I saw an article about a scientific study on thinking time, most of the participants would rather give themselves an electric shock than spend 15 minutes alone in a room—just thinking. One guy shocked himself 190 times. What would you do?
Well, I tried it at home and I encourage you to try it too. Get your kitchen timer out and sit yourself down at the table with nothing in front of you, no paper, no drink, no nothing. It’s very very hard to sit and do nothing for 15 minutes.
After about three minutes I felt the first urge to check my phone, after six minutes I was wishing for the shock button just to distract myself from the urge to tweet my experiment…and that really drove home for me how addicted I’ve become to social media.
I moved to Japan in 2006, before Facebook was even open to the world, I think. I joined Facebook in 2007 along with most other people, and loved it. I love being connected to friends and family in a casual way, I like the online village feeling of it and the fact that my different “networks” based on geography and life stages all were suddenly so easy to understand. The theatre world is intimate (if not biblical) and a lot of my college network and early career network have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree cross-connections. That’s cozy! I became “Facebook friends” with some people I could only admire from afar before and I felt closer to them because of the juicy details they shared about their lives. I never got scared over the invasion of my privacy. I did feel some stress when my mom and then my aunts and cousins and second cousins and very distant family members also wanted to be friends, but I adapted. It was all OK. I even reluctently joined Twitter and started meeting online strangers who became offline friends.
A lot of wonderful connections and social bonds came from my online life, I was shocked and amazed at how profoundly I had changed from being a total technophobe to totally connected! People like me, I had followers, I started a mint ice cream cult, influence, power, AUDIENCE!!! That was totally addictive and seductive to a personality like mine…a born performer.
That part is still great. I love Twitter and my audience, I love Facebook and annoying all my single friends by saturating their news feeds with trivialities about my baby. These are fantastic pleasures of modern life. What is not great is the boredom and incessant need I feel to check on what everybody is up to all the time, the total lack of actual connection I have with other people because I already read all their status updates and got all the days news on Twitter. I can’t even count anymore how often my husband has come home with some anecdote and my response has been “I know.”
I know everything. I know everything the instant it happens. Because I’m constantly staring at a screen waiting for my drip of life facts, births, riots, coups, weird Japan food and cat/human scandals, Apple product announcements, natural disasters, beheadings, BBQ shop openings, break ups, rants, ice bucket challenges, LOL cats, and cute corgi videos. I know everything and I’m just utterly bored of this whole lot of nothing and nonsense, not to mention my eyes are tired and I’m pretty dehydrated.
So, I decided to cut back.
I just want to be alone with my thoughts. I want to enjoy being alone with my thoughts in peace.
Moreover, I want to be not be trolling around the internet looking for something to make me less bored with 99% of my free time. In just the few weeks I’ve tried to unplug a little bit I’ve brainstormed 8 ideas for feature films. I’ve read two books. I’ve written three short stories while sitting in cafes. I’ve enjoyed lunch without photographing and posting my meal. I’ve taken my daughter on wonderful playdates. I’ve had a bubble bath alone & with my baby. I’ve started a little diet. I’ve been alone with myself and enjoyed my own company quite a lot, plus I’ve been going to bed at a regular bedtime.
The best part of all this was when I *did* plug in to my social media, I enjoyed it more and felt less compelled to check in or post updates. These days I’ve been people watching the old fashioned way, in person, on the trains, I look around at everybody staring down into their laps at their little screens and feel like I’ve escaped something from Brave New World.