I am at the end of an annual weekend catch up with two university friends. In reality we are together for less than 24 hours, but we make the very most of the 24 hours and focus on talking and allowing conversation to go wherever it needs to.
And part of the delight of these weekends is having the time and the space to allow conversations to meander and develop, to lull and to rise. Our friendship was formed in the days before smart phones, in fact in the days before mobile phones of any description. Our communications with each other were face to face in rooms and sitting rooms of university residences, in student bars and trips into London together. Our communications with others outside the university bubble were very limited: letters, infrequent trips home and one pay phone shared between 30 people and a message system of scribbled notes pinned to a noticeboard if anyone called when you were out – or if the person answering the phone just could not be bothered to out the effort in to find you. I know – that sounds like we were rude – but for those of you not as old as me, can you imagine the hassle of having to answer a phone on behalf of 29 other people which required you to stop whatever you were doing and run along a corridor and then spend time running around to try and find whoever was being called. Understandably there were times when one could not be bothered.
There was a conversation this weekend about how lovely those times were, we still did loads and felt stressed, but no doubt that communications were simple by dint of being very limited.
And this weekend has been a lovely recreation of those days of time and space for conversation, away from the distractions of a million WhatsApp/emails/texts/Facebook messages etc vying for attention. Instead, it was just us and our focus on each other and hearing a lot of news, plans, thoughts and worries and joys in a short space of time. Delicious.
To the person’s whose calls I did not answer – sorry, I will check the noticeboard once I am back home and queue up for the phone to call you back.
I am slowing moving back into the word of social media and email … and blogging … after a break which I needed as I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed after a really busy period both at work and at home. A period which required a lot of email, a lot of texts, and hours and hours of mindless scrolling through Facebook in a futile attempt to switch off my brain.
So a family holiday provided the opportunity to switch off the tech as well as the routine. I did not leave my phone at home, that would have been inconvenient. And I did have a lovely time reading blogs on my phone. I read more books. I stared into the distance a bit more. But possibly not as much as I would have done had I not had access to the internet at all. I still ended up down a few rabbit holes online (should I buy a jumpsuit?).
But most of all I checked email. I couldn’t get to email, I had logged out, but I checked and checked and checked. I am addicted to checking email and I had no idea. I knew I was in gander of checking work email compulsively, so I just don’t have work email on my phone or personal laptop. I thought I had didged the bullet. But in week one of the holiday, I cannot tell you how many times I saw this screen as I clicked on the mail icon of my phone.
Even knowing there was no email behind the icon did not stop me from compulsively tapping it. I have now hidden the icon from its usual clickable place on my homescreen. Let’s see how long I can reduce that compulsion to check. At least I now know it is a compulsion.
And it is a compulsion that I suspect is the one causing my headaches, neck ache, and my eyesight problems. I have worn glasses for nearly forty years now. My eyesight is rubbish and – despite the headline, it still is. For the past year I have assumed that my glasses are just never going to correct my sight properly now that I am getting older, seeing into the distance has been a struggle, lots of blinking and squinting was happening. Guess what – that compulsive looking at a small screen was stopping my eyes from focussing on things in the distance. Several opticians have mentioned to me how bad our phones are for our eyes – not the phones themselves, but that compulsive need to keep staring at them when our eyes are supposed to be taking a break and staring into the distance.
Driving down a familiar route yesterday I was amazed to see landscape that has been slightly fuzzy for ages now. Miraculous. And hopefully a motivation to stop that compulsive email checking and just give my eyes a proper break.