A clean start for 2018
It's been a tough few years in many respects. As optimistic as I try to be I am still occasionally pegged back by damaging thoughts and unrealistic goals.
The other evening I sat down to consider how this might change, and with the new year rapidly approaching I thought about how I might use that time to effect some life-changing decisions.
There are a number of things that we may concede control our lives on a daily basis. Technology, undoubtedly, is one of them. Whether that is our working at a computer all day, our hunger for social media or the anticipation of a 'ping' on our mobile phones.
Switching off from social media is hard. Turning your back on your phone is hard. Especially for anybody who has children. We always want to be available for our loved ones and being unreachable is also unrealistic.
But those things said it is still perfectly possible to 'cut back' a little.
I aim to start with social media. I am a prolific Facebook user. I don't necessarily post every day but I certainly look to see what my buddies are up to daily.
First thing in the morning I check social media. On a break during the day I'll probably check it. In the evening whilst watching TV I'll flick through social posts and last thing at night I'll check to see if any of my social buddies have done or said anything of interest.
Such is the pull for belonging to this 'community' I find it hard to consider just turning my back on it without some form of justification. I need a 'why'. A reason. An underlying motivation to cut down my social time such that I can call upon it at times of weakness.
'Why did I decide to cut back my social media usage?'
Answer: to maintain some control.
That might sound alarming but the more I think about it the more I realise that my daily activity is in some way controlled by social media. That irrepressible urge to 'share' the finest of details with an invisible audience.
I use my phone as an alarm clock. A pretty good reason for having my phone alongside me during the night.
But there are such things as alarm clocks.
So why not have the phone in another room during the night?
If I wake in the night I'm 100% likely to want to unlock the phone and check social media. What possible benefit could that have to me?
In the morning I wake at the sound of the alarm. Almost immediately I'm unlocking the phone and scanning social media.
Why not climb out of bed, put the kettle on and unwind naturally before hitting the bathroom. There really is nothing so urgent on Facebook that I have to prioritise it ahead of a much-needed coffee at 6:30am.
I live alone following my divorce but am fortunate to have some very close friends.
I'm not a prolific 'text'er and don't spend my time messaging through any number of the available messaging apps on the market.
But I do, like most people, enjoy receiving a text message.
Occasionally I may even prompt this by reaching out to somebody with a quick, 'hey, how are you today? x' (Don't forget the all important kiss!)
But why am I doing that?
Do I really care how that particular person (that I spoke with just the day before) is doing today? The very next day? Is there enough in that time for something significant and news worthy to have happened to them?
Why not just wait a few days, a week even, and have more to catch up on.
A number of my friendships are largely conducted via text message.
I've seen some close friends just a handful of times in 2017 yet we've exchanged hundreds (literally) of text messages.
Could I not arrange to actually meet these people or at least pick up the phone to speak with them?
There's something far worse in all of this.
If I were to write a list of those people with whom I exchange messages on a frequent basis and then mark each one where I've actually instigated the conversation; the number of marks would be worryingly high.
Some of this inevitably comes down to protecting my sanity.
I want to find other things to care about beyond the internet world of social media and phone messages.
So I'm going to work on myself. My own expression, creativity and artistic interests.
Best of all I'm going to do it for me. Nobody else, just me.
There's no need to set targets or goals. No need to place unnecessary pressure on myself.
Just do it all for the sheer fun of it.
At best it's the most cathartic exercise I know.
Right now it's just words. But just writing these words is an enormous help to me.
For anybody that is reading this I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018.