If you read my blog post last week (if not, you can find it here) you’ll recall that I’d made a promise to myself that I would take two days off per week from both writing and social media. I’d chosen, for various reasons, to make Sunday and Monday my “weekend”. So, on Saturday night I closed down the computer and, with some trepidation, I switched off my phone.
I was unplugged from the world! At least, that’s how it felt. Now, you may wonder why I had to switch off my phone. After all, even at weekends people take phone calls and read their texts, right? Except, I rarely use my phone for that reason. I’m a nightmare to contact. Ask my family! For a start, I hate talking on the phone. Hate it! Secondly, if I’m not actually using it to connect to the internet I forget all about it. The volume is turned down low and it’s usually languishing at the bottom of my bag. If I’m at home I have either my desktop or laptop on, so my phone is surplus to requirements. My kids know that they’re far more likely to reach me if they message me on Facebook. So, leaving my phone on would, to me, mean only one thing. The internet. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t trust myself not to browse social media if I didn’t banish the mobile, so that was that.
I wasn’t sure what to expect and, to be brutally honest, Sunday morning was tough. The first thing I do when I wake up is reach for my phone – firstly to see what time it is and then, inevitably, to check my social media notifications. It’s become a habit and on Sunday morning I felt a bit lost. In fact, I have to admit, I was a bit antsy for most of that morning, as I wondered what was going on in the world and what I was missing.
Since I’d already made the decision not to write on those two days either, I was a bit baffled as to what I was going to do. How was I going to fill all those hours? I was going to be so lonely.
Oh, my goodness, what a fabulous two days I’ve had! For a start, banished from the keyboard, my mind went into overdrive and I’ve been mentally plotting new books the whole time. It’s amazing how many ideas have been popping up when I haven’t been trying to think of them.
I’ve had the time to read! I made my way through several articles in this month’s Writing Magazine, and I read an entire novel that a friend had sent to me to read through for her.
I’ve cleaned the kitchen. I’ve realised that browsing social media is a huge distraction and one downside to having no access to it is that I started noticing the mud the dog had brought in, and that the washing machine and dishwasher needed a good scrub. I also noticed that the DVDs I keep upstairs were bundled onto the shelves in a very haphazard manner and needed sorting urgently. While I was going through my bookcase I discovered a lot of books that I’d forgotten I even owned and thought I’d rather like to re-read them.
I saw three of my children during the last two days and really enjoyed sitting and chatting with them – my thoughts (and eyes) no longer straying to my phone or computer screen. They had my full attention and it felt good.
I went out for tea. DH, my youngest daughter, daughter-in-law and I went to a local pub and had a smashing meal. We talked and laughed and had a fantastic evening. It was very noticeable, though, that the four people on the table next to us spent most of their time scrolling down their phones and paying very little attention to each other. I nudged my daughter. ‘See?’ I said, sounding smug. She gave me one of her looks. Yes, okay, maybe it’s a little early to judge others when it’s my first day away from my phone!
Yesterday, my middle son and his partner popped round (and brought us cake, thank you very much). He was surprised that I wasn’t expecting him, since he’d messaged me, and seemed baffled that I’d turned my phone off. But then, he’s more addicted to his phone than I am, so no wonder he couldn’t get his head around that.
After they left, DH and I set off to the coast. We got as far as the garage where, as we waited to fill up, our eldest daughter rang demanding to know where we were. Apparently, she’d told DH that she was coming round to visit us on the Monday, only his memory’s even worse than mine so he forgot. ‘And what’s wrong with your phone?’ she demanded, glaring at me accusingly. Luckily, when I explained about going cold turkey from it she thought that was hilarious and forgave me. In fact, she decided to come to the coast with us.
So we had a fantastic afternoon touring the Holderness villages. I’ve set all my books so far in North Yorkshire, but I really want to use East Yorkshire in future stories, and that includes the area on my doorstep. DH was very obliging and took loads of photos for me because I hadn’t brought my phone (obviously) and, I have to say, it’s surprising how much you see when you’re looking at the landscape through your own eyes and not through a lens. Freed of the constant snapping of photos, I had time to actually stand and drink in the views, and just think. The ideas were popping into my mind with astonishing regularity. Places always inspire me, and I saw some beautiful little villages that really made me desperate to begin writing again.
At the time of writing this, I still haven’t checked in with social media, but since I’ll be sharing the blog post then that moment is only minutes away. The funny thing is, I’m not in any hurry to do so. I thought I would miss it so much but I haven’t. In a strange way, I felt less pressured and more relaxed than I have in ages.
No Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. No checking Google or browsing Amazon (and it’s worrying how many times during those two days I thought, must Google that, or I wonder if they have that on Amazon, and reached for my phone before remembering). Just me and people and places and my own thoughts, with no barrier between us and nothing to distract me from enjoying them.
And as for the writing break – totally worth it! Usually, if I’m reading or drawing or watching television, I’m half thinking about the book I should be working on and wrestling with guilt. Having given myself permission not to write, I could enjoy other pastimes with no pangs of conscience. I felt completely free and I’m now raring to get on with my working week.
Will I make this a regular thing? You bet I will. I feel like I’ve shed five years. I’d recommend an internet break to everyone. I was feeling so overwhelmed by it all for so long, but now I’m feeling fresh and ready to get back to it, knowing it’s only for five days and then I can switch it all off again.
Give yourself permission to unplug! You might be amazed how much you enjoy it.
Have a great week.