It’s funny how different life is to what it was just fifteen years ago. We can compare even further back if you like, but there’s no need. In just fifteen years society has changed enormously, but I hadn’t really noticed the effect of certain changes until something simple and annoying made me sit up and take notice …
It doesn’t take much
I have long had to wear a wrist support on my dominant hand when typing. But in mid-November (2017) I was carrying something a little heavier than I should have in that hand, and the result was that by the end of the day my wrist was giving me masses of grief.
For the next six weeks as I worked hard to finish as much work as possible so that I could have a bit of a break over the Christmas/New Year period (hello, fellow business owners!), I found I had to ice my wrist in the evenings, give it lots of rest, and generally not do anything daft – like pouring liquid out of a container holding more than 500 ml – lest I make it even worse. (Luckily I had a willing accomplice to pour the Christmas bubbly for me!)
The main effect – apart from the pain and not being able to blindly lift or carry or move or pour whatever I wanted to – was that using the phone (as in mobile/cell phone – not landline!) hurt like hell. So texting, social media, reading stuff online etc., very quickly became painful if I did it for more than 30 seconds or so. The really weird upshot of that was I developed an almost physical reaction to the thought of putting anything on Facebook. Why? Because if I posted something on FB and someone commented, I would feel compelled to reply, to at least read and hit ‘Like’ or some relevant icon, so as not to appear rude, and I couldn’t bear the thought of getting caught in an FB conversation as I knew it was going to hurt.
Sure, I could have used FB on the PC (there’s gotta be a rap song in there somewhere …), but after being on the PC all day for work, I needed to shut it down and again, give the wrist a break. Not to mention my eyes and my hard-working PC!
So what did I do? Nothing. I posted virtually nothing to FB for about eight weeks, save for the occasional comment on someone else’s post. And do you know what happened? I had a great summer in the real world!
Admittedly, I felt a bit rude not posting anything, not sharing happy news or events etc., and not commenting on other people’s posts over those eight weeks, but living the way I used to live fifteen years ago was a revelation. I hadn’t realised how much I could achieve without all the social media interruptions. It was like giving up smoking – suddenly I had time to spare and a desire to get out and use it!
Living in the real world
Over the three and half weeks I had off we had our annual ‘MoshMas’ lunch with the kids a few days before Christmas, shifted a lot of furniture around and re-designed the office layout over about four days, visited friends and shared a bottle of bubbly with them on Christmas morning, spent the rest of Christmas Day relaxing with the jigsaw to end all jigsaws and just enough food and drink to feel happy, went to lunch with friends we hadn’t seen for nearly two years a couple of days later, the next night enjoyed a lovely dinner at our daughter’s along with her husband and in-laws.
We then spent a couple of days on my cousins’ farm and visited Fitzroy Falls for the first time in around 30 years (didn’t recognise a single part of it, which I found rather weird), had an ice cream in Kangaroo Valley (a little more familiar, thankfully, so I haven’t totally forgotten everything from the past!), visited the other half’s cousins on the way home on New Year’s Eve, spent three nights at Adina Apartments, Mascot and played tourist, and enjoyed dinner with our other daughter and her friend.
The next day we travelled to Manly via ferry, then visited a client and his wife and then other cousins in the northern beaches, then the next day did the Macquarie Street walk dropping in on Hyde Park Barracks, The Mint, NSW Parliament House, then the 1440 exhibition at the State Library, walked into the Botanic Gardens for a refresher and a visit to the Calyx exhibition/display.
After that, we sallied forth to the Museum of Sydney for the Underworld exhibition, followed by a refreshing drink in Macquarie Place thanks to Customs House Bar, with dinner at City Extra at Circular Quay as we people- and ferry-watched. (Exhausted yet? Or perhaps just plain bored? :D)
At home I pottered in the garden (carefully), made some more bowls, finished a couple of paintings, did some more family tree research, had an evening on the back deck with nibblies, more bubbly and the neighbours (who then tried unsuccessfully to teach me Texas Hold ’Em when I probably should have called it quits and gone to bed), and updated my blog (with this self-indulgent diary of a blogpost).
And yes, I could have still done all those things AND posted to FB and, had my hand been good, I could have replied to comments and engaged in conversation. But without being able to do much on FB, I found that I wasn’t just doing stuff, I was engaged in what I was doing. I was present in the moment, every time. And I’d forgotten what that felt like – to just do stuff and enjoy it for what it was without thinking about how to fashion a social media post out of it.
So while I feel like I dropped off the planet as far as Facebook goes – and I’m sure one or two people out there must think I did, too (I am not going to delude myself that too many would have noticed my absence, however) – I’ve been very much alive in the real world and enjoying it in a way that I’d forgotten existed.
Back to the future
I will return slowly to FB, but probably less actively. And if I’m honest, you’ll have probably found this post as the result of an FB link. (Oh, the irony!) But having had this digital detox, I now know how good it feels to do that every now and again, and will certainly slot regular detoxes in, like a form of intermittent fasting for my mental wellbeing (not to mention my wrist), so that I can keep myself healthy in more ways than one.
Happy New Year and may you, too, enjoy the sheer indulgent pleasure of a digital detox or two in 2018.