DO WE NEED TO CUT BACK ON SOCIAL MEDIA, THE WEB, OUR CELL PHONES?
Just rambling on….
This is a post I threw together on a whim. Just some jumbled thoughts on the Internet, social media and cell phone usage.
I think that anyone now a-days can be guilty. Know, however, that I am drawing from my personal Web experiences as both a writer and a run-of-the-mill Internet surfer. And you know me, I’m sure to ramble off subject a bit because I love to add my .02 to everything. Hence, my tagline, “And, your point is?” Haha.
Have you ever wondered when enough is enough when it comes to the amount of time and energy you waste on the Internet and social websites? Do you know, and are you willing to admit, how you abuse yourself and waste precious time on the Web?
As a writer, I do spend a good amount of time on the Web. It’s how I do research and promote myself. I remember the days when I had to go to the library to find information. Or contact a teacher, professor, doctor or some other expert on a particular subject. Of course, don’t get me wrong…writers still have to those things too, especially if writing on real-life subjects. You know, writing about true crime, or a biography, etc. Even if the crime ends up a work of fiction, statistics need to be real. Readers are not stupid.
Now then, often times as a writer I get sidetracked. I flip on my computer to get busy on Word. I power up FireFox to research women serial killers and end up on Facebook. How does that happen? Well, I’m sure there are some women serial killers who use Facebook, but I am not friends with any of them…to my knowledge. FTW? Anyway, yep, so there I am on Facebook for the next hour…or maybe two if I get on a game or start PM-ing with someone.
In the old days, before I got on Facebook, it was MySpace. Before that it was Yahoo Groups and Y!-Instant Messenger, along with plenty of niche or specialty website message boards. Before that, it was Hotmail on a constant basis. Note: I got my first Hotmail account back in 1996, which is when I was first introduced to the Web. Wow. I was so excited. I entered college in ’96 from a world where things like the Web didn’t exist. Imagine my surprise when I found out that those huge-ass floppies were gone and we were using those smaller square 3” storage disks. Oh, and we no longer had to boot up the computer using those old start-up disks I experienced way back in 1988. Ah, those were the days of the old word processor and Lotus 123.
Okay, my history with computer technology is for yet another blog at some point. Maybe. So, here I was, in 1996, doing online research. Also, there were all sorts of archives on the Web for so many things. I was impressed. I got my first personal computer, a Compaq, in October, 1999! Woo-hoo! I was in heaven. I couldn’t wait to get home from school or work and power that sucker up. Hotmail and my favorite website message board awaited me!
So, I love my gadgets & technology. I love my dumbass smart phone that I’d like to smash with a hammer and I love my laptop and my Kindle. I love social media, and WordPress, of course. I enjoy being be able to self publish books on CreateSpace or Smashwords, etc. One of my first-ever favorite sites was Amazon.com. When I first met Amazon…eons ago… I was in heaven. I found books there that I couldn’t find anywhere, even in many libraries.
I like advances. While I don’t have cable TV right now… due to cutting household costs mostly…I have Sirius radio in my car. I’d rather have Sirius than cable TV. And actually, when I as a teen and a helluva lot smarter than I am today (back in, probably, 1986) I invented (in my head) something similar to Sirius radio. I said to a friend, “Hey, what if there was something like cable radio?” I was a fool. I thought it was futuristic and a long shot. I never tried to pursue it. I’m such an idiot as I could be a millionaire today. So, I am always about moving forward.
Let’s not get off track. So I end up on Facebook, Goodreads, and often I get sidetracked by other people’s blogs and websites. Especially other writers or the people I follow on WordPress. My research falls to the wayside and I’m playing CandyCrush and reposting my Facebook friends’ crazy status updates. Then there’s Twitter. I don’t spend as much time there as I should. All my original Twitter posts feed to my Facebook author and personal pages too. What a mess!
Two hours later, I’ve got nothing done. Sometimes when I’m bored or have something like writer’s block, I get lost online for hours! This isn’t solving my writer’s block. It’s making it worse because I’m not attempting to write anything.
Half the day can be gone before I know it. Or I look at the clock, it’s noon and I’m still in my jammies. I’m not the only one, I know. It’s happened to you all too, especially maybe if you live in a cold climate where it rains and snows a lot in winter. Sometimes on a day off from school or work we are forced to turn to the Web for entertainment. It doesn’t just happen to writers, it happens to all of us at some point. It’s just some people suffer more than others. We neglect our writing and editing, our homework, or forget about our test, we abandon the housework. We become addicted to Facebook’s Farmville, CandyCrush, Wheel of Fortune, etc. Or we’re on MySpace, or Tweeting about nothing. Or we’re over reading the blogs of all our Women’s Rights activist pals, or scouring YouTube for cat videos, and checking news sites for Royal Baby happenings. Nothing’s done. Nothing. We forget to water the plants, feed the cat, walk the dog and eat lunch. We forget that we went to bed married last night. The laundry’s piled up.
