What the Monkey Would Have Missed

So. Sunday, and the great “social media sabbath” experiment.

Contrary to some people’s beliefs (*glares at husband*), I made it through Sunday without social media… almost completely. That is to say that from 9:00 Saturday evening until about 10:00 PM on Sunday, I sent exactly one work-related e-mail. We’ll come back to that.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience. Going a day without being “connected” is probably a regular thing for a lot of you, but for me, it’s really not. I’m on Facebook doing word sprints with writer friends, taking part in discussions on group pages relating to my work or my husband’s, talking to friends through chat, tweeting amusing things (okay, I find them amusing), and scrolling any time I have a spare moment, just in case something interesting/amusing pops up. I’m reading posts on KBoards and learning from other people’s publishing experiences, or reading blogs to keep up with news and friends.

Actually, we should talk more about that some day, because that last habit has been helpful to me, and finding a balance will be interesting.

But today we’re going to look at what I gained from taking a day off.

I put my phone away on Saturday after supper. I did allow myself one quick check at nine, just in case any last-minute messages came in from friends (nope), but for the most part it was a quiet evening. Since it was a Saturday, the kids had no homework, and we hung out. Normally I would have had my phone and been looking at that from time to time. This time, I sat on the couch, and my six-year-old brushed my hair while he sang me the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Kind of nice to just be present for that.

On Sunday morning I did my 20 minutes of breathing, I had coffee, and I read a book. Not a whole book. I read another chapter or two of Mistborn, though, and it was good. I still got the urge to be distracted, and still wasn’t truly immersed in the story, but that’s totally my distracted brain’s fault. It turns out that Brandon Sanderson is, in fact, as amazing a writer as I had been led to believe. Though the length of the book still intimidates me (let’s just not discuss how messed up my reading attitudes and habits are right now, okay?), I started to relax and enjoy it. Progress!

After that I did some other reading for a friend, made notes and answered her questions, and fired those off without so much as glancing at other messages (really!). And while I was doing that, I focused on it, and I feel like I did a better and more insightful job because of it.

So the morning was pleasant, and reasonably quiet. Quiet as it can be with two kids running around (not to mention the dog wanting out, the cats needing the litter box cleaned out, the TV on, and someone playing something on the iPad), anyway.

I think I’d have gone a little crazy on Sunday if we’d been stuck at home all day. As it was, my husband was working and we needed groceries, so the kids and I headed out to the “big city” (45 minutes away) to take care of that.

We went to McDonald’s for lunch. I almost pulled my phone out while I was in line and waiting for the food to be ready. It’s a habit, right? But I went without, and it wasn’t at all painful. Good lesson.

Instead of using my phone while the kids went off to play after we ate, I read that book. A high stool in McDonald’s is not the most comfortable place to sit, but I read a few chapters, and the kids were happy to have extra time to play.

Grocery store, Walmart, dollar store, Tim Horton’s… Not to dazzle you all with the glamor of my lifestyle, but we made some stops. And then we came home.

I couldn’t work with the kids around. I’m not watching any TV shows right now that I could throw on while they were awake. Couldn’t sit and read blogs, or look at KBoards, because that would count as social media distractions under my rules.

So I listened to podcasts, and the house got cleaned.

It burns me to admit this, but with the phone and work put away, I found that I did, in fact, have time to do housework. I didn’t have an urgent chat going on that I had to stop to respond to. My hands weren’t busy typing. I didn’t feel like I was doing something important for my job by reading up on writing/publishing.

The house got tidied, the floors got washed, I threw in some laundry (not so unusual here– it NEVER STOPS), cleaned out the front hall closet and the messy corner in the dining room, and remembered to put a nice supper in the oven early enough that it was ready at supper time.

For the record, I would go bananas if this were my life every day. For that to happen, for me to even come close to approaching June Cleaverdom, I would have to stop writing.

The horror.

But I will grudgingly admit that laying off of the mindless distractions (and even the demonstrably valuable chats with friends who I love), as well as not working for one day, did give me some breathing space to focus on other things that I’d been meaning to do and never seemed to have time for.

What else would my monkey mind have missed if I’d been too distracted to just be present at home? A couple of rounds of Candy Land with the kids, which I actually focused on. More hair brushing and serenading. An evening of TV with my husband during which I didn’t pick up my phone once.

And a reasonable bedtime. Because guys, cleaning is exhausting.

I let myself check Facebook right before bed so that I wouldn’t be tempted to check it in the morning–I wanted to get straight to work as soon as the boys were out the door.

Know what I missed while I was away?

Two friends saying they hoped I was having a wonderful day and that we’d talk on Monday. A metric crap-ton of notifications, most of which were noise. One non-critical post about *mumble mumble*. Two notifications from people who thought I’d cheated when they saw a new post on my author page, and who were fully prepared to slap me for it.

I love my friends.

(But for the record, it was a scheduled post that I set up the night before, just to keep in touch. Ha HA! Don’t think I’ll bother with that again, though. I’d rather post when I’m around to respond to people’s lovely comments. I want to be authentic, not automated.)

Yes, I felt a little lonely without the people I’m used to chatting with every day. Yes, my brain had trouble focusing on just one thing at a time, and I itched to pick up the phone instead of washing the floors.

But I gained so much from taking a “social media sabbath.” I was more present with my kids and my husband. I got stuff done around the house that I don’t normally have time for. I was less tempted to try to get some work done, for some reason. I read a bit more than I normally would have. And miracle of miracles, I found that on Monday, I reached for my phone less. I focused on my work more. I was better able to separate computer/work time out from “taking care of the house” time.

That’s not to say I’m cured. But I’m definitely a work in progress.

 

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About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with a Mountie, two kids who take turns playing Jeckyll and Hyde, two cats, an intentional boxer and an accidental chihuahua. She's the author of the bestselling Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy). www.katesparkes.com View all posts by Kate Sparkes

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