In which the writer tried to switch her brain back on
I read the sentences twice, then sometimes again. The complexity of the language was unfamiliar at first, then becoming easier by the time my bus journey to work had ended. My forty minute read felt like a decent, filling breakfast of bacon and egg. Solid, satisfying, good. I picked it out of my “decent books” collection a few days ago: “Far from the Madding Crowd“. Untouched since high school, but kept, as I loved it.
Folks, in the last few days, I read a real book. A real paper book. And now I’m reading another one. “The L-Shaped Room“. And then, I’m going to read the next one in the series, just see if I don’t! Gasp!
As opposed to my usual reading material which for a while now has been … uh … Facebook.
Or the news sites. Or some trash book in my Kindle app. Or maybe a pdf in my Adobe Reader app. Or let’s have a look at Instagram … What’s today’s challenge? Oooh, a Google + notification saying my awewsomised pictures are ready. Let’s have a wee look at G+ then, oh brilliant, there’s a new article from National Geographic photography, jeeze oh, that’s a fabulous picture, oh what, there are just nine wolves left on Michigan’s Isle Roayle National Park, that’s awful, where the heck is that anyway, lets open Google Maps and have a look, ugh, data signal struggling with this, I’ll just open the notepad app to remind myself to look this up later, oh, there’s a Whatsapp message, what, next Tuesday, hmm, not sure, better open the Google calendar see what’s in there, yep, that’s fine, better check into the Facebook event to update it, when I’m at it I’ll have a wee look in the primal/paleo group, see if there’s anything interesting I can make for tea, oh bugger, better remember to go to Morrisons on the way home, what did I need to buy again, I’ll just open up my shopping list, ah, better check my bank account first, eh, huh, fuckeroony, look at what that guy is wearing, oh I need to take a sneaky photo of that, it’s priceless, shall I Instagram it I wonder or is that nasty, aw no, hell’s bells, how come the battery’s down to 15% when it was at 100 when I got up this morning?!
Aaaaaaaargggh the noise! The incessant, exhausting, brain-numbing noise.
That’s my usual commute to work. And actually, it’s pretty shite. My bones might be sitting still but my brain’s rushing around like a hoor on helium. It’s tiring. It’s pointless. And like binging on junk food, you feel that bit sick afterwards.
Butterfly Brain Syndrome
When I read Marylin’s comment in the Dextrous Diva’s Facebook group (and yes, I probably did read it on the bus!), I was delighted that the fabulous Diva herself actually made a Very Useful Blog Post out of it. And offered Very Useful Advice. Because I could have written Marylin’s comment myself:
“Staying focussed. How do you do it? I’m anything BUT. I am a type A personality and always have tons of tabs open at once, and I can never seem to actually read even one post through without thinking and then searching for loads of different ideas at the same time. Which ends up with me basically not really taking anything in properly and then wasting the time I have to read/get ideas etc. It’s like I have this butterfly mind that’s constantly flitting from idea to idea! Anyone else like this? Do you have any tips/tricks?”
The internet has absolutely done this to me.
Not so Smartphone
Getting a smartphone is probably the biggest act of self-sabotage I’ve committed in years. It would appear I have invited the Time Vampires not only to tea, but to move in. To my HEAD.
It’s like living in a fog: because the Time Vampires suck the intention and motivation out of you, you lose all your clarity about where you’re going and what you should be doing with your life. Oh you’re doing something, alright, you’re making some sort of effort, you’re busy, but guess what, you’re getting nowhere. Your attention span gets shorter and shorter, till you mentally drift off fives times a paragraph when you actually attempt to read a proper book.
IF you actually attempt to read a proper book. I used to read at least one book a week. Last year, I read about one every three months. If that.
And then, of course, you start feeling angry at yourself, ashamed of your inability to focus, of your butterfly mind, and permanently guilty because you can’t knuckle down to achieve anything much.
The day it died
A few days ago, my smartphone gave me the big fat finger and yelled “screw you, gimme a rest!”. Then it died. The charging port is fucked so the battery just … died. And I can’t recharge it.
For the first time in probably forever I went to bed with no phone beside me. Asked Himself to set his alarm for 6.30 am for me. Took ages to get to sleep knowing that I didn’t have my own alarm clock any more. Woke up about ten times in the night panicking because I didn’t have a phone to reach for and blearily check the time. Surmised that as it was still dark, it probably wasn’t 6.30 so it would be okay to go back to sleep. Stomach churned because I didn’t know long I’d have left to sleep. Fell asleep. Woke up again a wee bit later and had poke Himself in the ribs so I could double check he’d set his alarm for me. Himself growling “for fuck’s sake” before confirming I had two and a half hours left before having to get up.
Was attacked by the Fear of Missing Out: the worry that something might be happening on Facebook that I didn’t know about it. Because at least normally with a functioning phone if I wanted to check Facebook at four in the morning I could. But with fucked phone, I couldn’t. If I, y’know, wanted to. Half six.
Got up, didn’t check emails. Didn’t look at Instagram. Felt pissed off because I wanted to take a photo of the sun streaming through the trees – oooh pretty – but didn’t want to dig out the big camera.
Wondered if the people I texted just before the phone died had got back to me. Worried that they ‘d think me an ignorant pig for not getting back to them. Contemplated going – OMG OMG – a whole day without a phone.
But, I managed it.
What I miss
I’ve now been clean for three days. I’ve read a whole book and am half way through another.
I’ve hardly been on Facebook.
And I … oh god, get this … actually used a proper dictionary. Several times, cause Far From the Madding Crowd has several Big Words I didn’t know.
I miss having a calculator on my phone – shit, I had to work out a PERCENTAGE yesterday! In my HEAD!
I miss Instagram. I miss being able to take pretty decent quality photos on the go, wherever I am, that I can fire up into the cloud.
And I miss Google Maps if I’m in an unfamiliar part of town. Though really, I’ve lived in Edinburgh for 23 years and it’s not exactly a sprawling metropolis, so I’m never going to get properly lost.
But it’s not that bad
And that’s probably all I miss, really.
I mean, it’s not like I don’t have internet access at all. I can check whatever I want, pretty much, at work, and I’ve a computer in the house. It’s rather nice pulling out a Proper Book, all vintage-like, from my handbag at the start of my bus journey to work.
It’s nice not being distracted when I’m talking to/playing with the children.
It’s nice not wondering if you should re-charge your phone, if there’s enough power in it to do you till you next get to a charger. It’s nice being unplugged. You notice more of what’s going on around you. With my phone constantly in my hands, I felt I was a wee bit everywhere (G+, FB, Instagram, Flickr, etc etc) but not really anywhere.
Little voids of time were taken up with mindless entertainment on the phone, but without that entertainment, your mind finds other perfectly good things to do. Like observing what’s going on around you. Like reflecting on anything and everything. Or just sheer, simple zoning out. Wool gathering.
My smartphone first became an extension of my brain, then it became a crutch.
I’m sending it off for repair, but I might not feel the same about it when I get it back. At least, I hope I don’t.
My only access to the online world now is through an actual computer, so when I’m not sitting at one, I have no choice but to live in the real world and give my full attention to real people.
What a terrifying thought ..!
What are your thoughts on smartphone addiction? I’d love to hear them.