Far from the madding crowd
January 4, 2017 § 4 Comments
I had a week. A week without my children, in the middle of the summer holidays. So I did what any sensible person would do. I headed home.
Some of my friends were mystified. Why home? Didn’t I want to go away? Spend some time away from everything familiar? Be by myself in a beautiful place? No. I wanted solitude – proper solitude, not the kind where you’re only really alone when you’re in your hotel room.
The first day was spent driving 1100km across South Africa. It was tiring, sure, but I was headed home – to my own bed, my own fridge and store cupboard, my own bathroom. I didn’t listen to music, or podcasts or audio books as I drove. I just drove, in silence, sending the odd text message to concerned friends at each stop I made, focused on the road ahead and mesmerised anew by the beauty of the scenery.
When I got home, I mostly disengaged from texting and social media, apart from texting my kids every day. I wasn’t rude – I answered messages that arrived – but when I was ready, when it suited me.
Perhaps it’s confirmation bias but I see many other people like me, who are choosing to take a step back from social media and the pull of the smartphone. I’m redefining how I use both. Because it feels sometimes like I am being used by social media and not the other way around. As though I am the product.
I’m tired of feeling as though I must be always on, always available, always apologising for not answering this or that post or message swiftly enough, constantly feeling that pressure. And I know not everyone feels like that, but I often do, and it’s a pressure I no longer feel the need to capitulate to.
The mob mentality frustrates me, the constant nitpicking and negativity depresses me, and the blatant stupidity of some people leaves me despairing of the world we’re leaving behind for Keith Richards, as the meme would have it… In all seriousness, though, we may just self-destruct by the time he does.
But I digress. In that week of stepping back, I noticed a few things. I slept better. I thought better. I solved problems better. My mood was better. I focused better. I was happier. And boy, did I get stuff done. All because I remembered that I have a smartphone for my convenience, not everyone else’s.
Also, I really do think we all suffer from TMI – too much information. It’s quantity, not quality, and I don’t think it’s doing us any good. It certainly feels overwhelming to me.
I am determined to have a burnout-free year in 2017. Twice last year was enough. And I think the constant squawks, beeps and cackles of my smartphone don’t help. I removed the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone a year or two ago, and that has helped, but I am also determined to be less of a slave to messages too. I’ll answer, of course, but at my convenience. And my social media time is going to be drastically reduced.
As Eccles so often declares in The Goon Show, “I’m a brain worker!” I need to be able to think logically, creatively, analytically – to do my work, to earn my bread and butter, and with any luck, some jam too. Yet my brain feels as if it has been invaded by a million mundanities, a billion banalities, a trillion trivialities.
It’s time to reclaim it; I’m taking out the trash and putting boundaries in place so it doesn’t creep back in.
Quality over quantity, baby. That’s what this year is going to be about.
Leave a message – I’ll get back to you. It just won’t always be straight away.