It's going on a couple of weeks since I stepped away from Twitter and Facebook, deactivating my accounts. I've gotten a half-dozen anxious emails from friends who couldn't find me there, some of them wondering whether I was OK, others worried that something they'd said or done had driven me away. Once they found out why I was gone, though, they all said some variation of "Good for you!" or "Gee, I wish I could do that." An interesting reaction.
After last Wednesday's presidential debate, I added a new twist to my media detox. Since my wife and kids are all avidly keeping up with the polls, the pundits, and the news, I decided that I didn't have to check them myself as well. This would free up even more time for me--News and Opinion was the second of three big categories of Distracting Time in my RescueTime weekly summaries--and it would give me something interesting to talk about with my family, since we wouldn't all have read exactly the same sites, day after day, all day long. It also helps with the general anxiety I've been feeling about the election, which I can't much influence at this point, living in a solidly Democratic state and not having much money to donate.
What's been the impact of this shift, you ask?
The first few days without Twitter and Facebook were hard, but now, I don't really miss them, and I'm slowly losing the habit of thinking in tweets & status updates. My fingers still start typing those site addresses when I get restless or bored with something else I'm doing at the computer, as they do the news / opinion URLs, but they're easy enough to stop--and it's a helpful reminder, each time, of how much of one's life is lived by habit.
The funny thing is, when I don't type one of those addresses in, I find myself standing at the keyboard puzzled, trying to think--sometimes pretty hard--of what I want to look at on line. Are there any sites I want to read? Anything I want to learn about? It's a fascinating experience, this loss of pattern and habit. I'm quite enjoying it.
The final leg in the Distracting Time tripod--weird metaphor, but maybe that makes these sites the stool that I've been sitting on to rest from work, or something like that--is the set of musical instrument sale sites I look at: Ebay listings, the classified ads at Mandolin Cafe and Craigslist, the lists of newly arrived instruments at a couple of shops in town, etc. I don't actually buy anything at any of these, mind you, nor do I go to the shops and play things. I just window shop, see what's new, think about what I could buy and picture myself playing it--always better, of course, than I can actually play any instrument in real life. It's very soothing, this sort of search: the mental equivalent of sucking my thumb or ticking through worry beads or something like that.
I don't feel the same urge to cut this out entirely that I did the other two sorts of sites, because this doesn't cause me as much stress--but I'll be curious to see whether I spend more or less time on them now than I did when they were part of the overall mix. When I think of it, I'm trying to replace them with sites or YouTube videos that teach me how to play something: a song I like, a riff I've always enjoyed, etc. You see, when I do go to an instrument shop, I'm always a bit intimidated by how little I know how to sit down & play off the top of my head. It would be nice to change that. But that's a post for another day, I think.