Monday, 27 October 2014

Falling Out Of Love With Social Media

Picture Source
In the summer of 2007, shortly after I had joined this wondrous new thing called Facebook, I had friends over for dinner and clearly remember us wondering how long this fascinating new form of communication would last. It was amazing that you could keep in touch with your friends at the click of a button without spending any money and at any time of day. This was when you added friends by the day, raced to post your Christmas/holiday/friend's wedding photos, poking was the done thing and your name always had to be follow by 'is'.

FB was a lovely thing and for several years I enjoyed watching the changes in family and friends' lives (and some random acquaintances as well) as they married, had children and I was happy to be part of these changes by commenting, liking and tagging.

Then Twitter arrived. How innovative it was to make statement to the world in just 140 characters! It provided a new insight into celebrities' lives and if Her Majesty was tweeting then I was missing out if I wasn't joining in. So I set up a Twitter account and would spend silly amounts of time pondering how to say something important and amusing within the word limit.

Not long after that I discovered Instagram: creating a statement in an image, sometimes carefully constructed, sometimes just a click in the moment. I grew to love editing apps and started my own Project365 to document 2014 in pictures. I even learnt how to do hashtags. Instagram seemed a beautiful thing, full of prettiness with minimal effort.

As I write this, I'm reminded that this isn't the first time I've fallen out of love with social media. I've had periods before where it's made me worry that my life isn't full of enough exotic holidays, new clothes and evenings out. As life has evolved I've had routine declutters of friends, unfriending long gone work colleagues and acquaintances and for a month I trialled living without Facebook. I've done the same with Twitter, clearing out celebrities whom I'd added when their was profile high and teaching organisations that filled my mind with guilt that I'm not working every minute of the day. But I kept thinking I wouldn't bother deleting accounts as it will probably come to a natural end sooner or later, recently I've realised that they are here to stay.

In September it dawned on me how social media had taken over my life. Whenever I was out and about, at work during my lunchbreak, waiting for someone/something to happen or even visiting my Mum and Dad, I was attached to my phone or iPad finding out what was going on in people's lives. Yes, I was being nosy about people I did and didn't know and getting frustrated if the signal or WIFI was poor. I no longer people watched or saw the world go by from a window; I didn't just sit and read; I tapped and swiped hours away. When I sat down and thought about it, I realised that life was being taken up with these meaningless moments and it was time for me to firmly take action.

I chatted to Mr P and my lovely colleague and threw my ideas around: Could I live without it completely? Would I be sad to miss out on the special moments in other peoples' lives? Would being virtually friendless make me a loner in real life too? I think deep inside I had already made up my mind but it was good to talk it through with others who had mixed feelings about the usefulness of such things.

So I started by positing my last Tweet and clicked 'goodbye' to Twitter. It was the easiest thing to delete first as I had realised that I never had time to actual read the feed and didn't really ever use it to stay in touch with others. Have I missed it in the week since I deleted my account? No, not really. Actually no, not in the slightest - it has actually made me feel good that I don't feel guilty about not looking at it. (Although I'm now annoyed that I can't delete the little Twitter button from this blog - grrr!)

Facebook has been slightly trickier to eradicate as I started to think about all the family members it had brought me closer to. You know, those people you send Christmas Cards to but have no idea what they're actually doing because you'd never think to pick up the phone and talk to them. It's made conversations at parties easier because you don't have to start from the point when you last saw them a year ago and you can actually talk to those (male) cousins who you never would have spoken to because they still had you in their mind as an awkward, geeky teenager.

Going cold turkey was never going to happen, so I decided that if I wasn't going to abandon FB I needed to make it more compact and manageable. I started by removing it from my mobile which stopped the constant checking to see if something important happened and only discovering that someone had put a chicken in the oven for their tea. I had a spring-clean of friends, leaving only people I had actual contact with or those who I would like to stay in contact with by sorting them using the statement: "I would stop in Oxford Street and cross the road to talk to you if I saw you." There were some people who I decided I'd probably not recognise, some whom I would be too shy to speak to and others where I'd struggle to find anything worthwhile to say beyond 'hello'. These were the ones who were unfriended. It hs left me with list of 101 friends who are mostly much loved family or people I genuinely value as true friends.

