Why I’m taking a break from social media

Ugh, social media.

I don’t mean really ugh – obviously it’s awesome to have places to meet and connect and share online.

This very blog is social media – people chat in the comments and that makes me really happy. I really, really love the whole concept of Twitter. And Instagram is so cute! I have fundamentally failed to understand the purpose of Tumblr, probably because I am over 25 and my eyes are already bad enough. And I wouldn’t touch Facebook with a barge pole (and yes, I do have an actual barge pole) – that shit ruins lives. Oh…and now we have Ello, too!

It’s all good fun I’m sure, but I reckon most people have something of a love-hate relationship with the social platforms they choose.

For me, the problem is about attention span.

I’m not on Twitter all the time, but as a freelancer who is regularly alone during the day, I often have it open in my browser just so I can chat from time to time. It’s my equivalent of bouncing an idea across the office or flicking paper balls at a colleague (Richard, I miss you man) and it’s a nice way to take a break.

But there are hundreds of thousands of posts which urgently need my attention and pictures of cats looking really hilariously superior and incredible discussions about race and gender and class, and small campaigns which need help, which I would never have found out about from, like, the radio. I don’t want to miss that stuff, so I check. And I check. More and more. Sometimes when I’m in the middle of something else.

Eight-of-wands-tarot-card-Kitty-Kahane-Tarot

If this Eight of Wands from the Kitty Kahane Tarot doesn’t represent social media overwhelm, I don’t know what does.

That’s where the problem lies. I can feel my work dipping in quality. That piece of writing I was doing trails off as I break my concentration to learn something really (really) important about Gaza. Then that nice email I was reading gets lost as a friend tweets me something funny. Argh. Business websites often tell you to ‘schedule in special time for your social media’ but honestly? Do people actually do this?? No thanks, I’m not a robot.

And don’t get me started on the numbers thing. The followers, the friends, the likes, the retweets, the favourites. And scheduled tweets and sponsored posts and, dear god, buying followers. Bleeeeuuugh.

Soooo I’m gonna make it stop.

Leave it all alone for a while. Not the blog (god no!) but the itty bitty tweeting and having-a-go-at-Elloing and the pics on Instagram and the bloody interruptions which have started to detract from rather than add to my day. I’ve cancelled that weird Tumblr I did nothing with. And after a month, or a year, maybe I’ll shut down the rest. I don’t know.

Where I’d previously have been checking Twitter over morning coffee, now, I’ll pull a card instead. (Duh!) Where I’d be clicking the links other people post, I’ll go out and find my own news, visiting the websites I love and respect instead instead of all that jumping from one link to the next. Where I might have skim-read six articles posted on Twitter, I’ll try to read one thing from start to finish (and it’s scary how sounds-simple-hard-to-do that has become, right?) Where I’d be wondering what’s new with Ello, I’ll just…like…not give a damn. Honestly though, who actually cares?

And when I’m working? I’ll just be working. For the sheer love of it. Or because it pays me. Ideally both.

I want my attention span back!

I want that depth of communication and of understanding that feels like it’s dissolving as I drown under ever increasing amounts of information, news, media. I want to know more about less, not less about more. I want fewer, more meaningful interactions.

I’ve made some really great connections via social media – some fun and fleeting, others which – hurrah! – have made it to email conversations. And I’m planning a big trip to the US to meet up with some of the gorgeous people who have reached out to me because of this blog. If you wanna talk tarot, hey, let’s *really* talk tarot. Like over a bottle of wine or something!

I want to talk properly.

When I send out my little email bits and bobs thingumy (which you can get here) I’m always amazed at how many people take the trouble to write back – to share something about their day or give me feedback on something new on my website or ask me a question about tarot.

And emailing is something I can (and do) schedule time for. I don’t stay on many email mailing lists for long (two shots and if you haven’t made me smile or think, you’re out) but Alexandra Franzen‘s simple roundups and helpful ideas are always welcome in my inbox. Because they’re short, sweet, and genuinely helpful.

She regularly talks about the joys of not answering emails immediately. Stopping the flow so you can deal with it when you want to. Switching off email when you’re working. Although her ideas are simple, when I read Alex’s words I think yes, yes yes, hallelujah, this woman speaks the truth!

I want to strip it all back.

Focusing my energy in just a few selected places, rather than scattering it everywhere. I remember how good it felt when I gave away *all of my stuff* in order to move aboard this tiny boat. I only kept the things I truly loved and needed. What a frickin’ relief that was.

I want to apply the same to my communications.

