When 2017 started, I put myself on hiatus from a certain social media platform. Mainly to get myself out of the appalling, time wasting habit of just scrolling through and not even paying attention to the version of life that people choose to show. In doing this I have noticed a number of things, about my own habits, and the habits of our modern-day, always connected, digital society.
Firstly, I do recognise that I am posting this once I am back online and see the irony in using social media to share that fact. I’m not saying that it is a horrible thing and no-one should use it. I think it is a great tool to stay connected to people around the world without as much effort, to promote causes and efforts, and I personally find it so much easier to keep in contact with my friends and family back in Australia and New Zealand because of it. Not too sure it is a reliable source of deciding which colour I like best depending on which picture of a kitten or vegetable I click on…or that I really care.
But back to my observations…
I spend a lot of time on trains commuting, and instead of scrolling I’ve been reading. Books, newspapers, news articles online. Because of this I feel more up to date with current affairs than I have in a long time (still not great, but a huge improvement). I’m also more relaxed when I get home because I have properly chilled out with a book and escaped for a while so am entirely ready to face the next thing (usually food…). Definitely a better use of my time.
Checking our phones is such a default! Someone is left alone because their friend has gone to the bar/to order food/to the toilet/hasn’t turned up yet/gotten off the train/hasn’t gotten in yet, and instead of taking in their surroundings, having a chat with the wait staff or smiling at the cute kid looking at them, they avoid actual human interaction. It’s just made me wonder where this fear of doing nothing comes from.
Additional to this, so many people have their phone constantly to hand and always check to see if there is a notification or a message. And what shocks me most is when they respond in front of the person they are with, with no explanation of the apparent urgency of doing so right away. Call me old fashioned, but I think that you should respect the people you are with. At least explain why it needs to interrupt your time together.
I now am even more conscious to make sure that not only do I not look at my phone when I am with people or waiting for people, but that my phone is actually nowhere in sight so it doesn’t detract from my time with them. The people we are actually with are more important.
Another observation. So many conversations start with, “Did you see that this person did that over the weekend?” or, “Oh, I saw that you got a new…” or even someone goes to share something they have done and the person they are speaking to responds quite uninterested that they already know because they saw it online. We are so likely to post what we do, photos of the event and our reactions so instantly that we no longer are able to share our lives with our friends and colleagues. We know so much about each other without really knowing each other. I’m going to make more of an effort not to post instantly but instead enjoy the conversations around sharing my experiences before I put things online to share with overseas people.
Over this time I’ve been reminded (again) of who my tribe are. They are the ones that I am still in constant contact with, who tell me everything going on in their lives in person, who ask me questions about what’s going on for me. It is so easy to actually contact someone personally, there are so many ways to do it, instead of a tag in a post that the whole world can see. We need to remember not to lose the personal touch.
So, what have I gained from this little experiment? All of these are quite obvious things which were not a surprise, but what is the point in this exercise if I don’t make sure I change something about myself because of it.
These are the things I’m going to make a conscious effort to do more.
1. Pick up the phone more often. I’m so quick to text, but why not have an actual conversation. A lot less is lost in translation then, and plans can be organised more quickly too.
2. Read more. I need to broaden the range of things I read, to find new styles, new authors, find out more about significant people and history. (Recommendations are always welcome)
3. Look out the window more. Everything changes so quickly, and the seasons keep changing the scenery. I don’t appreciate it enough.
4. Be even more guarded with what I post online and when, even though I already am, and what I look at about other people online. I want to have actual conversations, not talk about stuff that is already known and shared. I want to know people better.
5. Be WITH people. Make sure my phone is away when I am catching up with friends. The people in front of me deserve my full attention.
I find it grounding to take a step back sometimes and just see what is going on around me. If I like it, I think what I can do to keep it, and if I don’t, what I can do to make it better. I, and the people in my life, have worked so hard to get to where I am, to where they are. It is worth keeping the good and always improving what we can.
What are we other than a result of the interactions we have with other people. Make sure they are good ones.