Offline and in tune with life

2010-07-17 20:13

A few years ago I was living in London and I stayed up late so I could watch some Britney Spears reality show.

It was way past my bed time but I was ready to be entertained when – five minutes in – it hit me: I didn’t care about Britney.

It was weirdly liberating.

I was reminded of a feeling a few weeks ago when I gave up my online life.

It was an average day – I’d worked, picked up my son and was making dinner, all the while reloading Twitter on my iPhone, ­checking up on what the 338 people I followed were up to.

I read a tweet from someone stuck in traffic, closely followed by another about what someone was making for dinner – and then, just like the Britney revelation, I realised that I really didn’t care.

So I switched off my phone and, for the first time in two years, spent an evening without Twitter.

I played with my son, had a bath, read a book and went to sleep.

The next day I deleted my Twitter account.

But I was also an active blogger and an avid Facebooker.

I started my blog when my son was a baby.

It was, ostensibly, a way of keeping my UK-based mom and granny updated on his ­development.

Then my mom returned to South Africa and my granny died – but by then I had readers from all over the world.

So I continued blogging. It’s flattering to write for an audience that finds your life interesting enough to check up on you every day.

I met bloggers in real life and it was great to meet new people who understood me ­because they were reading my blog, and ­people I knew so much about because I was reading theirs.

Slowly, my blogging friends took the place of my real friends because they were always there. I could put my son to bed or be in the office by myself, log on to the internet and ­instantly be surrounded by chatter and noise.

I never felt alone.

But when you are in a room with only your computer, you are alone.

It’s just you and ­people who don’t really exist, writing ­(pointlessly) for the entertainment of others.

I started to get uncomfortable about ­blogging publicly a year ago. I was sharing personal information because the internet lulls you into a sense of security.

I was over-sharing information about my three-year-old son who has no say in what I write about him.

It was his privacy that made me stop blogging.

Finally, there’s Facebook.

It’s like a ­never-ending high school reunion.

People you weren’t even friends with back in the day and that you had quite happily ­forgotten about, appear from all over the place wanting to be your “friend”.

You can ignore friendship requests but we all want to find out who on earth ever married Janice from high school.

And it’s interesting to look at their photos and their kids, and to be impressed that they are an occupational ­therapist because you never thought they’d amount to anything.

But what Facebook does is insidiously make you care about things you shouldn’t.

You go on to Facebook and before you know it, you’ve spent two hours caring about ­nothing.

So I’ve ruthlessly edited my Facebook friends from 300 to 64. Now I love ­Facebook because it’s only full of people I love.

In the years that I was on Twitter, blogging and building my Facebook empire, I don’t think I learnt one useful thing.

Now that I’ve cleared that fog, I have found that I really enjoy the internet again as a ­brilliant tool.

I never use it to find out what anyone on Twitter is making for dinner ­tonight and that’s just the way I like it.
 

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