Dear Social Media,
The time has come. There’s been highs, there’s been lows. There’s been key life events, life changing moments, times of insecurity and others of unadulterated vanity. But I’ve seen this relationship play out before, like the boyfriend I cannot bear to be apart from, yet cannot live alongside either. I want to remember what it was like before I endlessly and aimlessly scrolled through post after post of people I haven’t even met in real life, delving into lives I care not one jot for, comparing myself to unachievable goals (my hair is never going to grow THAT long without extensions). Basically, what I’m trying to say is; enough is enough. I want my life back. It’s been an amazing decade, but all good things must come to an end. You will not change and, so, I must instead. We can still see each other, sometimes; I know you’re not going anywhere. But for my own sanity, this is au revoir, adieu, farewell.
So, that’s it. A decade and I’m done. Not completely; this is the digital age and my publishers probably wouldn’t be best pleased to hear I am totally retreating from online interaction, however, I have spent the past few months reflecting on this issue and the conclusion I have come to is that for my own wellbeing, and that of my children, my habits need to change. To be fair to social media, it’s not just these portals but my phone use in general (kind of going to firmly leave the blame for that at Steve Jobs’ door). Already, in the past two months, I’ve cut my phone usage from over 4 hours to under 2 hours per day (and at least an hour of that is dog walking with Pokémon Go); that’s at least an hour of day of not aimlessly scrolling through posts and photos which have no relevance or benefit to my life whatsoever. And the reasons behind this drastic decision?
- My ‘Self’: Social media is a font of knowledge and to cut off completely would be to defend myself, protect myself from comparisons to others. But I gave up reading beauty magazines in my early twenties because as an overweight, young mother, I found I was constantly beating myself up over many issues from not having as nice hair as Jennifer Aniston, not being as skinny as Keira Knightley and not being as capable as Davina McCall at having it all; the career, the looks, the excellent parenting skills. And when I reflect now, I was a really good, young mum. But the magazines didn’t make me feel that way. Plus, all those women listed were famous people; social media allows you to compare yourself with real life people, the ‘keeping up with the Jones’’ (or should that be Kardashians these days?) mentality. Is it really helpful for my mental health and my self-esteem? I fear not. The only person I need to compare myself to is my former self so unless I only permanently look at Facebook memories, the lustre of social media is beginning to fade with me.
- Parenting: I’m currently studying Child Psychology & Childhood Studies with the Open University which has given me more opportunity for reflection. What is the fundamental rule of parenting? Setting an example. I also recently attended a useful presentation by Digital Awareness UK which also pricked my conscious; children learn behaviours from their parents. So, scrolling through my phone at any given opportunity is only setting the same precedent to them. They are losing the art of conservation, they (I’m talking about my own kids here) are losing the ability to socially interact. I have always been quite openminded about my children’s use of the internet as it is a relatively new phenomenon. I didn’t grow up with a mobile phone, I didn’t grow up with the internet, so who I am to tell them what is right and what is wrong as to how much screen time they have? But if I can reflect it’s making me less productive, I can only assume it’s making them less productive. If you don’t believe me, then watch this. All of us, me and my children, must learn to live with technology, social media and the effects thereof, but I feel the time has come to make changes and set an example as much as I do with ensuring they don’t talk with their mouths full and take their shoes off at the front door.
- Time Management: If I had a pound for every time I complain there aren’t enough hours in the day then I wouldn’t need to bother writing any books. The truth is, if I didn’t spend so much of my time idly scrolling through crap online, I’d have the time I crave. Equally, as soon as a notification pings on my phone (and, yes, I know I can switch the notifications off on my phone but I’m a curious person; the apps are still there to go browsing on), I’m on it, replying to someone when I’m already in the middle of something, when they/ it could wait until I have time to spare, time to give more freely, instead of feeling the pressure to deal with it now.
- Social Interaction – a lost art: I have blogged about this before (it’s one of my bug bears; I’m bound to blog about it again) but I find I am targeted a lot by the ‘it’s okay for you’ brigade. And I have slowly come to the conclusion this is because of how much of my life I share online. So, if I don’t share it, others will not be able to make assumptions on my behalf. Also (while I’m having a little moan), there are those who say, ‘oh, didn’t you see my post about that?’ No! If I’m your friend and it’s important, text me, phone me, meet me for a coffee, but TELL ME! Facebook may seem like a public noticeboard to you, but it has algorithms and it’s telling me something about our friendship if your post didn’t come up in my timeline!
So, I hear you say, you’ve managed to moan and whinge on about what you’re not going to be doing in the 2020s, so what exactly are you going to do? Well, I’ll tell you. I’m winding back the clock ten years and resurrecting my blog. In 2010 I was a fresh-faced thirty-year-old, a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme, eager to make my mark and blog about my journey to being published. I blogged about personal experiences and how they related to my writing, what I was learning which was helping me hone my craft and now I’m four books in, with a fifth on the way, I find I have learnt quite a lot in the past decade so I figure it’s time to start giving back. Now that I’m studying psychology (with the aim of eventually becoming a psychodynamic counsellor), I also have the benefit of linking proven theoretical psychology to the art of writing women’s fiction.
And, what am I doing about social media? Going back to basics; all on my laptop. Which means I can still indulge in a trawl through Twitter – the finest of procrastination for any writer when they should be writing – but it means I’m doing it on my terms; I’m taking back control. Let’s review this in six months and see how I’m getting on…
In the meantime, do pop back or follow my blog to see what else I’m blogging about in 2020.
Plus, I am serious about helping more fledgling writers this year so watch this space in January to see what I’m offering in terms of critiquing services, online creative writing classes and online workshops such as the psychology of romance.
Finally, a very happy New Year to you and I hope the 2020s are a successful decade on your writing journey, as much as the past decade has been for me.