Over the weekend my world went into social-media meltdown.
A month or so ago my ex-partner contacted me to let me know he’d found an old box of my stuff and would I come and get it from his front porch, please. The box contained dozens of photos from the 90s – mostly eighteenth birthday parties and twenty first birthday parties (yes that’s how old I am!). I rifled through the contents and was moved to see so many beautiful faces of old friends, most of whom I’m still in touch with to some degree. So I posted the news online and promised to scan the good ones and share them, and people seemed keen on the idea.
On Sunday I finally managed to scan them, post them, and tag the dozen or so people I’m still in touch with.
Then my Facebook went insane. Completely bonkers.
I lost a whole day to it. It was wonderful – it made a lot of people really happy to see these reminders of times long past. We were (most of us) so much thinner, and drunker, and freer than we are now.
So. I got notifications from my friends who were in the photos. And then I got notifications from their friends. Sunday was mad, Monday was still pretty hectic. I got no work done on anything else. It has slowed down a little now but it’s still going on. I have RSI in my right shoulder and an ache in my right forearm from clicking.
And it got me to thinking.
I love the internet. I live so much of my life online, and I don’t see that as a bad thing. It’s how I connect with people, learn things, keep up with the news, find things to read, play games, discover random shit. But holy hell I need to SLOW DOWN.
My time is precious to me. My mental state is easily fragmented. I have work to do and a life to lead outside of what I do online.
So here is my slow-click manifesto. It’s a call to action to myself, rather than just a statement of vague intentions. To be honest, I don’t know if I can do it, I have so many bad habits that have become so deeply engrained. But hey, I’ll give it a go.
- I will think before I click. Everywhere I go online uses up time that could be spent doing something else. I will ask myself, before I click, do I need to be here, right now? Is this important enough to spend my time on? Do I really need to go back, over and over again, to look at stats or updates, or can I just do it once then leave it alone.
- I will just do whatever it is I’m actually doing. If I’m out walking, or cooking dinner, or working on my novel, that’s what I will do. I won’t also check status updates or WordPress stats or the news. That shit can wait.
- I will recall my purpose. If my purpose for using social media is to connect with friends and family or to share ideas, I will try to do that consciously and in a focused way. If I’m doing research for my story or checking the weather, that’s what I’ll do. I will not get side-tracked by pictures of cats, or stories about celebrities who I actually have no interest in.
- I will not double dip. I will not check social media on multiple devices in the hope that they will say different things. If my ipad says there’s nothing new on Facebook, I will trust that my laptop and mobile will say the same thing. (It’s true, I actually do cross-check on different devices sometimes! Oh god that’s embarrassing.)
- I will suspend my outrage. This doesn’t mean I won’t care. There are a lot of terrible things happening in the world and to shut down your ability to feel empathy for other people is to lessen yourself as a human being. But the world is complex and things on the internet may be misrepresented, or partially represented, or presented without a full context for the purpose of generating social media outrage. I will try to find the balance between feeling empathy and not being swept along by outrage about things or people I actually don’t know anything about.
- I will handle the news with care. For every terrible, horrible, senseless, violent and horrific thing in the news, there are countless lives lived with kindness, generosity, courage and selflessness that will never be reported. I will not let my reading of the news warp my view of human nature or of the world in general.
- I will stare into the void. If the reason I’m compulsively clicking is because I’m actually bored, or exhausted, or lonely, or sad, I will stop and let myself feel whatever shitty thing it is I’m feeling. Then I’ll try to do something about it. Call somebody. Read a book. Do some writing. Get out of the house for a walk. Close my eyes for five minutes.
- I will value quality over quantity. I will go slower and deeper online. I will read the things that speak to me and read them more carefully. I will take the time to make genuine contact with friends and family. I will do more than just click – I will linger in places that make me think, that offer insight and sustenance.
So, I’m going to give it a go. I’ll let you know in a week or so how it pans out.