On being permanently plugged in

On being permanently plugged in
The freeway is tantalising close but impossible to access. I am at the end of a dead end street with a huge wall separating me from where I need to go. I have no idea how to get back to Brisbane from our day trip. My phone’s battery is hovering at 6% and draining rapidly. Google maps has been crashing regularly. I have an ageing refidex in the car that I do not trust and two tired young boys keen to get home. It’s moments like these I realise how reliant I am on being plugged in. I try google maps again, praying the battery won’t run flat. I know I won’t be able to rely on the guided GPS and try to memorise the route home. Even that seems a difficult feat. Holding so much temporary information in a brain used to relying on a hand held device for short term memory.

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?

Arrow 3

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.

15 thoughts on “On being permanently plugged in

  1. Clare at Girl Fifteen says:

    Great post Robyna, I think good ole fashioned maps need to make a come back in our lives! I think we sometimes forget that our brains do retain the information and we don’t have to rely on our devices to do everything. They almost encourage self doubt, ‘am I sure I know the way, let’s just check’ to find that yes, you did know the way!
    I love my phone and iPad and computer, and Instagram is my favorite.
    A responisbility app? You should get right on that!!
    Clare at Girl Fifteen recently posted…One+Four=Life. Weekly Photos 43/52.My Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I was just thinking, my kids may never learn to read a map! More maps, more figuring things out by ourselves, more trying things out without the internet as a crutch has to be a positive thing.

  2. Carly Findlay says:

    Great post Robyna. Social media is SO useful if we use it right. Having said that, it’s nice to slack off a little, too.

    You asked if there’s an app for how you use social media – well, at uni I was advised to use a thing that stops me from accessing certain websites while online – so I could get my bloody thesis done. I swear I have a double degree – a master of communication and procrastination.

    I haven’t forgotten your email either – just been super busy x

    • Robyna says:

      Yes – allocating time so that you don’t try to steal the 2 minutes, that becomes 15 minutes and then you have lost all momentum in what you should have been doing in the first place (or that might just be me!)

  3. Pingback: Plugged vs Unplugged | missbitsandpieces

  4. RebeccaHJ says:

    I totally hear you on the maps thing – I have no internal GPS and could get lost in my own street! That’s the thing about a smartphone – they have made themselves indispensable to us by being so damn smart. The idea of sending my phone away would really give me a panic too, whereas maybe even a few years ago, I wouldn’t have been bothered.

    I am trying to be strict with myself about social media too – you just get sucked in. I’ve started putting my phone on ‘do not disturb’ during the day and I’m nearly finished writing my first novel – good incentive to not fritter way time.

    Great post and loving this discussion x
    RebeccaHJ recently posted…PLUGGED V UNPLUGGED: a conversationMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      It’s such a great chat going on between blogs isn’t it? I think I am going to try and challenge myself a bit more. Try to remember phone numbers and how to get to places!

  5. Kath says:

    I love maps! Browsing through a beautiful atlas is wonderful! I also love looking at Google Maps and Google Earth. I do keep a regional street directory in my car, which I like to use too.
    I can totally relate to the wasting time online, and having to be stricter with myself. I jump on the computer for a particular reason and think ‘Ooooh, I’ll just quickly look at some site or other first’, then before you know it half an hour is gone and I can’t remember what I was going to do in the first place.

    • Robyna says:

      I do that all the time! It’s worse than when I go into the pantry, get distracted by something (normally the biccies) and then can’t remember what I was there for in the first place.

  6. Lisa says:

    I totally hear you. I have two friends who have pulled the pin on Facebook because they felt it wasn’t adding any value. I am still addicted I am afraid xx

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