To Be Blissfully Disconnected
If you are reading this on your phone or any other device late at night as you lie in bed, stop right now. Put it down and come back another time. I’ll wait.
Recently I wrote on tiresome fandoms and how the Internet had both fostered my interest in my hobbies but also would come to smother me in them to the point where either the interest was lost, waned or completely pulverised. Something which I think comes with age, the lack of desire to really pursue these hobbies and get knees-deep into the fandom that surrounds them has, in only a short period, allowed my interest to re-emerge ever so slightly by taking a few conscious steps towards removing the squelching mires of the Internet from my daily life.
That is not an easy thing to accomplish and to be honest, I wouldn’t say I have even accomplished it yet; there’s still a long way to go before I feel that I have got to where I want to be and established a healthy relationship with what, particularly for someone of my generation, is a major influence on my and many others’ upbringings. The internet shaped my early years as it has with many, but it’s a completely different beast to the 28.8kbps connection I had with it back then, for better and worse.
The are a number of differences that I can think of that have created this evolved form of the Internet. The biggest ones I think are accessibility and speed. In my teen years, the Internet was really only available to me when I got home from school on my then rather powerful PC, and even then access was limited due to it sharing the telephone line. While my family didn’t put any strict limits to my time on the net, it would often be interrupted by incoming and outgoing calls (coupled with a very loud ‘get off the Internet!’). The connection wasn’t particularly reliable, things took ages to load and the most enjoyment I got out of it was mainly chatting with my school friends on MSN messenger, watching very low-quality videos and Myspace. Now it’s available anywhere at any time. Even aeroplanes come equipped with Wi-Fi to quench people’s thirst for connectivity and there truly is no escape. If they don’t, you can see all the passengers whipping out their phones and turning off aeroplane mode as soon as rubber hits tarmac.
This would largely remain the same for some years until we finally got a separate broadband connection, and that’s really when everything changed. Myspace aside, not even social media was much of a thing. I am sure there were many other options out there, but I didn’t know about them and I don’t really remember advertising being as prevalent and intrusive as it is now, so I likely wouldn’t have heard of them unless a friend told me. YouTube was in its fledgling years and just so different to what it is now. Facebook was still a little way off but when it did come, again another big change happened.
The Internet is what it is nowadays and it’s very difficult to try and remember what it was like. It’s difficult for some younger people to imagine a world without it and they just can’t fathom that even I existed in a world without the web. Sometimes even I find it hard to believe! But it’s true. And it was actually quite wonderful. To me, the Internet has become crack that you can carry around with you and get your fix at any single moment in time. I couldn’t even sit on the toilet and do my business without whipping my phone out for all of 30 seconds to look at something. Anything! Has my need for media got so bad that I’m shooting up at every opportunity I get? I’m sad to say that yes, it probably has. Or had, at least. It’s not a surprise at all and is something that I’ve been aware of for some time. I think the realisation came when I started to look at myself and what I wanted. I wanted to study Japanese more but I didn’t ‘have time’ to do it. I wanted to read more, but again, I couldn’t ‘find the time’. But actually there was time and plenty of it. I had just been wasting the opportunity many a night to opt to watch a video on YouTube or to doom scroll through various social media and news platforms that may give me my fix, but don’t accomplish anything and ultimately were not satisfying in any way.
Tying it in with my previous blog, I noticed that I was fixing my attention to such a limited number of my interests that were being unloaded onto me from on a daily basis in plentiful supply, even if it was just a regurgitation of the same information presented in a slightly different way, or on a different website from the hundreds and thousands of them that now exist. Getting to a point where reading an article or a post that was apparently related (thanks Google) to something that I liked that created only frustration, made me finally decide to act.
Delete Social Media
I still have Facebook and I can’t see myself getting rid of that anytime soon. It’s my primary method of contact with my family back home and I don’t really want to switch to traditional letter writing. The Internet does have it upsides as well and communication really is one of them. Generally speaking, though, social media is not. Snapchat was one I got rid of easily. I barely used so it was a good place to start. TikTok came next. Yes, I downloaded it and yes, I did use it for some time. But it became tiring very quickly once I’d got into this mindset. It was just an endless session of scrolling through absolute rubbish that for some reason got really popular. Maybe I am showing signs of aging with this one, but it’s just something that I do not find the appeal in beyond pure addiction. Seeing girls of a questionable age bouncing around with some shit dance and comments from weird men was just not something that appealed to me. After that it was Twitter. I have had an on-off relationship with Twitter for some time, but ultimately I fell on the ‘off’ side of the fence and that was that. Blocking words so that things that I enjoyed didn’t come up in the feed anymore due to vitriolic comments from users, constant (and I mean constant) rumour-mongering, selfish demands from fans and just plain stupid comments kind of defeats the purpose of Twitter, so off it went. And I’ve never looked back.
