We’ve all been there. Somehow, a whole 35 minutes after you opened your phone and loaded <insert app here> to check or log something, you realise you’re in a deep well of the overwhelmingly ‘meh’ Instagram photos of someone you’ve never met’s pug. You don’t even care for pugs. Your brain has become putty, and your eyes are glazed.
Yet still, you scroll.
And that book you’ve been reading for months is still sat on your bedside table, 20 pages in.
And yes you watched that TV show, but you can’t quite remember what happened because you were definitely idly checking Twitter at the same time, not really paying attention to either screen properly.
Research from Ofcom released today reveals that the average adult now spends 25 hours a week online. MORE THAN A WHOLE DAY of their seven-day week. That’s a lot.
And I’m 100% front and centre, representing that stat with pom poms, a foam finger and a foghorn in tow.
I’ve got so much to be thankful for when it comes to the Interwebz. My career, for a start. The Internet is literally keeping a roof over my head, and feeding me and clothing me. It’s allowing me to easily stay in touch with people who are thousands of miles away – to know what their babies look like, and to see what they did with their weekends. Then there’s this little blog, and the many opportunities and connections it has afforded me, and the wonderful people that have come into my life because of it. A platform to allow my voice to be heard. A way to express myself creatively. A means of understanding a complex medical condition that has been thrust upon me, along with hundreds of thousands of others.
But sometimes I feel so sad about the Internet (please don’t fire me, employers). The amount of content I feel pressure to wade through; to keep up with on a daily basis entirely overwhelms me on a regular basis. I need to keep up with my mortgage payments, sure, and I like to know about world events. But to be bombarded with everyone who’s ever decided they have an authority to speak on everything that’s happened, ever? To watch as ignorance is perpetuated?
That’s the thing with social media. Yes it’s given everyone a voice… but it’s created a whole lot of horrible noise. And how can your imagination survive if it’s being suffocated by everyone else’s mind?
But far from lamenting the end of our In Real Life lives, it seems that many of us have come to a realisation, consciously or otherwise.
That you can love the Internet and also recognise that you can’t (and don’t need to) live within it 24/7.
The Ofcom report also revealed that over a third of Internet users are now taking conscious periods away from the web. That’s 15 million people in the UK that recognise there’s a balance to be struck, and that the Internet brings many wonderful things, but to step away from it for a while does not mean you’re betraying it. That the Internet is important. So important. And in many ways wonderful.
But it’s tiring.
My favourite thing about these findings is that it’s the under 25s who are apparently most likely to consciously switch off. You know, the youth of today, who never look up from their screens? Who don’t know how to interact in the real world? Whose social skills are being reduced because they only speak in emoji?
Apparently they’re the ones who know what’s up.
I go through major cycles with my social feeds. Everything, and then nothing for a while. I do it often because I’m contrary and fickle like that, despite the fact that not insignificant chunks of my life – namely that part that pertains to be a Professional Digital Someone and that part that’s a blogger – are inextricably woven into them. Do I feel entirely guilty when I do batten down the hatches? Yes. But I get to BREATHE. Or read. Or draw. Or have coffee. Or make friends with people. Or sit and – gasp – daydream, just for daydream’s sake. And the guilt is always vanquished when I come back and miraculously feel like I’ve got more to say that might be useful and relevant and interesting. Removing the white noise, occasionally and temporarily, allows me to sit and figure out what I think and feel about something, instead of my head busily swimming with 3,500,401,450 other opinions offered up via everything from 140 characters, to a Snapchat story, to a lengthy blog post, to a tabloid opinion piece, to a podcast, to a podcast dissecting a podcast.
And you know what? Social media doesn’t miss me. It doesn’t wonder where I’ve gone. Adele, yes. Moi? Nah.
So hooray for digital detoxing.
And now by the magic of the Internet, I shall hit ‘publish’ on this here noise. Sorry about that.