Avoiding the Cyber Attach

I can often be heard to proclaim, “My greatest treasure is Unstructured Time.” Love me a day to myself. And yet, as I’ve spent less time in the law office, I’m not more productive.

What’s up with that, Grace Ann?

Part of what’s up with that is that I’ve given the cyber world an inch, and it has a taken half the State of Grace. Social media threads about the serious problem of click-farm books on Amazon, the best way to promote a book during the summer slump (into which Too Scot to Handle squarely falls), or who else is going to the RWA Literacy for Life book signing in Orlando on July 29… all steal a chunk of time.

And beyond a small increment of information, they offer no benefit. Turns out, if you want to feel more connected to others, one of the best ways to do that is to unplug and spend time alone. Why? Because alone-time is when we figure out what we believe, where our challenges lie, and who we are.

Not too far from me…

When those questions are ignored, we’re more prone to wandering the cyber world, clicking the day away, and trying to evade a fundamental sense of rootlessness.

The cyber newsfeed thus becomes a pernicious temptation when you consider that negativity-based stories (with anxiety, fear, or hatred as their subtext) are almost impossible to forget or ignore–and the media absolutely knows this and depends on the neuro-science behind it to stay in business.

A lovely spot for a cuppa

So on the one hand, the cyber world has become increasingly skilled at keeping us staring at the screen; on the other hand, the more we check email when standing in line, surf headlines while waiting for an appointment, or play-list while walking, the less we have an identity secure enough to withstand the spin, lies, and fakery.

Pretty nasty stuff out there, and the stuff we carry inside–problems, emotions, big questions–isn’t easy to deal with either. But I’m going on the record here before people whom I trust and respect as promising to prune back my cyber footprint. I have books to write, blogs to write, books to read, a yard to play in, friends to share a cup of tea with.

If I’m on FB, it will be to post on my page before I go larking off to argue about climate change.

My phone will stay out of sight and across the room when I’m writing (and that ALONE will increase my ability to focus and problem solve).

I’ll wait in line with myself, drive around in my own exclusive company, and sit outside on the porch with a cup of tea at least once a day…. unless, of course, the Welsh Duke should decide to join me.

What’s your relationship with the cyber world? With you too much late and soon? Not a problem? Something in between? To one commenter, I’ll send an audio version of Too Scot to Handle, once it goes on sale!







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19 comments on “Avoiding the Cyber Attach

  1. I don’t have much of a relationship with the cyber world. I think some of that is due to my age (almost 73), but I think it has more to do with my personality. I have always been at peace with my own company. Being alone is not necessarily being lonely.

    I have my cell phone, computer and kindle and I love them all. But those who know and love me know better than to try to text me. They have to use their human voice to communicate with me. Although I don’t always appreciate the new technology, it dose not bother me that other people do. I’m just a little mystified by it sometimes.

    When I see people looking at their smart phones while they are driving or walking down the street, I can’t help by wonder what is so important that it can’t wait the 10 or 15 minutes it takes to get from here to there. They must lead some pretty exciting lives.

    • I’m a little left of you tech-wise, in that my daughter will often text me. Young people apparently prefer not to talk, and I just don’t get that. I love hearing her voice, and information comes across by voice that doesn’t communicate with simple letters on a tiny screen.
      And the data is, it’s the absence of an exciting life that glues us to our screens, and as long as we ARE glued to those screens, the excitement we can expect is on the order of moving violations for using the phone while driving. Or worse.

  2. Molly the corgi and I are enjoying our unstructured time! I enjoy the peace and quiet and am able to relax and recharge during the weekend.

    I am on social media during the week. I check in with friends, check out new books, and promote my blog. I enjoy Instagram because it’s photos. Happy photos. I have made an effort not be on social media as much as I was before….and it’s amazing how much I can get done!

    Finding a balance with social media is key. I find keeping my phone recharging in the hallway is a huge help. Out of site, out of mind. I try to get a few projects done and keep up with the house. I enjoy writing my review blog and reading and save Sunday afternoons for writing. Social media has its pluses and minuses but, it’s nice to disconnect even for a short while.

    Thanks for chapter 2 of Anwen & Colin. Can’t wait to read the rest of it!!!

    • You are really onto something with the out of sight approach. Some clever people have done experiments, asking statistics students to solve puzzles with the phones in sight, and the phones out of sight. Even when the phones are turned off–and the subjects know they are turned off–just having that phone where you can see it diminishes focus and problem-solving capability.
      That says to me on some level we regard the phone as a threat. I’d want to test that by having other tech where the phone is–an e-reader, a clicker, tablet. Maybe a landline phone–for 35 years, my work environment has included a land-line on my desk. I do wonder if that has been distracting me all along.

