Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Great Smartphone Blackout Challenge

I’m going to try challenging myself again. The last time I signed up for a challenge it was to do the Rapha Women’s 100 but due to circumstances beyond my control (weather and sickness) I wasn’t really up to it. I’m up to it now though – I’ve had a great time cycling for the last couple of months. I’m going to do a big ride before the summer is over – thinking of doing Arran in September, and I am going to cycle every day in Ardnamurchan when I am on holiday – but I’m going to give myself another challenge.

The new challenge is this. I’ve been tidying up recently and I came across a bunch of old diaries and notebooks and while it was funny and a bit sad reading about things from the past it also made me think of how much I don’t read, think or write any more.

At work I do loads of the above and it’s a relief to know that my brain hasn’t completely atrophied, but I don’t do it for myself anymore. I could say that motherhood is to blame, but it’s not. It’s a much older problem than that. Since I abandoned my academic ambitions about 5 years ago I gradually stopped reading as much. When I was doing my masters and PhD I read all the time, and not just the books I needed to read as part of my research. I read at least one novel a week, I read the London Review of Books, the Guardian, the New Statesman, The New Yorker, heck, I also read Grazia religiously.

Now I hardly read anything.

Actually, I probably read as many words but it’s all soundbites on my phone. I am a compulsive smartphone user.

There. I said it. I’ve come out. I’ve come clean.

I have to see what everyone is saying on Twitter. I have to see what pints people are drinking on Instagram. I have to know what time people’s kids went to bed on Facebook. I have to know what the latest Mumsnet controversy is.

Social media and smartphones are amazing. In a sense, the fact that I love them so much is great because I know how they work inside out and it makes me quite good at my job and, (tenuously) therefore, social media and smartphones pay my mortgage.

Far from wanting to bite the hand that feeds me, I don’t want to ditch my phone and my online friends completely. But I am thinking of imposing some rules on myself to try and free my brain before it’s too late. But I am afraid I am pretty bad at the whole willpower thing.

I was thinking I needed to actually go back to university and do a part time MA just so the discipline was there to get things done but a quick review of suitable courses reveals that in the 8 years since I did my MA fees have gone crazy mad! It’s somewhere between 5 and 12 grand to do a master’s these days. Mental!

So I need some willpower. Here are my rules.

  1. I am allowed on the social media apps between waking up and 8.30 in the morning, and again at night between 6.30 and 8pm.
  2. The only use outside of these times permitted is to share something relevant to work or to use Strava when I am out cycling. Or to use Instagram where appropriate. Or if I am waiting for something and I don’t have anything better to do/more interesting to read. But in that case I should read a newspaper app or articles I have favourited but not read on Twitter.
  3. The other rule is that I have to read a book at least every fortnight and write about it here.

That’s a scary rule. But it’s cheaper than doing another master’s.

So, you heard it here first. If I haven’t posted a book review here by Saturday 24 August then you have the right to have a go at me.

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