At Wilderness festival last weekend, everyone was a little cut off from the world – there was barely any signal on the phone, which meant that I wasn’t posting everything on instagram and that we had to decide on times to meet and meeting points – what we did once upon a long time ago! In a sense it was liberating (not being able to immediately post things on instagram) and yet somewhat challenging, especially when trying to meet friends who were at the festival (mostly unsuccessfully).
As with anything (such as the few rainy days we’ve just had which has made most of us appreciate summer and wish for the heat again) this lack of connection made me appreciate my phone, connection and the instant world we live in. But it also made me realise how much extra time I had when I wasn’t constantly checking instagram.
Of course, there’s the positive side of connecting with people, making new friends, reading an inspirational post. But as we know, there’s the good and the bad. The instant connection with the world is a severe distraction, not to mention the anxiety it can cause (but I’m not dealing with the mental health issues associated with social media here).
In an article in the Financial Times, Prof Stoney Brooks, a computing professor of Middle Tennessee State University, is quoted saying, “Inefficiencies in task performance can result from the time spent on the interruption and the challenge in mentally returning to the primary task.” This is exactly it – when you’re focusing on something, a quick look at social media can result in shifting your attention entirely, not only taking up time, but making it more difficult to get back to the task at hand.
The disconnection during Wilderness made me finally do something about my own level of social media addiction. I know it eats up time and yet I let it eat up time. I know it distracts me while working, and yet I let it consume me. I tell myself that instagram is part of my work (which it is to a certain extent) and then I end up spending unnecessary time on it, looking at other food posts, commenting, connecting. All of this is great, but it can all be done in one go once or twice a day, not all day. So I have now switched off instagram notifications and switched it off on my mobile data services so that I can only check it when I’m on wifi.
I want to go back to actually reading a book on the train, not taking a book and then realising I haven’t even opened it, I want to work without distraction, rather than picking up my phone and inadvertently scrolling, often mindlessly, through posts. I want to bring focus back, because what instagram and social media do is take us away from what we’re doing without us even realising – just checking comments on a post results in seeing someone else’s post and then, of course, getting carried away. Before I know it, an hour has gone.
I want to bring that hour back.