This past week, I chose to spend 7 days off Twitter as part of a “reading deprivation” exercise.
Sounds a little silly and self-indulgent, does it not? Would avoiding social media and reading be difficult? CUE TINY VIOLINS OF PRIVILEGE
The reason: I’ve been parsing through Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which is ostensibly a 12-week course in spiritual creativity. I’ve essentially spent an average of three weeks per week in the course. Whatever my initial skepticism, Cameron’s approach has been incredibly helpful to my personal development (without really intending to, I have made 2014 my Year of Healing, between CBT and hard life changes, following fast upon 2013’s Year of Living Dangerously, quelle surprise). During week 4, Cameron suggests reading and media consumption fill one’s head with distracting noise serving as “tranquilizer” to the creative impulse and a “shield” against the outside world. “For most blocked creatives,” Cameron says, “reading is an addiction.” Cameron pushes her students to avoid the words of others for just one week.
I felt resistant to this idea, as you can imagine. I thrive on words for inspiration. Ideas of others inspire me, their triumphs and sorrows and artful expressions fill my creative well. But I tried anyway, and mostly stuck to it. Although I’m an avid reader, avoiding books was easier; the fact that Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance waits by my bedside is comforting. The rolling timeline of Twitter is a different story.
(TL;DR) What I learned from the Social Media Fast of 2014:
1. I sat in silence more. As a neo-Quaker, this part was disconcerting but appealing. I noticed how frequently I turned to my phone to fill space. This didn’t translate into more productivity or heaps of found time. I just noticed and sat with a sensation of emptiness, eating in silence or when waiting for appointments. I did more people-watching and felt more self-aware.
2. I dearly missed connection with people. I’m fortunate to be acquainted with creative folks all over the world, and since I’m not on Facebook, Twitter is the main way I keep up with what is important to those folks. Plus, they make me laugh. Missing their voices for an entire week felt lonely. I filled that need by writing letters to a few of my favorite people, and now I have a new creative way to connect and a list of people I plan to write to next.
3. I fell out of the loop on world events. I get most of my news from Twitter. I know this may sound ridiculous to some, but it’s completely true.
4. I realized how much I value Twitter as a tool of self-expression and creativity. I share, I give and receive support, I contextualize my life experiences. Even though I refrain from broadcasting the most private details, my online presence is, weirdly, a part of me. Tweets have replaced my more frequent blogging of the past as the journal of my life story.
I can’t say I recommend this strategy, but I’m glad I tried it.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to let me know your thoughts, here or on Twitter.