Giving Up On Twitch
There are a few reasons why I gave up on this streaming platform. I never started Twitch with the aim of becoming e-famous and making big money. I don’t have enough breasts for that. But the idea of being able to play a game and have people watch and comment was appealing and it was genuinely fun for a time. However, there is a very weird culture about it that put me off it completely. I wouldn’t tell anyone how they should make money, but there’s something so shallow in the way that some streamers get their big bucks, with a form of entertainment that I just don’t understand or like. I thought Twitch was supposed to be a way for people to stream games and watch those gamers, but it quickly became ensconced with ‘Just Chatting’ e-girls in their bikinis, lapping around in their blow-up pools in their bedrooms and ever-so-thirsty men flooding the chat with an endless barrage of lewd comments that may or may get them banned. Some would just say it’s envy, but it’s really not. They can continue doing what they do and that’s fine; who could argue with raking in £1m a month? I’m not saying that they should stop, it’s just I won’t be watching. No great loss to them, I’m sure! I’ve got nothing against girls in bikinis, but I think there’s a time and place.
Limiting Mobile Usage
My phone has a nice little feature that allows me to control how much time an app can be active every day, which I have started to employ in the last few weeks with mixed results. At the very least, receiving a weekly report on how much I have used my phone compared to the previous week with a breakdown of daily usage is very helpful and it was this report that really made me consider how glued I was to my phone, which I feel really is the crux of the issue at hand. To say that all these things I’ve mentioned are ‘bad’ would be wrong. I think they have their uses and I understand that millions if not billions of people enjoy them, but the fact that they are now accessible at any time of the day creates the addiction.
I agree with the idea that this can feed into people’s anxiety of being alone and can create a potential addiction to always wanting to be connected and to be able to communicate with someone. It’s always day time somewhere, which allows people to contact any one at any time that can be an unhealthy and major time suck. I have found myself idly looking at my phone on occasion waiting for someone to reply and getting a little frustrated if it takes time. ‘Instant gratification’ is a term that is thrown around quite a lot with this topic and I couldn’t agree with it more. It’s as if one just can’t be bored anymore and there always has to be something to fill that void, even just for a few seconds.
This is not limited to my personal usage either. While I am much better at turning off my company phone, I have noticed that more recently I have got into the disgusting habit of checking my emails very early in the morning – even when I’m not working! And it’s not just me always looking at my phone that I have an issue with, but the idea that other people assume that I am available essentially 24 hours a day. I’m not saying I’d like to live in the 1950’s, but I think we can take a few pages out of the pre-Internet book and take a good hard look at ourselves and consider whether all this technology is really good for us or not. I remember watching an interview with Sir Ian McKellen and he was talking about how he got the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. Sir Peter Jackson literally had to go to his house to offer him the part because there was no other way to get hold of him. That is just unimaginable nowadays. It’s socially unacceptable to just be disconnected from the online world and I find that infuriating. The sense of immediacy that comes with smartphones is something that I would love to be able to step away from, but it does come at the cost of frustrating those around you who equally expect an immediate response from you at any given time, especially in a working environment.
But frustrated they must be, because that’s exactly what I will do. It does, however, require a lot more responsibility on my part. I can’t just switch off without properly informing people on work-related tasks and then expect to just be able to turn off and ignore anything that may require my attention. Otherwise, though, they will just have to make to do without me. Right now I am in a situation where I have a ‘day off’, that is subsidised by the government, but does leave me available if required. This is fine. But every time it happens I do wonder to myself ‘Well, what if I were on holiday? What if it was a real day off?’ I am scared that to the company, that no longer matters. I do feel the stress of being constantly connected to work and I am still trying to find that off switch, more so now that I work from home a lot of the time.
I feel like I could write so much more on this topic as it’s something that occupies my mind a lot lately and I do have much to say. There are a few other things that I am doing to try and foster a slightly healthier lifestyle that helps me become what is described as being ‘blissfully disconnected’ and to use my time more wisely, productively and satisfactorily. Let’s see how that goes and I’ll be sure to write about it in the coming months.
Thank you for reading and I hope you look forward to the next one. Now I will try to close my laptop and not touch my phone until the evening… Yeah, like that is going to happen anytime soon!