On breaking up with my phone – week three

Life

I am on week three of this experiment and I have a lot of random thoughts about it. I will share them here.

I have reached a point where I can leave a room and not have my phone attached to me. In fact, I have ditched my phone as an alarm clock and I keep it in another room at night to charge. Since I’ve done this I have slept better.

In general I am feeling happier and more at peace. I also feel more resilient. Before I started this, for awhile I’d lost my desire to do things that I like to do.  I didn’t really think it was depression. It was just a general sense of ennui. That is starting to lift and I’m finding my interest in things coming back.

The thing that I’ve liked about this program is that I don’t have to cut social media entirely out of my life. This has been really nice because I like checking in on what my friends on FB/IG/Twitter are up to. But it feels easier to place boundaries on it when I’m only doing it on my PC and not my phone. Though, I do feel like I could work on limiting my Social media visits even more. I’d like to limit my FB and Twitter visits to once a day or less.

The only two apps that I’ve deleted from my phone that I miss are Instagram and Strava. When this whole thing is over, I will reinstall IG, but maybe only focus on my photography account for awhile before diving into my personal account. Strava is nice because it gave me useful running stats that I’m missing. I don’t miss Facebook or Twitter or any of the others.

I decided on some ground rules for using my phone (and this comes directly from the book). I am not going to use my phone when I’m around other people. If I’m hanging out with another person, my task is to hang out and enjoy the company of the other person. If I am going to check my Instagram feed I’m going to set aside some time when I can look through it and enjoy it. Multitasking never worked for me. Also: no phone at the table while I’m eating!!

Yesterday I was working at the Mt Hood Farmer’s Market, representing the library booth. I didn’t have much to do except greet people coming and going. So I did a lot of people watching and I noticed the people in the other booths had their faces buried in their phones. Then later on when I was at the grocery store I noticed  that two kids  were wandering around the store staring into the phone. I’m totally not writing this to be judgmental because I am one of these people, I think we all are. It just struck me as odd yesterday when I noticed it.  There is this world happening right here, how on earth can  the phone be more interesting than what is going on out here in the real world?

I decided to stop using the website Goodreads entirely. A couple of weeks ago I went to edit some of my book information and Amazon was totally in-your-face trying to sell me books. I mean, it wasn’t even subtle. It bugged me. They are comodifying my reading and are so blatant about it. So I’m done. I’ve been keeping track of my reading in my Hobonichi anyway so I don’t really need it. Making this decision, I feel this intense sense of relief. I can just read a book and not share what I’m reading with the world, unless I want to. Wow. It’s weird how that makes me feel so free. I had no idea that the website had that effect on me to begin with until I felt the freedom from it that I do now.

The book is now instructing me to take 24 hours off from all screens. So no texting no email, no computer, no television, etc. So tomorrow after my run (because fuck that, I’m not turning off my music during my run), I’m cutting myself off from the Matrix for 24 hours. I’m kind of excited to see what I accomplish.

A note about the featured image: Almost exactly a year ago today I went on an unintended technology break when my phone’s battery died while camping. I spent 24 hours away from a screen of any kind. It was fucking fantastic. I took the featured (pinhole) photo during that time and I had to guess as to what I thought the exposure time should be. I think it turned out just fine without having to using the Pinhole Assist app!

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This has been a crazy week

Life

I am not even sure where to start. It’s been a roller coaster of events and emotions.

  • On Saturday I was driving  back from a party literally in the middle of nowhere when the “check engine” light came on. I spent the rest of the 20 minute drive praying that I make it home (the temperatures outside were in the teens). By the time I got home it was acting really weird. So it has been in the shop all week – costing us a lot of money to fix.
  • I finally quit Facebook. I deactivated my account. It was a hard decision but I really feel like it is the right thing to do. Facebook is a huge time suck and I am finding myself busy with lots of projects lately that I want to focus my time and energy on. I am going to miss my friends there but I need an extended break.
  • I have been really, really sick this past week with the flu. like, kind of scary sick.  Last night I got up in the middle of the night to throw up and moved too fast. I got to the bathroom door and saw stars and cried for help and the next thing I remember I am laying on the floor in the hallway and my husband’s face is hovering over me (just like in the movies). He is calling 911. I was confused and didn’t know how I got there. The paramedics came but it ended up only being low blood pressure. I’ve been sleeping all day and I think I am finally over the worst of it.
  • I won a contest! A film swap contest. I will talk more about that later.

