Midnight Rant On Internet Habits

It’s quarter to midnight as I write this. I already wrote a nice, quick, inoffensive blogpost, a literary landscape with cake – a throwaway moment in time that helped me deal with my huge appetite for today, in context of my tiredness and need for rest. I keep thinking though. That’s the thing with me; I can’t stop thinking.

Today wouldn’t quite have gone the way it did if I had no Internet. That’s just a fact. Yes, I was overwhelmed because I wanted to do a lot of things, but I would have likely done more of them if distraction wasn’t so readily available. We often talk about access, accessibility – and Internet breaks a lot of barriers for everybody. We no longer have to contend with gatekeepers of knowledge, a lot of it is free for the taking. That IS wonderful, but we have new problems now. The overabundance of information – truthful and false – is one of them. But what really concerns me is the ready availability of online content that is emotive and stirring. When I read articles that activate both thought and emotion, when I read Facebook updates, I feel connected to… something, shaken, moved sometimes. But I have very little control over what I’m going to encounter and weirdly, it’s the easiest thing to access of all the available Things.

I’m not explaining this right. I am a fan of Internet, if one can say such a thing; I certainly don’t expect to stop using it permanently, we’re on my blog over here. But often I have to get offline to realise that I’m relatively isolated; that I haven’t reached out to friends; that I have too many encounters of the purely online kind. Add to this the fact that easily digestible emotional experiences are a click away, and I begin to feel like a rat in an experiment cage, pressing the button for cocaine. Sure, we don’t stop living – we cook and clean and go to work and perform all the productive functions – but I feel that my quality of life suffers without disconnecting from it at least a little bit.

I used to live in a house that had no WiFi – I had no data on my old school phone at the time – and remember experiencing it as a welcome relief. Like, I had to go to a cafe or library to go online, and that would switch me in the work mode. I remember being so relaxed. And sure, when I go vaguely offline nowadays, I let myself look things up – my offline discipline does NOT extend to recipes – but at least I’m grounded in the present, making stuff with my hands. Don’t get me wrong: I love being connected to the web, finding friends and common interests, but I also feel… dried out and stretched and imbalanced when I’m in there for a long time. Perhaps that is why I consciously sought out employment that doesn’t require a lot of online activity?

I don’t know. What I do know is that I experience a pull to use my online experience more consciously. That’s how this blog started: as a private call to action, to create a writing habit and put my words into the world, instead of steadily inhaling someone else’s. Perhaps using Internet sparingly is the answer here, the answer in which I will fail a hundred times, because a month’s long experiment is like a diet, and what I’m after is a lifestyle change: a permanent solution, not a yo-yo effect. And for this, a cutesy cake post, much as it is relatable and descriptive, doesn’t quite cut it. I’m asking myself this: why do you write? Who do you write for? I’ve yet to find the answers.

 

My Month Off Media: Final Thoughts

Today is the day! It is time I end my media fast. It brought me some interesting thoughts that I’d like to share with you.

