Well that was a well needed break! I’ve been putting off writing this post for fear of falling back into hold habits, the lure of the world wide web is strong and hard to shake. Not being slavishly glued to the internet has cleared some head space and helped me look at why I was feeling like things were getting overwhelming.
I learnt a lot about myself and about my relationship to the devices, it’s a little confronting coming to terms with how much things like social media, iPad games and the internet were eating up whole swathes of my day and affecting relationships with those around me.
To be clear I didn’t go ‘off the grid’ because I live in the real world where screens and devices are still necessary, but this is what I cut out:
I haven’t looked at Facebook for over 5 weeks and the sky is yet to fall in. If it wasn’t for the blog I’d really love to delete my account.
iPad games like Candy Crush
I knew I had a problem with these, I would even go as far to say that I was addicted. When I started playing it was just a little distraction in between other bits of daily life, but more and more I was playing mindlessly for hours at a time without even realising. It makes me feel ill just thinking about it, not only at all the time wasted, but because I was was using it to ‘check out’. It was a comfortable space, where the only demand on me was getting past the next level.
I still posted the occasional photo up on Insta but totally cut back on scrolling through my feed. I have always been a little OCD when it came to checking my feed, when waking every morning I’d have to scroll back to the last photo I saw before bed just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. That doesn’t sound like healthy behaviour now does it?
Constantly checking for emails
I was checking my emails several times every hour, this habit was a hard to shake.
All computer time
Except for a couple of hours a week when I needed to reply to some important emails, I put my laptop away under the couch and didn’t miss it at all.
This one was scarily easy to give up. Allowing myself to not worry about ‘the next post’ felt amazing. For the first time in many years my mind actually felt clear, it was like a hangover fog had been lifted.
I didn’t cut out watching movies or TV shows on Netflix in the evening whilst crafting, I still listened to podcasts and used the internet to look up information like addresses and weather forecast. The key to not falling into the internet browsing trap was to have a clear intention about what I was going to do and use the device for only that purpose.
For the first time in many years my mind actually felt clear, it was like a hangover fog had been lifted.
I really should have kept a written journal about how I was feeling as the month progressed, but I’m not one for introspection so it didn’t occur to me at the time. This is what I recall.
- It took me about 10 days to shake the compulsion of checking my phone every few minutes, I’d just grab it unconsciously before I realised what I was even doing. I really had to make an effort to resist the urge, but even when my phone was safely tucked away in my bag or another room, I’d still fantasise about what I’d be checking if I had it in my hand.
- I felt like I had won the spare time lottery. Blogging is very time intensive, photo editing and writing a post can take a long time, but it’s all the social media that really eats into my day. I had hours and hours free to think and make and clean.
- Yes my house is much cleaner and more organised than this time last month. I used to hate doing housework, probably because everything was such a mess that it was all too much to want to think about. I’ve never prioritised tidiness and thought I was fine living amongst the disarray, but it was actually making me feel really anxious and unhappy. I realise now that I dreaded housework because it was always overwhelming. Big piles of washing, ironing and dishes were easily ignored because of ‘very important computer work’, but that just created a vicious cycle of more mess and more hiding behind a screen to avoid it.
I feel like I’m on top of it now, and actually take pleasure in tidying up every day. It sounds very ‘domestic’ but I look forward to the routine of washing, folding and putting away, I’m treating it like and exercise in mindfulness.
- I took less photos, which made me realise that I was only documenting to share on Instagram and not for myself. I’m struggling with my feelings about this. Is photographing only Instagramable moments skewing which memories I should value more because more likes = more worthy?
Is photographing only Instagramable moments skewing which memories I should value more because more likes = more worthy?
Overall I feel much calmer and more focused. I’m less distracted and have realised that multi-tasking was not my friend. Trying to do several things at once and getting distracted by my devices just left me with lots of unfinished tasks, and a big fat sense of failure.
So where does this leave me going forward?
I’m very conscious that I could easily slip back into my old habits now that ‘Screen Free September’ is over, I really don’t want to go back to how things were so I’ll be making a few permanent changes which I’ll share in another blog post because this one is already way too long.
So in summary I realised that:
- I was compulsively checking my phone for emails and social media updates.
- I spent way too much time playing iPad games.
- Keeping up with blogging and social media demands was making me feel overwhelmed.
- Multi-tasking is not my friend.
Are you feeling digital overwhelm? Maybe it’s time to slow down.