This morning I looked at my emails and Facebook about 45 minutes after I got up. Sad to say, holding out for 45 minutes is a record in recent times—a feat of delayed gratification that was mainly due to the fact that the phone was flat, and after I found the charger I got distracted for a while. I feel it’s an insult to writing per se to say this, but I’m writing now to avoid looking at news feeds.
This addictive stuff has claimed me, when I’ve thought for a decade or more that I was happily otherwise occupied. OK, at work I checked the emails constantly—I had to, it was a big part of what I got paid for. The satisfying circularity of getting a message, crafting a response with a specific intent to persuade in some way, perhaps getting a nibble of acceptance in reply, then delivering a polished package of win-win proposals to round up the exchange. Let’s face it, I miss all that.
But checking Facebook and Whats App and news feeds and the weather for the 20 to 30 minutes after I wake up? I know I’m joining billions of people, including virtually everyone over about 10 years old in my circles. But it’s time to have a hard think about this.
First, how much more do I really need to know about Donald Trump? He is my daily chance to fulminate about how bad conservative rich people really are. I treat his utterances as the big uncovering, the dirty truth from the mouth of a childish man so self-centred that he doesn’t care if we know. A man who has never been told to SHUT THE FUCK UP. Quite the reverse; he has been mightily rewarded for talking about all the behaviours we know are the opposite of decency.
And there I go again. Searching for the withering riposte that will top the millions of other Trump-reactive words written and spoken every moment of every day. Getting on to the New York Times early tomorrow morning for my next piece of hate-bait so I can start asking people who usually already know—‘Did you see what Trump tweeted today?’ And that’s just one reason I jump to the IPhone. As an aside, whose pockets is this lining, I wonder? People like the owners of the New York Times I guess. There are probably millions of me-types doing the same thing, so somebody must have worked out a way to monetize the behaviour.
Of course I check my emails first. Clearly, it’s important to me to be in loops of communication that stimulate, amuse, inform and validate. But these days there are only really one or two a day that are just to me, and not from someone trying to sell me something. They are rarely urgent, so I could leave them a day or two and no harm would be done. Am I ready to take action on this one? I think I might be. So, deep breath, here we go—I will check my emails once a day. That feels scary, and a bit naughty somehow, and just right, all at the same time.
Now for Facebook. I’m ready! Once a day from now on. Compared to up to five or so times at present. I’d be silly to opt out completely, as many do, because I find some really interesting stuff there. As for WhatsApp and text messages and phone messages, I see no harm there in checking as I see them come in, as long as I’m not in a movie, or a conversation or driving a car.
Which leaves me with the news feeds. This is harder. I’m such a news junkie. I look at the ABC in Australia, the New York Times and the BBC just about every day. As well as reading the actual newspaper whenever I can. Maybe it’s too soon to attempt this degree of rehab; it feels like a major personality make-over. Emails and Facebook once a day. Not a bad start.