  1. Down with Facebook! I found that I like not being on it quite so much. Letting the notifications pile up allowed me to see them for what they are: work for an online corporation that I put in for free. While I very much enjoy keeping in touch with friends, it has been useful to challenge my Facebook habits and I think I will keep this mode of more distanced engagement.
  2. Less emotional upset. Thanks to my media fast I read less articles, political and otherwise. While I always enjoyed reading such content, in recent months I realised that it was taking a toll on my emotional state. The endless arguments on Twitter definitely raise my blood pressure and the Someone Is Wrong On The Internet syndrome is something I am happy to do without. So while I still read the odd article, there is less of it and I’m able to choose to engage, rather than devouring the contents of my timelines.
  3. Really missed Netflix. Chilling with an episode of something Netflix-adjacent is definitely my preferred mode of relaxation. I also have favourite YouTube channels that I have craved! Having said that, when I was approaching burnout in the last months of 2018, watching this stuff functioned as a brain candy of sorts: it would help me not think about the immediate problems, but wouldn’t solve any of them. Disengaging has been helpful.
  4. Haven’t read many books. I found that relaxing with an actual book is a thing I struggle to let myself to do. Somehow doing stuff on the screen, even if I’m reading, feels more like work and therefore more “allowed”? That feeds into a bigger phenomenon of giving myself permission to rest and switch off. The things I did read, I ended up bingeing, disrupting my sleep schedule. I sense that my next project will be devoted to my relationship with the written word.
  5. Listened to some podcasts and albums. I didn’t have time to listen as much as I wanted to, but I definitely enjoyed listening to a curated album or playlist (although I had to be offline for that, even Spotify Premium sneaks in recommendations, thanks very much!). I also ventured into listening to podfic (podcast of a fanfic) and very much enjoyed that.
  6. Paid close attention to my favourite newsletters. It was pretty good to actually read those; I signed up for newsletters to learn things and it feels good to follow through on that!
  7. I learnt how to use Pixlr, a new photo editing app. Which is kind of fun, but I know I did it because I wanted something to do on my phone…. screen-free time is definitely a work in progress!
  8. I wrote some fun poetry! It was definitely easier to write it in the first week of the challenge, but poetry has happened and there are plans for more of it… .
An image of Rita staring into the camera seriously, with a provocative tilt to her head. The picture is creatively overexplosed and colourful, Rita is wearing red lipstick, a black top and necklace and a red furry sweater that serves as a wrap.
I was desperate for something to do on the Tube!

Somewhere along the way, I did my taxes, had friends over for a vegan brunch and turned thirty two: my life hasn’t suffered from my media intake choices, I just filled my time differently. I managed to make some important life decisions such as scaling back on work and choosing to focus on certain creative projects over others. Still ahead of me: citizenship debacle, not to mention Brexit itself. But for now, I will try and relax. It’s my birthday weekend, there is a certain someone who will cook me dinner tonight and my media fast is officially over. I’m not guaranteeing anything, mind you – but it might be time for Netflix and chill… .

Being Off Facebook: Good, Bad And Tedious

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: yes, I will publish this post on my Facebook, so feel free to chuckle at the irony. All done? Good.

I don’t know why I called the post that when the results are mostly good. Turn of phrase, really. It’s my blog, so there.

It’s been a week since I went off my social media (mostly) and while that doesn’t seem like much, I know for a fact there are people for whom that’s a long time – and that I am one of them. I used to get offline at my Mum’s, as she steadfastly believes WiFi is harmful to the brain and refuses to get one (there is a USB modem), but nowadays the data on my British phone costs the same within EU; so I didn’t get offline this Christmas. Sadly. I guess I had to fix that!

A selfie of Rita gazing at the camera with a half-smile while wearing a pink bowtie with navy blue polka dots and a black top.
Christmas: didn’t get offline, did get a bowtie. Worth it!

What changed with going offline?

  1. I was calmer right away. My job(s) carry considerable tensions on their own (I work in a special school as well as being a self-employed artist), so any stress reduction is very, very welcome. I expected that would happen, but not the extent.
  2. I missed Instagram soonest. I guiltily flicked through during first two days of this media fast, turning it on for two seconds and then switching it off. On the flipside, I’ve been taking more pictures, even though I can’t post them!
  3. I got lonely! I called my Mum a lot this week, definitely more than usual, I also reached out to my brother and friends. And even though I listened to podcasts before, now they’re a voice that I’m inviting into solitude. When my flatmate was away, I was putting the music on very loudly to chase the feeling away.
  4. Books! My book reading habits made a slow reappearance. Missing the written word and the information is definitely A Thing. I also read my favourite newsletters with more focus (Mark Manson and Frugalwoods currently, if you were wondering).
  5. Feelings! Whenever I experience discomfort I have to deal with it like a grown human because There Is Nothing To Do On My Phone. Only so much email I can read. Although sometimes I can lose myself in some photo editing, but it’s not an obsessive or frequent activity. So when things feel Not Good, it has to be journaling or meditating or exercise or talking to another human or any other way of Dealing With It (spoiler alert: also been cutting processed sugar, so not eating my troubles just now).
  6. Poetry. I started leaving for work a bit early, just so I can get a seat on the Tube and write some poems. I probably wrote more poems this week than in the last six months or so. Having a dedicated time and a lack of other options decidedly helps. I also managed to write down some comedy monologues – if you open the door, things come in!
  7. Productivity has benefitted, no question. Recently I applied for an artistic residency four (FOUR) days before the deadline. For a person like myself, who is no stranger to frantically pressing “send” at 23.59 before the deadline turns the potential application into a pumpkin-flavoured disappointment, that is a Big Thing.
  8. I’m making other changes. It’s January and I have a couple of important months ahead of me. Can I obtain British citizenship or is it too late? Can I stay in my current employment or is it not feasible? I have already made some decisions on several fronts, and I usually tend to procrastinate over those while Scrolling Through Stuff. The New Year’s energy likely helps (new beginnings!), but so does the clarity of not having the online escape.
  9. My brain has slowed down. That is a good thing. My brain usually straddles the line between “lightning fast” and “all the directions, all at once”, and then it beats itself to death with its own grey matter. I never ever want to take cocaine, for Reasons.
  10. I’m up-to-date with most housework. I have reasonable amounts of dishes to clean, and while the laundry isn’t folded, it has been done regularly and properly. I’m hardly perfect in that respect, but…. it’s been easier.
A picture of a lunchbox filled with cooked salmon on bed of rice, with visible sugar snaps, broccoli and cherry tomatoes.
This is some serious foodporn, amirite