I don’t know many people who don’t have an email address – if you wanna connect with me, connect with me there. Make an effort , say hello properly. Join my bits and bobs list, or just drop me a line. Ask me a question about tarot, share your latest project, teach me something new, suggest a collaboration, tell me what you want to see on this blog, or link me up to yours.

And don’t expect an immediate reply because, you know, I’m probably concentrating 🙂

With that, I’m off to do a Very Important Thing.

Love!

Beth x

PS Oh yeah – it’s beth@littleredtarot.com

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14 comments

  1. sagegrayson says:

    Hell yeah! I love this post. 🙂 I’m scaling back on social media too after realizing I get very little return on investment (but I do get a ton of aggravation and stress!). I’m focusing on the one or two that feel good and yummy to me and letting the other ones go.

  2. Joanne says:

    Yeah, that’s the thing, isn’t it? When you simplify, it does include everything, and social media surfing can kill an hour or two you could have been doing something more in depth. I find my situation the same. First thing I did was to turn off the notifications for all these things, including email, so I could choose. Still not perfect at not checking email, but the social media outlets are definitely more under control.

    Enjoy your time to focus. I tried signing up for the bits and bobs but got an error message. I’ll try again. 🙂

    • Beth says:

      Erk! There’s something very strange going on with it that form – throughout the entire site! Damn.

      Yeah…I found that turning off notifications didn’t help me much. I was always just actively going over to see all the exciting things that were happening in the world…

      • Joanne says:

        Indeed. I find it easier to let go of the social media outlets (except checking family on FB) than email, but that’s the way virtually all of my new editing biz comes in. But still, I don’t need to be as responsive as I am at present. Hart to not check to find out what might be on offer for projects, though. Let me know if you come up with a magic formula to relax into life (although your most recent post says a lot).

        I did start getting the bits and bobs today, though. So, all good!

  3. Bobby says:

    Social Media sometimes seems like a sickness that the world hasn’t realised she suffers from. I find it scary to be honest. The effect it has on the impressionable young is frightening. It seems to me that unless it is instagrammed, face-booked and twittered it didn’t happen. I check FB occasionally for updates on my friends and family around the globe, and to ppost the odd rant but thats it. Twitter I never got, Tumblr I fell off fast and Google + I cannot make head or tail of… I hate when I go to gmail it keeps asking me to join Google +. In fact I am looking for a gmail/google alternative.

    I do enjoy my carefully selected blogroll, I love TED, and I adore Brain Pickings… but Tarot over twitter gets my vote any day!! x

    • Beth says:

      Yeah! Google is doing my head in too.

      I’m definitely not stopping reading blogs Bobby. I use bloglovin to collect together all the blogs I love, so when I feel like a, ahem, ‘scheduled break’ (yeah right) I can pop over and read what everyone’s been up to 🙂

  4. Wonderful post! I read an article about a month ago (and ironically enough, I found it on twitter) about how our brains are actually physically changing as a result of social media. The multi-multi-tasking and the million shifts in focus are causing our brains to grow connections to help us to do just that… and the neurons dedicated to focus? The ones that allow us to concentrate and buckle down… are taking a hit. We are self-inflicting a type of attention deficit disorder by training our brains to follow all the breadcrumbs instead of just focusing on one thing for a few hours.

    So I think serious breaks from social media use is a great thing!

    As a freelancer you’ll totally get this – I had to train my clients into this, and give them a warning email so that the instant response on twitter or Skype was not expected. 🙂 Some people didn’t like it, they wanted full-time anytime access to me. But most were okay with it after I set up the boundaries and expectations 🙂

    • Beth says:

      Hey Chris!

      That’s scary about how our brains are changing isn’t it. Maybe not scary. But weird. I like the new multi-tasking development…but not at the expense of my ability to be utterly absorbed in something. That’s just sad.

  5. chloetarot says:

    Interesting, that’s two newsletters I’ve joined today, having long said I didn’t want to sign up for stuff. As you say, I’d rather get something in my inbox from someone I value than surf twitter for ages!

    • Beth says:

      Thanks Chloe – I know what you mean. Writing this has really made me shift my attention to email. Even that in itself is a more pleasurable, immersive format. It’s only been a couple of days but in that time I’ve had three really interesting, personal email conversations (which I definitely have time for!) …hard to feel sad about missing 5000 tweets!

  6. Noel says:

    Beth, you put into words oh so elegantly just what I think. I simply don’t have time or interest to follow everything, and nor do I want to give in to mediocrity that the internet seems to breed in phases and stages. Love your site, its like an island of sanity 🙂

    Noel

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