I also made FB less time-consuming by deleting the majority of 'likes'. You know shops, TV programmes and organisations who sent constant updates which I skipped through and never properly read. I realised that I was no longer actually reading any websites in detail but got all my information by skimming these, especially true of all the teaching ideas pages. So I bookmarked the things I was really interested in and vowed to look at a proper website once in a while. So far so good; it's made FB quicker and easier to digest and meant that I actually look at and use ideas from other teachers rather than thinking I'd go back and have a proper look at another time.

I'm keeping Instagram as it's something I really do value having. In the same way as keeping a blog it's more of a creative experience. I like selecting and refining images as it helps me to reflect on what's happened and what has got me excited. It's made me see the beauty and joy in every day and if there is no beauty or joy then there's no pressure to post. I check my feed as and when I like but won't feel guilty if life moves on and I've not seen every minute of it.

And as for Blogger, well I'm certainly still here. As always feeling guilty about not posting often enough and having picture-minimal posts but deciding to just keep at it. Not worrying what others think or what the viewer count is but using it as a voice for me. A diary of my little life that is public and one that I would not keep if it was just for me. I love the connections I've made with other Bloggers that have strengthened as they've moved to Instagram and the little community of like-minded people who I genuinely think I'd like like to sit down and have a cup of tea with.

I'm sure my relationship with social media will continue to evolve and change with fads that come and go but now I feel in control and not socially obliged to be part of it 24:7. I will use it for the good things, like seeing pictures of our friends' newborn baby last night, and make more time for having a life, enjoying real experiences in the moment without having to jump to writing a witty line about what I'm doing or where I am.

Oh, and I will ever feel important or grown up enough to sign up to LinkedIn. That will just not ever happen!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

52 Lists / Forty Three

Hello again, it's been a while. I've just been caught up in the usual craziness of a first half term: home visits, getting to know children and trying to settle them, copying with new discoveries about their behaviour, needs and interests and carrying out baseline assessments for all 78 of them. Nevermind, we have now reached half term break (having survived the longest teaching half term of the year) and it is a chance to pause, rest and prepare for the next half term's adventures - as well as having lots of me-time fun!

I do hope that whatever you've been doing these past few weeks, you've been keeping well and enjoying the glories of autumn. In England the beautiful, mild weather has been delightful; it's made it a stunning autumn thus far.

You may have noticed that there has been no 52 Lists for a good few weeks. This has not been due to  my own tardiness but because since the middle of September I've sadly not received any further emails from Emma at Made In Hunters and despite having emailed her to see if she is ok, I've not heard a thing.

Whilst I was busy with school work this was no bad thing but I do miss the routine of thinking about and putting a list together each week. I've decided to make up my own things to list about until the end of the year (not long now really!) and as 2015 I've decided to start a new list project which I'm very excited about.

For the new year, I plan to write a post each week about my favourite pieces of music. Music is such a big part of my life and I enjoyed writing a couple of posts about secret songs in the summer. As my musical tastes are ecclectic I think it will be a real mish mash of classical and more modern styles. I'm very excited about doing it as I think it will reflect not only who I am but how what I listen to adapts to weather, seasons and celebrations throughout the year.

But that's enough of plans for 2015 - back to 2014!

This week: List what you plan to do to make this Christmas a good one!

Back in January I wrote a gloomy post about how disappointed I was with Christmas that had just gone. It was a bit of a tail-between-my-legs episode about how it was nice but how I didn't feel it was filled with as much delight and magic as other years. Boo hoo!

