am getting angry at stories on the news which have no relevance to me and getting offended by the constant offence of others on ‘the net ‘. You cannot have an opinion unless it is totally PC, or you are labelled and trolled. The PC stuff is getting so you don’t even know what you can say, do or wear! Twitter is a sewer it appears of negativity and spiteful remarks, Instagram which I quite enjoy frustrates me as I struggle to build my following – this week I gained a further 12 followers and yet due to unfollowers I am no further forward – unfollow – who has time to unfollow people! But the world of Instagram is a fickle friend wanting your attention on constant basis for fear of rejection.
Facebook is full of sponsored ads showing me how I should be running my business – making millions whilst I sleep, and I have developed a serious case of comparitonitus – not doing enough, not good enough, always anxious about needed to do more… and yet although know it physically makes me ill ... I keep checking!!
And my mental health is suffering ... and more importantly my young son is suffering. He is 4 – he interrupts me as all 4-year olds do to ask question after question with the eyes of the young and curious … and when he does it feels like nails on a blackboard because it is totally suffocated by the other constant pulls on my time ... plus I am spending more time with him looking at my phone than being with him … I am wired, I am on the edge, I am having to take deep breaths before answering people ... I am stressed about coming off it, will my business collapse, what will people say when I am not there … and … I … Need to GET A GRIP ... and remove myself to save distance from the nonsense this has become … so this is it …
The car journey for the first part of holiday was a revelation. Normally I would have been checking my phone but not today... and the weird thing is already I feel different ... I have deleted twitter and the news channel (nonsense non-stories about celebrities – that are weirdly mixed in with stories of fictional characters – I do think some people can’t tell the difference). I spend the day engaged with our son playing a range of board games as we make camp at his Granny’s, I read, and I thought I would be really missing it – but no. I don’t seem to miss it at all! ... could it really be this easy.?
The first thing to say is that I hardly slept ... I fell asleep easily but woke up around 2 am – and I was feeling so anxious – anything and everything ... when this happens I normally go straight to checking my phone ... but not today – it’s not next to the bed – just a normal alarm clock ... and so I toss and turn, I try mindful thinking, and yet still ... the house is burgled , the dog is abandoned , the rabbit has died.. I have no idea where my passport is (I don’t need it it just occurred to me I don’t know where it is) – I am sure I am behind with something tax related … it goes on and on … I fall asleep again about 1 hour before my son wakes up and give thanks that Granny is on hand.
However ... Monday continued and here is the thing ... we are on a boat and my attention and focus has been needed all day as I am the driver ... no longer attached to my social world in the digital space I am waving to other boat drivers , I am spotting wildlife , I am enjoying conversation with hubby and little by little I am realising something .. no once has someone been offended by anything, - not by a word used, a dress worn, a hairstyle chosen, ... it seems the constant debate that occurs on line – is not happening – I mean I give it you we are in darkest Norfolk on the broads but this real world ... I am starting to like it… the experiment continues … (including having time to sit and write up my journal uninterrupted ... I am off now to read a BOOK – yep that thing made of paper with printed words on it ... who knew you could still do that!
The day starts with a glorious sun rise – driving the boat in the sun is totally therapeutic- there is a need to be in the moment and yet there is time to look and see the world around you. It feels like forever since I spent this long actually doing something totally. Ducks greet us for breakfast and I take note of all the houses and the whole different world that exists for Boat people – yes, it’s not the same – you don’t see this life from the road and I certainly wasn’t seeing anything whilst I was head down in that bloody phone.
I have set the phone to ring so that people can call me if needed – I get one or 2 texts but I notice that communication is actually back to normal levels that I remember from way back when – no longer responding immediately to every notification ... no longer having to validate every post and I haven’t felt the need for an emoticon all day.
I will admit there have been moments when I am a bit lost, when I start to worry what is happening in that other world without me. ... what if no one misses me ??? what if it all collapses beneath me because I am on not hash tagging my life???
Bit overall it seems that nothing is missing me that needs attention and I start to wonder why I was spending so much of time connected to invisible people.
Now I do have to admit that I spent most of last night awake – not because of phone anxiety but because the only place to moor up was a boar yard which was deserted at night and the wonderful experience of total quiet with a glass of red turned into fear of being murdered ... but now on Wednesday in day light I do remember that not once did I think about checking my phone – my anxiety was good old fashioned fear and imagination and no amount of checking my phone would have changed that.
I am really pleased that although I did enter the digital world today it was to do my uni study ... and not once was I tempted to open the social media apps… therefore allowing me to feel accomplished at the end... I am missing Instagram I admit – especially my celebrant page as it is filled with lovely photos of happy occasions. I did think today as I took photos – why am I taking these if not to share them ?... but then I realised I could enjoy taking them and editing them and creating an album – which I may well share but as a complete project.
We walked 2 miles in the autumn drizzle to enjoy a church with green men adorned on the font, I saw herons catching fish and geese in formation flying overhead. I have taken less photos as I am enjoying seeing the world outside of the phone lens and taking those moments that really capture the experience.
The question I ma having now is – firstly … what possessed us to think we are boat people ? (we have booked a premier inn for our last night and never has the moon house with its clean showers seemed so appealing)... but also secondly how to manage my business next week and do the required social media without getting back into the habit of constant checking.. my head feels less overwhelmed – I know there is loads to catch up on, but I can see it clearly in productive chunks ... I am amazed by the effect social media has had on me and the difference I notice now I am out of it…
I will say the Premier Inn and its hot bath was bliss … but sitting here on Sunday night I am able to truly reflect on my week out of the digital world. I spent last night planning my week ahead and it seemed to feel a lot more manageable. I made lists and thought about what to focus on ... there is still a lot, but I seem to be able to ‘see it all ‘a lot clearer.
I have left numerous groups on social media which I didn’t contribute to but would add to my anxiety about not being enough, I have left twitter altogether with no plans to return ... I have chosen a weekly topic and laid out my posts... but I have also been wary of the habit returning. Once you start posting – which I did briefly yesterday and did my first business post today ... you generate reaction, and this leads to checking ... but so far so good ... my plan is to do my social media in the morning and then recheck after lunch and then in the evening, I will respond only to direct messenger in between.
More importantly I have got the P word Perspective ... so much of what I was getting worked up about doesn’t even come up in the real world. I continued last night to be able to spend 2 hours – yes 2 hours just working on my planning and study ... no more the constant brain strain of switching between platforms.
Will I engage back in the digital world ?– for sure – but now I see how it can drive my business not drive me ... do I see the need to wary and do I believe there is an addiction? – for sure as well. Social media was taking up so much of my time and now I feel I have my life back ... let’s see how it continues over the coming weeks!
BTW when I did finally go into my face book account I had over 200 notifications ... not one of them needed any real response ... some perspective, a grip. I sure needed to get it!