A wise man once asked “Why is it drug addicts and computer aficionados are both called users?” I’d never thought about that until last Friday night, when as I stood under a hot spray of a shower nozzle and washed away the weeks cares and woes, I was suddenly struck simultaneously with both an incredibly guilty feeling, and a really good idea.
I get my best ideas usually in places and at times during which I have no pen and paper or a key board handy. As such the majority of my best stuff gets written in the fog of a steamed up mirror or shower door, or on a napkin with the random eye pencil I’ve scrounged up out of my handbag. The writer’s curse I’m afraid; inspiration strikes like lighting with the collective predictability of an El Nino weather pattern or a Bjork fashion statement. You do what you can, when you can with whatever you have at your disposal.
But the guilt in this case happened to be my best ally – it made the idea so…pungent in my head that I knew until I had seen it to fruition I would never be rid of it.
So, to the point.
It has to start with an admission I have been remiss in not making sooner: I am a social networking addict. Just to be sure that that’s exactly what I was, I even looked up the actual word (‘addict’) in the Oxford English Dictionary to confirm a fear I have long held but never said out loud.
According to the OED, and addict is someone who is ‘Attached by one’s own inclination, self-addicted to (a practice); devoted, given, inclined to.’
There are few horrible feelings quite like the one where you suspect something bad about yourself, and something confirms it beyond a shadow of a doubt: that you are in fact, exactly this thing that you wish for all the world you weren’t.
I won’t lie and say I brushed it off easily.
Fact: I have an addiction, and it sits daily staring back at me from a computer screen that consumes what is I think a fairly harmful amount of time. I’m not good with guilt – not by a long shot – so as I stood there with hot water pouring over my head and washing my shampoo fresh hair into my face, all I could think about was all the ways I have allowed myself to become utterly lazy in the maintenance of the relationships I have with people. I think I’ve written one letter in three years by hand; I leave messages on Facebook or Twitter, but I haven’t called people, haven’t written. I haven’t made dates with them on a regular basis to LOL for real with them. I short, I haven’t taken the time to communicate with the people around me in a way that says I really care about them.
I realised I’ve been living my life in 140 character bursts, trying to use these tiny spaces to give the world the ideal big picture of who I am, or maybe – more to the point – who I’d like to be.
So lazy…and I’d let myself get this way! I mean, what a crap thing!
But – and thank goodness for my Dad, because it was him who really taught me this one true thing ever since I can remember – there was another fact I had to take into account. In any given situation with which we are faced – good or bad – the only person’s behaviour we can control is our own; nobody else’s, as much as sometimes we wish we could.
So, here was my challenge: I realised I have not been a good friend, nor the best version of myself, for a very long time, because I let myself find existence in a world that isn’t really a real one at all. What would I do with that.
Step in Erin’s big idea.
A detox. Of substantial proportions, and completely void of social networking in any way, shape or form. I need to quit, and develop healthy relationship habits again. So here is my grand plan.
I am going to quit Twitter AND Facebook, and any other forms of social networking, as of midnight tonight, for the next 21 days. In place of messages on walls, and tweets in a feed, I am going to call the people I want to speak to, giving me the opportunity to practice listening more; I am going to handwrite letters to people, as a loving way of saying ‘you are worth the time and effort of doing things the old fashioned way’. I am going to work harder at spending time with my friends and get to know them a lot better than I do.
This might not sound like a big thing to you, but for me I can assure you it’s HUGE. These things have been a crutch for me for far too long, and I want to see what my world without them – one where I actively seek to be the person, friend and colleague that people should have instead of a shell version of me – looks and feels like.
I’m going to be blogging my way through this 21 days, as I try to exist this way. As a more active person in the world around me. Not one who retweets the changes of others, but who effects change herself.
So, if you don’t hear from me for the next 21 days, that’s why. I’m not ignoring you ;)
But I could really use your encouragement with this. If you aren’t addicted to social networking, then you may think all of this sounds like a rather pointless exercise.
But my challenge to you is this: are you, even without your need to update a status every time you take a breath – are you being the change that you want to see in the world?
Today, this is what I’m starting. Actively.
Every day we are bombarded with images that display time and time again, often in graphic detail, how little care humans really have for each other on a mass scale. For all our spectacular abilities that have the power to put men on the moon, cure diseases, write inspiring tales, do wonderous things…to love…we still constantly show that left to our own devices, we so easily become lazy warmongers, who stir up when we feel wronged but sit back when the situation calls for endurance, courage and the will to stay the course til we have seen even time itself through.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not who I want to be.
That’s not a thankful life, and for whatever things in my world that drive me up the wall and around the bend, even things that hurt, I know that in reality I have more than I could ever possibly have dreamed.
I have no right not to live a thankful life.
And being thankful, means walking the talk.
About trying to be the person that does this well, I’m a bit nervous in all honesty.
But what was it that Confucius said.
That every great journey begins with a single step.
Well, here’s mine.
With this small giving up of a bad habit, this is where I need to start.
So this is what I am pledging.
I am pledging to be a better friend, by not being lazy in the way I care about and communicate with people.
I am promising to do things that help me, even if I don’t always get it right, to be the change in the world I want to see.
Whatever form that takes. Starting now.