As a writer, I get lost online sometimes. In fact, very often. I start out with good intentions and screw it up. I start clicking links from one article to the next. Next thing I know I’m reading stuff that doesn’t apply to my research and clicking the “follow” buttons to track more people on Facebook or Twitter. Whaaaattt? I’ve threatened myself over and over. The other day I had so much writing work to do, I got off Facebook and stayed off even though I had to access the Web a few times to look things up. I got a lot done.
Sometimes when I don’t allow myself access to Facebook or Twitter on my laptop because I’m writing, I might check it from my cell. This is because I hate my dumbass smart phone and won’t play on it long. I do not talk on my cell when I’m driving. I don’t text or access Facebook or Mapquest either. If I’m in a situation that needs Mapquest, I pull over. If I feel the call I’m getting is an emergency call, I pull over. There have been times that I have texted or tweeted while behind the wheel at a stop light but never become engrossed. But that’s wrong too, I know this. It pains me to see drivers doing these things while their wheels are spinning, and I pray to see the day when getting caught driving…or even at a stop light… and talking/texting, etc., comes with fines so large they’ll break us. It’s ignorant. People don’t even realize the things they do…or don’t do…while talking on cells and driving.
Three days prior to this blog post, I was almost killed by a woman talking on her cell, smoking a cigarette and drinking water. Driving too fast, she wasn’t paying attention to the road or the stop light, and made a turn on a red light and couldn’t control the wheel with no hands. She was holding all three: cell, smoke, water. I don’t think the shit will ever come out of my undies. She plowed past me so closely & so fast, the wind from her SUV shook my 4-door Dodge Avenger. She lost control and drove up on the curb and smashed into a parked car in a lot which then slid and smashed into a car. In that car there was a woman and her infant and a dog. They were waiting for someone to come out of a shop there.
If I was one second closer she would’ve hit me going about 35 mph in her SUV while making that illegal turn. Hang up! There is absolutely no one, and I mean no one, that you need to talk to while driving. No one. Not your kids, your doctor, your sister, your employer, and you don’t need to hear your voicemail messages either since you shouldn’t be calling anyone back. Pull over. There are parking lots and residential roads all over. Pull over. I know what you’re already thinking…No, that woman was stupid. I’d never do all that stuff at the same time and I can drive and talk at the same time. Okay…whatever. Well, this topic too is for another day. Let me not get sidetracked.
I do not take my cell phone to the dinner table, at home or while out with friends, and play on Facebook or Twitter. Do you? That’s a sign of addiction! When I’m alone in Taco Bell, I’ll often Tweet or update Facebook. I rarely eat fast food, but I like Taco Bell. One of the Bells I visit near me has interesting clientele and I love to watch them. They do funny shit. So I post it. But if anyone brings their phone to my dinner table, they’ll be asked to set it aside, turn it off, etc. That’s just bad manners to sit at the dinner table with your friends or family, playing on Facebook over Thanksgiving dinner. I hope you all don’t do that either. You should have more respect than that, and don’t allow others to do it at your table either.
Back to the Web. When does our time wasted become too much? Do you know the signs? Maybe if you know all you have to do that day is relax, and Facebook games are your way of doing that then by all means, indulge. I’ve been there too. But how much of your life do your 300 strange Facebook friends take away from you, your family and real life friends every day? How many nice-day walks are you missing? How many phone calls go to voicemail? When’s the last time you took the dog out on his leash? You sit on Facebook and the world just keeps on turning. It was 9am, now it’s 3pm. Where’d the day go?
Some of us never realize we’re addicted. Am I addicted? Personally, I don’t think I’m 100% addicted. I can still shut the computer off and walk away. I can watch an entire 2+ hour movie at home and never look at my phone. And when I’m at a family gathering, I stay off of Facebook. Now and then I might post a pic or a Tweet from my phone about something ludicrous a family member just did, but it’s because we’re on Facebook and so are our real life friends and it is fun to embarrass my brother on Christmas Day. It’s fun. Period. But I will not sit during our entire holiday gathering with my eyes glued to me cell. I like to use Facebook for fun, but sometimes it turns into a monster, or it turns us into monsters. Yes, it does. And a few of us really and totally are addicted. Some of us are partially addicted. Some of us don’t think about it until we power up the computer. Then we get stuck on social media and turn into zombies, losing track of our day; our lives.
So many times I’ve said, “I’ll finish writing this chapter, then go for a walk.” I boot up the laptop…next thing I know I’m on Facebook, or Yahoo or Outlook. The chapter may or may not be finished, but the time for the walk never comes. I’ve missed a lovely day.
