Happy New Year, now put your phone away

Happy New Year! Just realised I’m now entering my fourth year of/as Final Bullet, (though one of those was spent in full-time employment). Looking back at the early posts on this blog, I’ve acquired a few things over the years, anyway. Conferences. Freelance gigs. Bath-splashed copies of Grazia. Grey hairs. Hope you had a great Christmas.

Some good things happened this year – it’s been busy. Good-busy of course, but nonetheless…

  • I spoke at quite a few fun places and events, including TEDx Brighton, Ada Lovelace Day, Bristol’s Watershed, the RCA, the UEA and Bath University, and forced people to listen to me going on about James Cameron Terminator films numerous times at various other things.
  • I launched Hack Circus with a (sell-out, I’ll have you know) TIME TRAVEL LIVE event…
  • …and published the first issue of Hack Circus magazine.
  • I was billed as an artist, an Associate, and persistently if not accurately, a hacker.
  • My projects appeared in the Huffington Post, but NOT the Daily Mail.
  • I had an intern, and did some mentoring.
  • Despite everyone living in different parts of the country and working all the time, we somehow managed to make some good Shift Run Stops (…and as of yesterday, my co-podcaster Roo is now an actual dad!)
  • I had two haircuts.

One thing that’s really changed for me this year is my attitude to social media. After years of feeling compelled to share every thought with everyone in a general broadcast of words and images, I’m now much more interested in investing in normal, private connections with people.

My phone died, and I haven’t bothered re-installing Instagram on the replacement. Instead of seeing everything as a photography opportunity, I now try to notice and remember how things looked, or tell one friend about things I’ve seen that they might enjoy, rather than photograph them for the gallery. I also look at Twitter, and my phone, a tiny fraction of the amount I used to. I don’t even carry my phone around with me as much, and things have changed significantly for the better. Try it for a week. You’ll find you feel like you’re on holiday.

Of course there’s a bit of anxiety at first but it soon dissipates when you realise, actually, how incredibly rude it is to pull your phone out when there’s a real human being sitting opposite you. Now, in fact they might not mind, but as soon as you think of it as potentially rude, you’re starting to think about manners and the people who are around you – all good things to be considering in any social situation really. As an inevitable downside, it probably will start to piss you off a bit when you’re at a dinner thing and everyone else has got their phones out. But maybe we can start a movement.

It turns out it’s actually not that difficult, not doing something. The sense of relief was a surprise. I’ve had one of my duties taken away and can relax and enjoy the world in the solid old-fashioned way I was used to before all this stuff came along.

I’m not sure exactly where my change in attitude has come from… I might just be too busy now. I know I was starting to see a lot of ‘language’ I didn’t really understand – memes that I, as a woman in my mid-30s, have no hope of ever catching up with; the exhausting torrent of people using comments, follows, faves etc to communicate; the cryptic in-jokes I can’t fathom; the sense that I know exactly what will happen whenever I, and other people I know, post a certain kind of thing to a particular platform. After a while, the predictable behaviour of near-strangers stops being reassuring, regardless of what that behaviour is. And despite its inadequacy as a way for so many people to communicate, announce, promote or keep in touch, there’s an incredible pressure to ‘keep it up’.

But it turns out you don’t have to. I don’t know if I’m unsettled, bored, or just – let’s face it – old, but suddenly it feels like there are ways to live and places to hang out that are much more interesting, exciting, personal and meaningful. I produce events and magazines – my work doesn’t rely on constant digital presence or confessionals. And my social life isn’t something I want to conduct from behind this dark glass. It’s absurd that this feels ‘daring’ to even suggest, but perhaps my era of public service life streaming is over.

Having said that, here’s an impersonal broadcast: thanks for reading my blog this year, and I hope your 2013 was good and your 2014 is even better. Let’s see how we get on.

One thought on “Happy New Year, now put your phone away

  1. Samantha

    i love your thinking- having lost my phone on a charity cycle in Central America last year, I found myself ‘cut off’ for 12 days. Indeed the anxiety faded. I believe I enjoyed the experience with far greater reality and clarity than from behind my phone.. I also am less addicted to my on-line life now and long may it continue!

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