Its been just about 3 months since I decided to do an experiment and greatly reduce my use of social media and my various devices in general. Since I am Deafblind, I can’t realistically reduce my device usage. I depend on it so much for access to the world. But I wanted to change HOW I use it. I wanted to make better use of my time.
The first thing I learned was that no one noticed I did this–except for my sister. This is hilarious because my sister has exactly 0 social media accounts but does lurk from time to time. I can’t blame anyone for not noticing my absence, though. Once, a Facebook friend I liked very much died of cancer and I didn’t even know until 2 months later. I felt terrible, but its the nature of the beast. You don’t have any direct responsibility to engage, but then no one really expects you to, either.
The second thing I noticed is that I feel generally better. I feel a bit guilty about this because one of the reasons I feel so much better is because I am no longer getting the daily influx of horror stories about civil rights violations among the disabled, as well as getting less of a dose of The Trump Circus. Not only did I delete Facebook and instagram from my devices, I deleted all news sources except the New York Times and Washington Post, which I pay for, and the Apple News app. No more CNN or Huff Post for me. I also limited my time to reading through the headlines while I eat lunch. So, I get in about 20-30 minutes of news a day.. I feel guilty because I know I am less informed. I have many fabulous Facebook friends who are ON TOP of disability rights issues, and this is near and dear to my heart. Rebecca Cokely, Haben Girma, Mike Ervin, Suzanne Fast, and many others are heroes in the movement and probably would not dream of turning away from awareness of these very important issues. So, I guess it is a balance of sanity vs. advocacy and action. I’m still working on finding my balance.
I also miss just the fun posts that give me updates to how my friends and family members are doing. I like seeing my cousin Michelle’s children go off to college or go to a dance competition. Or my Aunt Merrily’s crazy travel adventures. I like seeing how my friends, Shannon and Leanne and so many others are faring with their work and their children and their challenges. I like to be able to root for them when they are having struggles and hope that maybe I can send them a kind word of support.
I also have built a network of friends on the Deafblind groups. This is a unique group of people who historically have been very isolated and are really using social media to find their voice and connect with others in a way we never have before. I have really valued the relationships I have built in the Deafblind community. The flip side of that, however, was that I was finding that I was spending a large amount of time answering tech questions, disability logistic questions, administrative and service provider questions within this community. There is nothing wrong with this; I like being able to help. My connections in my professional life give me a ton of knowledge and resources to share and I don’t mind sharing. But it was taking up a LOT of my time. I don’t want to be one of those people that won’t utter a word of professional assistance without being paid, but it was a lot of unpaid labor that took time away from other things.
And other things is exactly what I have been doing with this extra time. I’m always taking a class or two or three, so I have been continuing with my Hadley School for the Blind Braille courses (uh…which I’ve been slowly getting through for–embarrassingly–years). I also signed up for the Western Oregon University DB interpreter online course (not to be an interpreter, of course, but to learn more about ProTactile Communication so as to better serve our DB clients in my job.) I also had time to work through the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University stuff and have been working a lot on getting a better picture of our finances.
But my main goal was to try to write more, either for my self or professionally. Since I work at our business part-time and homeschool my children part-time, writing projects are the things that always get put at the very lowest priority of the task list and never get adequate time. It is still hard to make time, but spending hours a day drifting around on social media and news sites wasn’t helping anything. I’ve started a Day One journal, for all the private, not worthy of anyone’s eyeballs garbage that goes on in my head. In this way, even if I don’t have a commissioned article or an idea to pitch, I still set aside time each day for Writing! even when that writing is really crap.
I would also like to expand my writing to be more “investigative journalism-ish.” And for this, I need to acquire some skills. I get asked all the time to either write about access technology (which is fine and I can mostly do in my sleep) or “my personal story” and personal essays and the like. I’m kind of sick of my personal story to tell the truth. At least I am sick of writing about it. I want to try to be sort of a real journalist per se. I would like to interview people and research things and go deep on issues and get to the bottom of things. I would like to take a crack at writing other people’s stories.
Because my husband/business partner and I own a company, I actually really can’t completely cut off of social media. We have a business website, we have a Facebook page and twitter, etc. And I would feel too cut off of social justice and political issues to give up all of my screen time, and my DB and other friends are too precious to give up. There needs to be a balance that I am still trying to find. I still do not have those apps on my mobile devices, but I did not delete my accounts and if I need to post something up on my business site (which I usually do from my desktop machine) then I will look at what all of my friends and colleagues are up to as well. It has turned out to be about twice a month. I will make a few comments and I am happy to see what people I care about are up to, but I am not missing at all much of the ads, silly videos and memes, crap news stories, etc. that are always imbedding between the posts I want to see. I don’t miss feeling like I have not accomplished much because I have been surfing all day. And I also don’t miss the feeling of thinking of life in terms of what I can post on Facebook, instead I am more focused on being in the moment and living it.
I also had time to do this website. I am hoping to not only sort of have a repository for my writing, but also be able to “cut my teeth” on some writing on this site. I know I need to find an effective way to interview people as a deaf blind person who is phone phobic. And to be able to research issues using available technology and methods. I have a whole list of people (that’s YOU, Facebook friends!) that I want to practice interviewing and writing about. And if and when I do publish anything, I will have a little place to keep it all.
So, I’ve been here and not out there, but I will visit from time to time. I welcome anyone who wants to to stop by and say hi or give me feedback on anything you see here.