Now with the clocks going back (I'm using the 'extra' hour to write this post) and Christmas themed  catalogues arriving on my doorstep on a daily basis, my thoughts really do have a festive focus once more.

I'm trying to 'keep calm and get things done' this year, trying to find a good pace to achieve things I must do and enjoy the things I want to, finding a festive balance and not feeling guilty about the things that don't happen.

Here's the start of my Enjoy Christmas Action Plan!

Getting things done on my weekly to-do list
This week: Buy Christmas Cards, check address book, print labels, plan wrapping, bake cakes.
(I have already bought my cards - Andy and I made our annual visit to St Paul's Church in Covent Garden and bought some Cards For Good Causes AND my Dad kindly picked up all the cake and pudding ingredients when he was out shopping on Friday so I'm all prepared to make my cakes this week)

Don't hold onto all the random Christmas catalogues
In previous years I have hoarded all the Christmas catalogues that I've received through the post, picked up whilst shopping or found stuffed into magazines. This year I'm looking at them as they arrive, keeping what I want and recycling the rest. There's no point holding onto paper that I'm never going to look at again and then chuck it out the week before Christmas when I'm tidying the house. Hotel Chocolat and NOTHS have already been dispatched to be repurposed into loo rolls. 

Make time for me in the holidays
I finish school on Friday 19th December this which gives me a nice few days before Christmas to enjoy the build-up festivities, something which I struggled to last year. I will definitely be spending a half day in the West End doing my last bits of special shopping, enjoying all the beautiful seasonal sights and listening to festive musics on my iPod. There will be a Starbucks red-cup thrown in and hopefully some peace found at Evensong at St Paul's Cathedral for good measure!

Go home for Christmas
We have already discussed where we will be for Christmas Day this year and I've asked to go home to Mum and Dad's this year. It's not really a big deal as it involves no travelling or overnight stays (they live 2 streets away) and we would all be together at our house or theirs anyway but this year I wanted to be back 'at home' for the big day. To be honest they have more space in their living room to sit and enjoy the evening and the past two years it has been a bit of a squeeze in ours. It will also be the first Christmas with Milly who will no doubt provide lots of feline entertainment!

Buy the tree a week earlier
Last year I waited until school had broken up for the holidays before going to buy our tree because I wanted it to feel like the holidays but actually it just felt a bit late and in the last week of term as things were winding down, I wanted nothing more than to come home and sit under some fairy lights. This year, we'll buy the tree and get it up in the middle of December and be able to properly enjoy coming home to it for a good few weeks. I don't think we gained anything from buying it later anyway - I've never known a tree drop so many pine needles anyway!

Don't buy too many festive magazines (and be swept away in how perfect it should be)
So I've already bought my Ideal Home Christmas special and the Country Living December issue has arrived but this year I plan to buy no more. I've decided to save my money and just browse on Pinterest and magpie ideas from blogs and Instagram (and sneak a look at Mum's Good Housekeeping), rather than buy magazines which I struggle to find the time to read, have a huff about how articles are recycled year-on-year and feel disillusioned that my house doesn't look like as perfect as the photographs of Jemima and Rupert's Cotswold farmhouse that were probably taken during a heatwave in July. It is just not worth it!

Don't get swept away with buying (or wishing for) to many presents for Mr P
I'm known for starting off sensibly with my present purchasing and in the fortnight before the big day getting swept away with buying every novelty item on offer. There is no way that Andy's life will ever be enhanced by a Roman Legionnaire Rubber Duck and I don't want to spend a week at the start of January once again trying to find homes for all these frivolities, our home is just not big enough. I, in turn, have said the one thing that what I wish for this Christmas and I'm just hoping it will come true. (Might have to drop heavy hints for a few more weeks though!)

Well, that's made a start on being pragmatic about Christmas 2014. Just writing things down and putting it out there helps to make my thoughts and doings clearer. 

Have you got a strategy for 'doing Christmas' or do you just take it in your stride?