We make our way home. I am able to negotiate the back streets without my crutch. My crutch – my phone – has been failing me lately. The battery is shot and the memory fills up without warning. It needs to be sent away and fixed. But I have hesitated. Even in its run-down state I am finding it hard to part with it. How will I check Instagram? Facebook? Email? How will I google things I need to know the instant I need to know them? Isn’t it funny that my reasons for not wanting to give up my phone for a few days has nothing to do with it being a phone? But a fear of being away from instant access to my social networks. A fear of being unplugged.
Design for Mankind wrote this wonderful post about our reliance and resistance to the pervasiveness of being plugged in. So many of us struggle with it. We can see our addictive behaviours and it makes us uncomfortable. We acknowledge that we are being manipulated by advertisers through the collection of our online bread crumbs. Yet, it’s so hard to give up something that makes life so much easier and feel so much more connected.
I scroll though Facebook and then admonish myself. “Why are you wasting your time? What are you looking for?” Sometimes there will be an interesting article, a funny meme, a beautiful photograph, a thoughtful discussion. All those things make my life a little richer and they are the things that bring me back. There is also complete nonsense that makes my blood boil, ads that mean nothing to me, people offering me things I don’t need and a suspicious lack of news from those I consider friends but Facebook decides I don’t need to see. This offers nothing in the way of enrichment. I try to monitor my mood as I step away from a scrolling binge – has this left me happier? With more peace? Or has the opposite occurred? Sixty to seventy percent of the time the opposite occurs. (But Instagram still leaves me with a smile)
Why do I choose to plug in so often? Partially, as a blogger and freelancer, I feel pressure to do so. But in all honesty, the majority of my social media time is not spent promoting my blog or my business. In fact, I will often go to do something blog or business related and find myself completely distracted. I have concocted a feasible reason for my social media use but it’s not the underlying reason I remain connected.
To be honest, sometimes I really don’t understand why I spend so much time on social media. I do not believe the amount of time spent yields the right kind of return. If I directed the time spent on social media into writing, creating and promoting myself differently, I think I would be much further along in all those endeavours. If I just redirected that time to playing my kids we’d all be happier.
It’s not really a matter of technology. It’s a matter of will power, respect, recognising addictive behaviours and the things that don’t add value to my life. It’s about choosing where I invest my time and being mindful of it. It’s about valuing other people and other things above my online connections.
Social media is not inherently evil or a waste of time. There is a lot of good in it. Tons of good in it, really. I just need to get better about choosing when I plug in. That is my choice and my responsibility. I wonder, is there an app for that?
This piece was inspired by the post referred to above: Plugged vs. Unplugged and Pip’s suggestion that we blog about this interesting topic as a group within the BWP alumni. You can catch Pip’s post here. Others will link up with their thoughts in the comments on her post.