And She’s Hooked to the Silver Screen

I shouldn’t be here.

On the internet, I mean. It’s too dangerous. You see, I’m a junkie. It’s not really my fault — I’m a digital native who grew up with the internet, so I didn’t even know I had a problem until recently.

I’ve pretty much never had a question I couldn’t Google right away, and I have a lot of questions. I like reading, and the internet always has material. There are hours of stand-up comedy routines and music videos on YouTube, movies and television shows get beamed right to my computer, and when my eyeballs need a break I pump podcasts into my ears until bedtime. Then there’s just enough time for one more quick Google and three hours down the rabbit hole that is Tumblr before I finally fall asleep and dream about tweeting.

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Not a social media strategy I recommend.

The other day I was sitting at work, creating content for people to absorb and absorbing theirs in turn, when I realized that I couldn’t think of one moment in my entire day that I wasn’t plugged in. If I’m not actively engaging with media, I will be the second my phone dings with a new alert.

I’m re-reading The Artist’s Way because I am also a self-help junkie, and I just got to the chapter on reading deprivation. The first time around, this week was a breeze. Mostly because I downloaded a ton of audio books in advance.

books.jpg

It’s only cheating if you — yeah, it’s cheating.

This time I was more into it. I Googled it to find out if anyone has ever died from not reading important things like a sign warning about cliffs ahead, or the label on a container full of arsenic that looks just like a sugar pot. I didn’t find anything on that, but I did find the author’s blog, where she had updated her suggestion. Her new version is media deprivation — no reading; no TV, movies, or videos; no social media, and limited emailing and texting.

Benefits of Media Deprivation

  1. It clues you into the stuff going on around you. Did you know there’s a whole planet out there? And what a crazy place it is! Yesterday I took a walk and saw a lawn ornament shaped like a half-eaten apple outside a house that had a stained-glass window picturing a dragon. What a world.
  2. It clues you into the stuff going on inside you. I was kind of worried about this, because the last thing I need is more time to think. But actually, having more time to think has resulted in a few cool ideas. Let’s see… I wrote a few of them down. Here they are:

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    These might be cool ideas. Or they might be nothing.

  3. It gives you a sense of how much time you fill with this stuff every day. I was checking Twitter in line to get coffee. I was reading Tumblr at breakfast. I was playing podcasts while I showered. And I thought I was getting a lot of stuff done that way, but mostly I was just distracting myself all the way until death.
  4. It gives you a sense of how much time there is in a day. So much time. So. Much. Time.

I’m two days into a week of media deprivation and it’s difficult. Not, like, Coping Daily with Anxiety difficult, or even Learning Fractions difficult, but embarrassingly difficult nonetheless. I’m not even going all out because I have to work on the internet for a living, and I still feel twitchy. You should have seen me yesterday — I broke out in cold sweats just thinking about Instagram.

I keep slipping up, too. I absentmindedly pick up my phone and open Facebook because it’s there. I don’t realize I’m doing it until I’m liking a post about someone’s cat or commenting on a video about sloths. I don’t even like sloths.

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No, thank you.

I worked for 12 hours yesterday, mostly because I was scared to stop. The prospect of an entire internet-free, TV-free, book-free evening stretching on and on ahead of me freaked me out. People used to live like this. Color me impressed.

I had to make a list of all the activities I could think of that don’t involve using a screen or reading a book. It should not have been as hard as it was.

Things to Do with Your Nights Now, Stephanie: a Selection

  1. Wash the windows?
  2. Figure out how to get the yard ready for spring by guessing, probably, since you can’t Google it.
  3. Call your grandma. Get scared when she hangs up. What will you do now?!
  4. Knit, I guess.
  5. Crocheting is also something.
  6. Work out. People do that.
  7. You could work on ANY of the major projects you’ve been putting off! (Just kidding. Media deprivation and ending your procrastination streak? You’re not a superhero.)
  8. Pet the cats. Why don’t they want to be petted anymore? Come back, cats! It’s only been an hour.
  9. Learn how to paint or play the guitar. On your own. Without a tutorial. Like some kind of prodigy.
  10. Drink a lot of tea and revisit your “theropods” idea. Does that mean anything yet? Keep thinking about it until it means something.

Today was easier than yesterday, and I hope that the rest of the week gets easier still. It’s an interesting experiment and I’m glad I’m doing it.

But if anyone would like to give me a call and describe what’s happening on the internet, in detail, second by second, I’m very available.

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8 comments

  1. Jai Vyas

    I can relate to this a lot. People (read:parents), have told me so often that I’m on my phone and on the internet a lot. That I needed to come out of that screen more than I do. I guess they had a point, so I am trying to reduce exposure to all of this as well. Its difficult in the beginning but its a great thing you’re doing as well. All the best!

  2. ragtimecyclist

    I like your aphorism idea – i’ll try not to steal it. When I was at university I tried to be clever by reading an entire book of Nietzche aphorisms. That was 15 years ago, and i’m still getting over it!

  3. integratedexpat

    You could write a book, but then there might be nobody left to read it by the time it was finished because they might all be following that crazy idea of reading deprivation. The idea of someone suggesting reading deprivation in a book is unbelievably crazy to start with. And why I am I writing a comment because you’re not allowed to read it? This is self-help? Go heal thyself, self-help book author. ;-)

  4. weebluebirdie

    Now here’s a spooky thing. I have a copy of the Artist’s Way. A friend gave it to me a few years ago to inspire me to get back on track. But I’ve never got round to reading the book, never mind give the book back – and I’ve lost touch with the friend. There must be something profound in that….

  5. Sparrowgrass

    Knit and crochet are indeed things, but doing them without the wonderful website, community and database of Ravelry would take all the joy out of them. Without Ravelry how could you view other people’s projects before picking a pattern? How could you get advice on how difficult it would be to spin cat hair into yarn? Where would you compare patterns for crocheted dwarf helms?

    I fear I may not be helping.

  6. Charlene

    I won’t even lie, I forgot the color of the sky until this morning when I walked my dog! I work on a computer at work, and on lunch I’m on my personal laptop doing homework (I’m on lunch right now avoiding homework). I’m ATTACHED to Instagram and the constant updates. I’m in love with my phone, but I never actually talk to anyone. And reading? THIS is my reading. Blogs. What’s a book?

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