I do miss my social media, but there is a strange satisfaction in holding off checking them. I even went on Facebook event pages a couple times when there was no other way, copied the hours and address and exited without scrolling through my timeline or checking anything. Guess resistance can feel good… Maybe it is a little tedious, stopping myself every time I would have accessed the easy pleasure of reading through people’s lives (and links!). But so far the results have been worth it.

I have as of this writing 72 notifications on my Facebook. I wanted to check it today as I’ll have little time tomorrow, but maybe should hold out for a hundred…?

I’m Going Offline! Well, Kind Of. Mostly.

My name is Rita. I am a solo artist.

There is a chance you knew this about me. I do solo shows: comedy, mostly, often with swear words in the titles, but also theatre and poetry (got something cooking right now!). As a solo artist, the only way to work with others is when I get cast in somebody else’s work, or when I hire someone. So most of the time, I work alone.

I. Can. Not. Get. Stuff. Done. For The Life Of Me. And if you tell me that I do, I’ll rephrase: I get Some Stuff Done, Sometimes. The ideas/creation ratio is deeply, deeply unsatisfactory.

fuck-it-instagram
Me in 2017, swearing in my first show’s title.


Facebook and their compatriots put some serious work into reprogramming my brain. I will humbly admit that I may be on the susceptible end of the spectrum: I like to read, I’m procrastination-prone… I was made for loving you, baby…! (Internet). My intense reading habit – something my family spoke with half-admiration, half-exasperation when I was a child – has shifted online almost completely. I’ve been paying library fines for about 6 months, because I do, in fact, want to read those books about history of hip-hop and British class system (two different books, though that would be a fun read….). Bottom line, I NEED TO STOP BEING ON-LINE, PRONTO.

Am I deleting my Facebook account? No. Not that simple.

As an artist, I need an Online Presence. As a human, I enjoy easy access to my friends and finding out about events I might attend. Overall, I can’t be fully offline – I have work that comes via email, I have things that need to be promoted. Rather than disappearing, I want to show up consciously, when I have someting to say.

So what I’m choosing to do is, from 4 January for about a month, get on Facebook once a week – to publish a blogpost. Twitter and Instagram will also benefit from my blogging, but that will be the extent of it; there will be no Netflix, YouTube or NowTV. I even plan to download albums off Spotify, so that I can remain offline from it, too.

I’m leaving my burgeoning podcasting habit alone. I tend to clean when I listen to podcasts, so that makes them good in my book.

Will it be worth it? Will it, as I hope, shift my focus a bit?

I have a lot of work on my plate this month – completing my tax return for one. It will definitely be interesting to see whether I feel any different or function better. For now, I invite you to hang out with me as I’m trying this thing out. The next post might be all about my favourite YouTube shows, just because I’ll miss them…!

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