This August I unplugged. No social media. No email. No messages (well, almost…). It was all rather quiet. Those five-minute gaps where I would normally reach for my phone or my iPad, were instead filled with nothing. My usual diet of photos and updates was replaced with colouring-in books, games of backgammon, family time, novels and… space to think.

But today, having begun my ascent of the email mountain, with a deep breath, I’m about to turn the social media back on. It’s time. And on the whole, I’m looking forward to connecting with the world again. But not entirely…

 

What I really didn’t miss:

 

The Time Vacuum

My life too often disappears into a screen. Of course, I love the interaction and community that email, Skype and social media bring, but because of the nature of my work – often writing, preparing talks or administrating, it is all too easy for my ‘brain breaks’ to consist of a quick click onto social media or a blog. While this is not all bad, it is a serious time and energy sucker. Let’s be honest – if I ever want to spend time interacting with people face to face, exercising or even (deep breath) cleaning my house, then I might want to consider how many minutes a week are draining down my cables!

Cute Stuff

I’m sorry about this and I appreciate I’m getting old and grumpy, but I really didn’t miss the excess of kittens, puppies and even *ducks for cover* babies. The thing is – I’m in a ‘post-cute’ season of life. We have done our share of gerbils, cats, guinea pigs, spoon feeding and pram pushing, and have entered a different stage. I get that once I become a grandparent I will re-enter planet cute, and I’m definitely not immune to the smiles of my friends’ offspring, but I am currently I enjoying the realisation that teenagers are just as fascinating, challenging and beautiful as any bouncing baby. They just don’t like me plastering their pictures all over my timeline.

Fully Fantastic Females

I have reflected again during my screen-fast that different networks encourage different kinds of interaction. Twitter is great and keeps me bang up to date, but the information passes so quickly, it can be a bit hit and miss. Facebook encourages more actual relationship – which can be wonderful but extremely time consuming. Instagram, however, whilst being lower maintenance, is high aspiration and often just too fabulous to be true. This year I have found myself to be regularly Insta-inspired but equally I have been Insta-intimidated and ultimately I became rather Insta-insecure.

There are some amazing women on Instagram particularly whose families, ministries, marriages and lives are apparently a constant flow of fun, glamour, dazzling locations, fruitfulness and general fabulousness all round. I have often marvelled at their influence and I have been encouraged by their wisdom, but I have also, on occasions, felt a little patronised and a bit bewildered. You see, despite the pithy quotes, not everybody’s life can be shiny all of the time. Living with disability, depression or a job you struggle with or financial or relational pressure is not easily fixed with a fancy filter, and although we all want to progress and aim high, there are days when getting out of bed deserves a round of applause. Let’s be real.

Having said all of this, I didn’t miss people on the other end of the spectrum who grumble all the time either… 😉

 

What I missed:

 

People

Life is so much richer when you are in touch with a range of people who it would be ordinarily impossible to regularly interact with! Fair enough – it could be argued that the sheer volume of relationships that we try to maintain would have been unimaginable in the days of pen, paper and fixed phone lines, and there is some merit to identifying how many people we can meaningfully interact with, but still – it’s great to touch base with so many people all over the globe.

I am, in hindsight, glad I decided to split my Facebook accounts into a personal profile and a professional page. My page means I can keep in touch with the super people I meet at conferences and events without feeling the pressure to be sharing my family news with them all. It’s my issue probably, being a boundary ninja and not wanting to let people down or over promise, but hopefully it means I communicate more appropriately with everybody. I am really looking forward to hanging out on-line again with my page followers and my personal profile friends and, of course, the diverse bunch of Twitter folk too, who amuse me and inform my thinking in all kinds of ways.

I may have been more still without my screens but I was more isolated too. It’s nice to be with you again.

Information and entertainment

I love the way that people on social media often introduce me to great music, hilarious YouTube clips, the next great box set, articles about current affairs, reflections on news stories and live commentary on national and international events. I would probably still be watching re-runs of Escape to the Country ad-nauseum without the intervention of others on-line, and there’s only so many mystery houses that a girl can mentally move into. Also, although I could cheerfully throw the computer out of the window after my tenth invitation of the day to play some random game or other, I will admit I was thoroughly consumed by Plague and 4 Pics for a while last year. I accept that filling many of the gaps of my life with screen time has left less room for creative projects and clear thinking, but I do enjoy having easy ways to fill ten minutes sat in the school car park. I wouldn’t want to lose the instant news and sheer fun-factor that my gadgets provide.

 Inspiration.

My favourite pastime in the world is sitting with a pot of tea and the Sunday papers, and there are certain columnists like India Knight who I admire greatly. But the advantage of the digital world is that not only can I hear more from those very columnists, but I can also watch documentaries and read blogs from stacks of other wonderful writers and leaders who challenge my thinking, extend my understanding and inspire me in a variety of ways. I have a big queue of August blogs and podcasts from Michael Hyatt, Andi Andrew, Krish Kandiah, SheLoves, Sheridan Voysey and Bev Murrill which I cannot wait to dig into, alongside others.

It is fantastic that alongside building relationships and being entertained and informed, the internet allows us to grow in understanding and develop our character, understanding and skills. It takes a while to find the blogs, accounts or channels to subscribe to, but when we do, then it’s incredibly rewarding and definitely worth sharing.

 

So, as with all things, m’ Lord, it is balance that is the key for me. It did me good to detach from everybody’s lives – as a person in church leadership, the constant concern for others can be draining, even if it is a privilege. It did me good to resist the screen and rediscover some mental and physical space. But, it’s good to be back! I hope and pray that my little contribution to the digital world will be positive and authentic and I am looking forward to being with you on-line again.

 

Let me know:

Have you ever digitally detoxed?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by social media or e-mail or is it all good?

What have you found useful in creating boundaries around your digital life so that your relationships and creativity have room to thrive?