Last week was hard. I’m sure you’ve seen the news, and as much as I feel these things need to be talked about, right now I just can’t do it. I am sad, confused, hurt, scared, angry … and going online, reading articles and tweets and Facebook posts about everything that’s happened just makes it worse. By the end of the day Friday, I knew Saturday was going to be a day where I stayed in, read a book I knew would have a happy ending and wouldn’t require any deep thought, and just disengage.
When I finished my book, feeling slightly better, I reached for my phone out of habit. Waiting in my inbox was a newsletter from another author who shared her experience of a month away from social media. While I could never do that — my day job requires me to use the Internet, email, and social media multiple times a day — I was enticed by what the author felt she’d gained from being unplugged. Since I was already overwhelmed, I decided to give going unplugged a try.
I’m not cutting myself off from social media. But I am limiting my screen time, banning it entirely from my writing time. This weekend I designated blocks of writing time and set my phone out of reach, forcing myself not to pick it up until my writing time was up. I write my first drafts longhand, so there was no Internet browser a few clicks away to tempt me. There was just me, my notebook, and my pen. And it was glorious.
I’ve spent the last several weeks struggling with my writing, floundering in two different projects. Going unplugged didn’t magically fix everything. Writing is still hard. But giving myself that extra time and space has really helped. Now, when I get stuck, instead of quickly checking my email, then winding up on Twitter for ten minutes, I wait it out. I think through the scene, searching for the problem. I may get up and pace. I may not come up with the answers, but I give myself time to look for them.
I’m going to try making all my writing time unplugged, at least for the next few weeks, and see how it goes. And for my own well-being, I’m going to spend less time on social media outside of work. My silence and distance don’t mean I don’t care. But there are others saying exactly what I’d want to say far more eloquently than I could. I’d rather go to work and make what difference I can in my community than drown in everything that’s happening online.
Have you ever gone unplugged? What was your experience like?