Sometimes I hear big roars of laughter outside my home. My mom’s on the porch with some neighbors laughing hysterically. I find myself enjoying the noise, but never budging to join in. Then I ask Mom what the hell was so funny, and when it comes from her, it’s not so funny. I missed it because I couldn’t walk away from Facebook for a few minutes.
I am jobless right now, so for the past few months I’ve spent a lot of time on social media. Spending the time on Facebook that I should be spending writing fiction, poetry or preparing my next blog, etc. It’s crippling. I know this. When I have a job, I spend less time online and can go for a couple of days without spending a whole lot of time online and don’t power up the laptop at all. I can keep up on my phone that I love to hate; therefore, not spending hours relentlessly on Facebook.
So my addiction is intermittent. But it’s there. I fall off the wagon. I have to beat myself metaphorically over the head to get me to read the books I want to review, or to get those 2,000 words written, or edit some manuscript pages. Yes, even my greatest love…writing…is infected with Facebook. That’s when you know things could become an issue, when your greatest loves are affected.
When I don’t get done what needs to be done, I feel sick and I hate myself. That’s how we all feel after we indulge in things we’re addicted to when we shouldn’t be involved. It’s how we feel when we’ve eaten to capacity and now are eating another piece of pie. Or when we sneak a smoke when we haven’t smoked all day. Or when we know we’ve had too much alcohol, but can’t say no to peer pressure. And I’m sure there’s a million other exampled you guys have experienced or witnessed. Yes, I should’ve been writing, but instead I was on Facebook.
In recent years, I’ve witnessed some real social media and Web addicts. These people look like zombies, stay up all night for no other reason but to facebook with friends or tweet and play Internet games. They lose their lives. They have no “real” friends. Their families are constantly pissed at them for not participating in family events or for constantly staring at their cell phones. I’ve seen a few that won’t even take the time to make a sandwich, or feed the dog. I’ve met people who tell me of carpal tunnel and arthritis in their back, elbows, wrists…all from living on the Internet. I believe most of us, who have full movement of our bodies, do not stay on the Internet that long. Yes, we love to access and update from our phones, it’s fun, but remember, there’s a time and place for everything, and it’s not while driving or at the Thanksgiving dinner table, or in the hospital room of your dying grandma. If you do those things, you’re probably an addict.
Facebook gets blamed for a lot. And more and more we’re hearing about folks becoming addicted to it or its games, among other things. When did it start? Well, not this year, or even last year. Maybe not even in 2005. In 1999, I was spending hours on message boards. And hell, that was long before Facebook. While, yes, it’s another avenue for Internet addicts, it’s not the first nor it will it be the last avenue of Web addiction.
Just before this past Thanksgiving season, when I was still employed full time, I started a system. No cell phone usage at certain times of the day or week. And not at all during the TV shows I watch with my mom. She’s going to be 78. She fell ill June of 2012. Her thyroid almost killed her then she got Shingles. She STILL has Shingles. Now she’s got a heart that beats too rapidly sometimes. They think it’s thyroid or thyroid medicine-related. So she’s on a pill for that. And if one day I wake up in the morning and she’s not breathing anymore, I don’t want any thoughts to go through my heart similar to, “God, I wish I hadn’t been staring at Facebook through the dark while I was supposed to be watching The Vampire Diaries with her!” So, when we’re watching shows we enjoy together like Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries or some mini-series like Under the Dome, I leave my cell in my bedroom and I put my books down. I do not bring my phone to the dinner table. I’ve never brought my cell to our dinner table, but up until about 14 months ago, I used to check Facebook or Twitter though the dark while watching TV. I don’t do this anymore, especially when Mom and I are watching our shows.
I also had a schedule when I was working, and now that I am back on the job hunt, I’m trying to practice restraint again because I realize how much time I’ve been blowing on the Web doing everything and anything except research or job hunting. I have all this free time to write or blog and I’ve been wasting way too much time on Facebook. Next thing I know, I’ll be working again and complaining that I have no time to write…and dwelling on all the time I wasted on Facebook instead of writing during my months of unemployment. I’m limiting my Facebook time via my laptop because if I don’t, I’ll power up and be on Facebook for hours. Also, I’m re-evaluating when and where I access social media on my cell phone and trying to be less ignorant about it, and of course, I don’t want to become a killer behind the wheel of my car. So I will continue the practice of ignoring my phone while driving.
I’d like to know about you guys. Are you addicted to social media? To your electronic gadgets? How much mindless time do you waste on the Web and it’s addicting avenues? How has this affected your life? Do you even know it’s being affected? Are you carelessly putting pedestrians and other drivers at risk to feed your addictions of talk, text, and social media?
Share your stores with us if you’d like to.