On Twitter and The Moment.

Random

My husband sent me a link to an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times, written in 2010, about Twitter and how it affects us and the way we interact with the world around us. There were many questions raised in the article. Raf was interested in the idea that Twitter, Facebook, and other social media encourages the commodification of self. My reading of the article touched on some thoughts I have had recently about social media: this idea that it takes us out of the present moment and causes us to experience that moment differently.

Orenstein makes an interesting observation that would seem to indicate that the act of tweeting a moment makes it clearer:

Distilling my personality provided surprising focus, making me feel stripped to my essence. It forced me, for instance, to pinpoint the dominant feeling as I sat outside with my daughter listening to E.B. White. Was it my joy at being a mother? Nostalgia for my own childhood summers? The pleasures of listening to the author’s quirky, underinflected voice? Each put a different spin on the occasion, of who I was within it.

However, she goes on to question that this distillation was less about her observation of the moment and more about how she wants others to react to her moment. Interesting thought. Do we  build a facade with each tweet or Facebook status update? I think we do. Some of us more than others. And we all build that facade in different ways. For example, I get a little bit irritated by my friends who post a laundry list of all of the fabulous things they did that weekend. Because of this I try to “be more authentic” in my updates by posting both the good and the bad. But I am just as guilty as anyone else because my carefully constructed facade is about me “wanting to appear more authentic” than those who want to “appear to have fabulous lives.”

Then there is this idea that social media takes us out of the present moment. It has been something I have thought about  a lot. The other day I was scanning my Instagram feed and saw a photo that a friend took of lunch out with a group of girlfriends. Two of her friends had their eyes glued to their smart phones. It made me think about myself and how often I do that very thing when I am hanging out with my own friends or my husband. Looking at this photo made me realize how this act of checking our phones to see what is happening on a website is kind of ridiculous. There is a person, a flesh and blood person,  standing in front of me, interacting with me and I am looking at a machine so that I can connect with other people who are elsewhere.

This is not to say that the friends I have made online are very important to me and the time that I spend interacting with them online is important to me, as well. I have had some of my favorite moments interacting with my friends online. Everyday I am amazed at the the world we live in and that I can have these interactions with people from all over the world. It’s pretty fantastic and great.

However, there has to be some kind of balance. I shouldn’t sacrifice the moments I have with those in front of me for moments I have with my friends online.

Exhausted museum vistors When I went to Paris I couldn’t figure out how to make my phone work overseas. It was very frustrating because this meant my GPS didn’t work either. We spent a few moments wandering the streets not really knowing where we were going (we found an old-school street map as soon as we could). In the end, however, I am very glad I was cut off from social media there, at least during the day (we had wi-fi access at our hotel). I was prevented from tweeting every single thought in my head. Instead I was riveted to every moment I experienced there. This was a new and faraway place and I am not sure I will ever be able to go back. I knew this while I was there and so I made the most out of all of it. Everything I did there was totally in the moment. I experienced the crap out of Paris. I remember everything with clarity. If my smart phone was working and tempting me to tweet these moments, would I still have this same clarity? I don’t think I would.

