Tag Archives: rules

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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Rules are important, even when there aren’t any

I wrote about rules a while back and how I find they can offer a wee window into a subculture, and give us some insight into the people who follow them (and make them and break them.)

My esteemed associate Sidepipe brought this Rapha article about rules to my attention.  It takes a stand against rules, suggesting that having a long list of rules indicates a lack of confidence more than anything else, and then suggests 3 pretty cute alternative rules for cycling involving sandwiches and friends.

I think this observation about confidence is very important.  Rules help you fit in, in the beginning, and then later when you feel like you’re part of something you can play about, push the boundaries.  In the same way as artists learn techniques before they can really effectively express themselves on paper, the moment you stop saying you follow the rules is as important as the rules themselves.

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What are the rules for (besides being there to break)?

People who know me will know that I am, basically, obsessed with cycling.  I don’t go for ‘training’ or all that, I am just not competitive in that way (I only get competitive about things I can win, generally,) I just like bashing about on my bikes, using them as the most fun and amazing form of transport known to humanity.

Anyway, this isn’t a post about how amazing riding bikes is – that would need a whole blog of its own.  No, this post is about rules.

I was forwarded a copy of these rules recently and it sparked loads of different, very interesting and insightful conversations, Twitter chats and emails to-ing and fro-ing.

These rules are a mixture of sensible, petty, weird and obsessive, and downright obscure.  Of course, there is a tongue somewhere in someone’s cheek there but to all intents and purposes these rules help to paint a picture of the cycling subculture, help us to understand ourselves people on the bike spectrum better.  Although I also really enjoyed reading Bike Snob’s guide to cycling tribes (which is also funny and true,) I think the rules are much more interesting from an anthropological, human behaviour perspective.

The bike rules sparked off a whole load of conversations about other subcultures’ rules.

Skateboarders told me about theirs – there’s a whole lot about what colour tape you use, whether screws or allen key screw things look better on a truck, what tricks are beyond the pale, what you wear for different situations and so on. They figured that their list of rules could be as long as the bike one.

I also thought back to another obsession of mine – dance – and there are a lot of rules there too.  What you can wear to show that you have been doing it for ages, how to stand when you aren’t actually dancing, how to sew the ribbons on your shoes, whether to wear pink tights or black (footless black tights are OK, ones with feet are not,) when legwarmers are appropriate, and so on.

A lot of them (like in skateboarding) are related to helping you not bump into each other.

Usually subcultures’ rules are unwritten – and often unspoken – so you have to pick them up for yourself.  The thing I thought was really interesting is that these are the rules people stick to.  It’s probably because they make them up as they go along, there’s a consensus somewhere about which rules to adhere to, which rules will help you belong.

When you want to understand people better, look for the rules they follow.

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