I turned it all off, it made no difference

About two weeks ago I turned off notifications on my iPhone, my Mac, my iPad and my fitness tracker. Everything was disabled apart from text messages and reminders for tasks. And I stopped updating my websites.

WhatsApp, game moves, emails, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc etc. It all went and over time I realised that the actual difference to my life, my real life, was zero.

It is so easy to spend too much of your life staring at your phone and reacting to the little pings and to get lost in this virtual world- when you really think about it, it means so little. Now, I am not for one minute suggesting that any of that is bad, it really is not despite what so many people believe, but I am thinking that it takes away time from the moments when you should be interacting with those you love face to face.

This came about because I found myself spending more and more time playing games, checking social networks, looking for the latest news updates and just generally using my phone as an escape from the current situation many of us are going through. This refusal to accept that the world had changed got me down, to a point I had rarely reached before.

The fact is that many of us have much more time on our hands than a few months ago and for some people that can be troublesome. It gives you more time to think, to ponder what is happening in finite detail and even to question what your purpose is, and in the background of everything that is happening at the moment those thoughts can easily turn negative.

My position is better than most. My wife’s job is secure (if you consider working in a hospital with inadequate PPE a good thing), I still have a job (for the moment, long story) and my children are safe. We have lost no one in the family through COVID and so everything should be OK, but it isn’t.

I noticed that my interactions on social media offered little validity. They were mostly read by people I don’t really know and I have always suffered from the notion that any social media post is saying ‘look at me’ rather than offering something meaningful. Not checking any social networks for a period of time reduced by happiness by 0% and yet if caused me to look more closely at what is in front of me rather than what is on a screen.

It is painful to stop your normal life and to take stock of the one you are actually living, and to realise that it isn’t what you thought it was. We can tend to live our lives at a speed which allows little time for introspection and the really important stuff just happens to us every day without so much as a passing thought. The chats over a coffee, the fun moments and all of those things we see as natural are often blurred in favour of the important work task that needs to be done or the pile or work you have waiting for you on Monday.

Actually focussing on the little moments with loved ones is difficult to do in 2020, but if you can do it things will improve a lot. Realising that family and home are the most important things will mean that you are less likely to miss the superfluous stuff like working in an office, going to the pub or shopping centre and working so hard that you are anaesthetised to the real world.

I don’t mean to sound like one of those American self-improvement people, but I have genuinely been surprised by how much of my focus has been on non-important stuff for the majority of my time. It may just be my personality or it may be a symptom of modern living, but I am now taking steps to change things while I still can.

No more Facebook, sporadic Twitter use to include only very specific topics that I am interested in and only a cursory glance at the news each day. Minimal WhatsApp conversations, podcasts that actually add something positive and useful, and a complete change to how I run the websites.

The need for attention on social networks and more specifically through my websites has been something that I have been conscious of, but I had never really viewed it as harmful. The huge change we are all going through has highlighted that there is a problem with how I view the world and in particular my inability to deal with change. The time I place on unimportant things is also an issue.

I need to get myself to a point where I just don’t give a f*ck what other people think and to do my own thing in the smallest way possible without the need for any validation.



Categories: Articles

4 replies

  1. I agree with most of what you’re saying, but I’m also finding that this is so much of an unknown and uncertain time that I need even the frivolous social contact. But I also need some deep dives with meaning to get through as well. Great post and experience!

    • Yep. I guess we are all different. In some ways the deeper I look at things the more down I can get. I’m also trying to be stupid and not care about the tough stuff. I will be anti-mask next!😂

  2. Interesting piece Shaun. Was wondering why we hadn’t heard much from you on WhatsApp.

    The concept of “importance” is interesting, you use it for both the meaningful stuff of life and home and the presumably necessary stuff of having a job and paying the bills. (Though, it is good if you can derive some meaning and satisfaction from work.)

    I know social media can run to the frivolous, and the factional, but if you are selective they are also ways of connecting with people in the world of ideas rather than “mere” proximity.

    (Of course the family in the house is more critical than family remote, but digital media is another way to keep that connection up to date as well)

  3. Very interesting observations. In a way I’m lucky in that I retired a few years back and found lots of things to fill the time which means that most things didn’t change much. The thing I miss the most is family time with my son and grandkids. So yes, family would be up there as number 1. I’m hoping they open up the social groups a bit so I can go back to seeing them more regularly.

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