Drum Circles, and other random thoughts

Random
My last Instagram photo. :cue taps:

My last Instagram photo. :cue taps:

Last night I went to a solstice celebration.  We arranged ourselves in a circle and one by one we walked up to an altar and lit a  candle. Then we took a percussion instrument from a basket and went back to our seat where we joined the drumming started by Susie, the officiator. The room progressively got lighter and lighter as each candle was lit. It also got louder and louder as each person began drumming. It was amazing and so fun. As we were drumming I thought about what I wanted for the coming year. What are the desires of my heart? Photography instantly popped up, as it usually does. I also want to delve deeper into the Dharma. I also thought about how I want to experience more love and light. I feel like the world needs more of it lately. These are the things I thought about as I was clacking my two sticks together. It felt good. It felt good to get in touch with that part of myself that can keep a beat. It is primal. You don’t think. You just do.

Instagram. I decided to quit Instagram, like many others. You probably already know what happened. They made it clear in their TOS that they would use our photos in advertisements. Facebook currently does this and I hate it. It is sleazy. Frankly, I am fed up with it. I put up with Facebook because everyone I know is on it and I actually use it to communicate with people. But Instagram? No. I don’t care if the photos I have over there are crap, it still doesn’t change the fact that this practice is sleazy. Because of the backlash, Instagram changed their mind and I guess the new story now is that they are not going to use our photos? I guess? I don’t know and I don’t care because I am not going back. The fact is that I have been wanting to scale back a bit anyway. I use Flickr and I pay for the service so I will use it for all of my photo hosting needs. Plus, they have a fantastic new iPhone app (how excellent is their timing?!?).

I am also thinking about starting up my daily photography blog again. Maybe do a daily Hipstamatic post or something? I love playing around with iPhone photo apps and this seems like a good place to post these photos. I have a nerdy plan for this that is mind-blowing. Have you heard of IFTTT? It is the best website ever. I created a recipe that will post a new photo post when I upoad and tag a Flickr photo. I used it for yesterday’s Wayback Wednesday post. I am going to use this to post images to my photoblog from Flickr so that I only have to upload to one service. I am in nerd heaven right now.

Media Fast: Day 7

Life

My media fast has been mind-blowingly enlightening. As I mentioned the other day, after a couple of days I felt 100 percent better. No depression. More focus. My brain feels sharper. I think eliminating everything is a very important part of this exercise. By doing this I have realized what I miss and what I don’t miss. I have also been able to see what I am addicted to since I don’t have anything distracting me from my reactions to things.

I miss reading for entertainment. However, it has been good to take a break from it this week because I have been able to get the reading that I need to do for work done. I am taking a management class and I tend to choose other things to read, given the chance. This exercise has really caused me to focus on the reading for my class.

I miss listening to music. However, I have really enjoyed running without music and Runkeeper. I may not go back to running with music. I like the freedom of being gadget-free.

I don’t miss television at all. I never really watched it anyway.

I have mixed feelings about the internet and social media. On the one hand, I miss interacting with my friends. But I really don’t miss, at all, the clutter that these sites push. I don’t miss the inane news stories. I don’t miss the memes.

I have also noticed the way these social media sites make me feel, and the way not logging on everyday makes me feel. There is this pull to check. I noticed something bothersome yesterday. I deleted the Facebook app from my phone but kept the Facebook Messenger app. I used it yesterday to send a message to my brother. When I was on the “compose” screen a list of my FB friends was there and next to their names it told me when they were last active on Facebook. Why do I need to know this? And there is something about this knowledge that triggered this addictive need to “check Facebook.” I have developed this habit of needing to know what my friends are doing. It is unhealthy and weird, frankly. The FB developers have tapped into a social, voyeuristic instinct that humans have. I have never liked it. I don’t need to know that my friend has liked her other friend’s picture (a stranger that I have never met) from their trip to the Bahamas. I feel like this is an invasion of the privacy of both my friend and their friend. And I have never been able to figure out a way to turn this off. It is just pushed to me when I log on, whether I want this information or not.

So, needless to say, I think I am going to extend my social media fast. I will log in this week for a moment to upload photos from my brother’s wedding and to check in. I may also check in from Paris (probably not though. I want to experience Paris with no distractions). But otherwise, I think an extended Facebook/Twitter/social media break is in order.