  3. I feel like you read my mind with this post!! In the past, I was never attached to my phone or tablet and was known to do a serious eye roll whenever I saw someone’s gaze fixed on their electronic device. But, in recent months, I’ve been spending more time on my phone. It started as my desire to stay better informed on current news. I would read current headlines and then put my phone away. But, it had gotten to the point that I spent more time staring at my phone, reading political news, than playing horses with my daughter or listening to my son’s explanation of the newest Lego machine he built, or talking to my husband. I’m more anxious and depressed and distracted when my phone is in hand all day. So, just last week, I told my kids that all our electronic devices were taking a vacation and, let me tell you, this week was noticeably calmer and happier for all of us! We spent most of every day outside. We talked to each other. We ate popsicles on the patio and noticed the neighbor’s new rose bush. We saw an owl in our backyard. These are all things I wasn’t doing when my phone was attached to me and my eyes firmly staring down.

    • Good for you and the kids. You do know the owl is the symbol of wisdom?
      Whenever I see people bashing millennials for “always being on their phones” I have to wonder if Mom and Dad (the bashing generation) weren’t a) the people who gave them unlimited phone access to begin with (I am guilty of this), and b) the people who modeled the nose-to-screen posture for them too.
      The last election was a feeding frenzy for the media, and saw click-bait emerge as its own well-funded research topic. The cyber-drain has upped it game, and avoiding its gravitational pull takes determination. Save me a popsicle!

  4. I have to pace myself. While I love my (few–I think I’m up to 5 *Friends*)FB Friends and I even agree with their politics, I can’t read their stuff too often ’cause I gets me riled up! I am not calm, I am not collected and I am not happy when I am on FB more then twice a day.

    I work as a Moderator three days a week for my professional society’s website. On those days, I am on the internet more than the other days. The days after I’m on, especially if it’s been a difficult moderating day, I purposely check my email in the morning and then don’t LOOK at my laptop or phone until mid-afternoon. Am much happier and productive on those days.

    My kids text, as does my hubby, close friends and some of my choir members. I make it a point to have my phone charging in my bedroom for most of the day, especially after a moderating day( I am able to moderate from my phone). I do check but only click on if I see I have a text. I have my phone around on rehearsal days or days I need to be in touch. Otherwise my peeps know I’ll get to them eventually. Or they could call my landline!

    I have found I need to stare into space regularly, especially during the summer. I’m happier when I do. 🙂

    • You’ve also caught onto one of the soundest pieces of advice I’ve heard about engaging with social media, particularly on contentious topics: Don’t start or end your day there. Start you day with something authentic to you. Vocaleses, maybe, or reading the latest NYT choral reviews (do they still do them?). Sandwich the social media with the activities and thoughts that aren’t anchored in a cyber-reality, so you’re not taking somebody’s tragic GoFundMe or righteous FB rant to bed with you, or having it for breakfast.
      Common sense, but I had to have somebody suggest it to me.

  5. I find myself checking the news sites way too much sometimes and have to make an effort to disconnect. The internet is great until it become a a rabbit whole that somehow made an hour of time disappear. I also have purposely limited my social media accounts to limit my exposure.

    • I saw an author whom I respect very much asking about the Freedom app yesterday. She killer-prolific, but that also means she’s popping on and off the internet to check out historical facts or look up geographic details. Freedom seems perfect for her–she can still get to OED and Project Gutenberg, but keep Project Zuckerberg in the time out chair.

  6. The screens allow me to live where I do. We don’t have reliable cell service, but we do have fibre optic internet.

    The screens are a crutch, and maybe not a good one for those of us with anxiety issues.

    I do get to keep up with the newest from my current “must-buy” author!

    • For sure, tech is a mixed blessing. For decades, children in rural settings all over the world have been accessing education almost solely through tech, and I know my sister when serving as a missionary could consult with top docs a thousand miles away because she had tech.

      And I dearly love checking in with my bloggin’ buddies in this space.

      I do not love all the noise on social though. Not-love at all.

  7. Technology is not my strong suit, so it is easy for me to resist. I just got back from a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. I took the train. I only brought paper books with me. I kept my cell phone off unless I was calling my husband to let him know I had arrived safely and I was coming back. They had 6 payphones in the train station in New Orleans. They look like they still work, but I didn’t see anyone on them. Now I came back to 163 e-mails today, but to me it is worth it.

    • I had a great time on the train from Baltimore to San Diego. The Wifi only worked in certain parts of the train (the lounge), so limits were automatically imposed. The lounge was also the best place to watch the world go by and eavesdrop on humanity (“Did you know Hillary Clinton was really a man? There was an article bout that last week….”) That also made it less likely I’d stay plugged in to cyber-space at the expense of enjoying reality.

  8. My phone has a Do Not Disturb feature for those times when I need to work or focus (reading!). I want REAL contact to get through, but not the other garbage. Two calls close together overrides my electronic butler and lets my biz partner reach me if she has real need. Otherwise all the pings and dings are silenced and the incessant spam calls roll to voicemail. A lovely little app called Hiya cut the robocalls to my number by 90% which is a thing of beauty in an area code where local numbers are spoofed on a daily basis by the overseas criminals.

    • I don’t get this. There used to a functional Do Not Call feature for public use, then it apparently died a Congressional death. I’m still very careful about giving out my cell number, but once the law office is gone, that protection will be gone too.
      Good to know about Hiya!