The year of not blogging

There’s a problem with that title, isn’t there? While I have not been completely silent (fifteen blog posts at most? I haven’t counted), neither have I been prolific. It’s relative.

Around this time last year I was coming to the end of a run of three or four months of consecutive blog posts, culminating in NaBloPoMo, another run of blog posts for each day of November. I was exhausted. Something about the arrival of December told me that I needed to stop, and only come back when I was ready. There would be no round up of best books, or most popular blog posts, none of that.

At the same time, my family was entering the beginning of a tough year, and this confirmed what I had known for a while, that I needed a break. Which, for me, would also include taking one of my periodical holidays from Twitter. It wasn’t just the self-imposed pressure of blogging that had got to me.

In truth, my tendency towards internet-distraction had reached critical levels. I told myself that I could justify my endless mindless scrolling because I was a blogger and academic. I needed to know what was going on in the world of poems and poets, the minutiae of education policy, and the ceaseless commentary about these things. If I wasn’t in touch with what was going on, I said to myself, what would be left of me? What would people think?

So I stopped. December came and went, then January, then February. As I say, things were very tough for my family during this time, and I don’t regret for one minute my decision to spend less time online. But it wasn’t easy. I remember getting a text on New Year’s Day from a friend saying he had just tweeted about me and asking me where I was. Not logging back in just to take a quick look round was excruciating.

I deleted the Twitter and WordPress apps from my phone and iPad, and have not looked back. No, that’s not true. I am always looking back, always worried about missing out on the next juicy bit of news from Planet Poetry. There have been relapses. I have had to go back in. (As you might have seen, I am launching a new anthology with Unbound, a project which, to misquote the ancient Greek philosopher Bart Simpson, will not become appreciated by itself. Thank you to everyone who has pledged their support for it so far. If you could take a look at it, and perhaps tell just one person about it I would be so grateful.)

What I am in the very slow process of doing is changing my habits. Just as it took me six months to get used to going swimming every other day, or make the breakfast in the company of silence rather than the radio I was not listening to, I am still learning how not to be an internet/distraction addict. (I’ve now taken a cue from my daughter and deleted Instagram from my phone as well.)

The payoff of all this? In the days following my decision to fast from blogging I wrote five poems which I knew, absolutely knew, so rare for me, were keepers. And there have been more since. But the more I think about it, the more the payoff seems nothing to do with poems, or blogging, or writing. The payoff is being able to live more happily with myself, in my head, or, pradoxically, outside of it. It is still early days. I begin each day like a tightrope walker, daring myself to venture above the void without any safety net. Nothing is certain, only the next footstep.

I have found the following resources useful in helping me to think about online addiction:

Escaping our smartphone dependency -by Justin Wise

Invest in white space – by Dan Blank

Why I quit Facebook and why you should too -by Rudolpho Sanchez

I was addicted to my iPhone -by Khe Hy

I quit social media for 30 days and here’s what I learned -by Sarah Peck

Our dying attention is a big problem -by Sarah Peck

Why quitting Facebook made me happier than ever – by Leonie Hutchinson

Giving up Facebook for at least a month -by Robin Houghton

 

9 comments

  1. Good Golly Miss Molly

    Congratulations, Anthony…I’m not a Luddite, but social media like Twitter and Facebook has not appealed to me…However, I check the headlines and my email too many times a day. And yes, I still blog often. You are an inspiration!
    Molly

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nell Nelson

    I have mixed feelings about ‘liking’ this since it may encourage you to write more blog entries. I’ve always felt that praise is dangerous for poets, and it’s probably more so for bloggers!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. evelyneholingue

    I’m so with you, Anthony. Bravo for realizing that you needed a break and for putting your family first. As much as I have loved reading your blog regulalry for a long time now and realized that you were less present, I didn’t witness a decline in quality. Au contraire. Less is often better than more. Clearly stepping away has been a good thing if you wrote keepers. Many of us, old bloggers, have slowed down. Almost always for the same reasons. It’s insane to be on social media too much. Creativity requires freedom of mind and silence. Two elements that are almost always absent from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and every other platform.
    I applaud your decision. Perhaps because I have also slowed down with my blog posts 🙂
    Once a week is enough and considering the growth of my readership it has proved to me that more is not the answer.
    Best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jerry Cull

    We Lived in Caves

    By the/Fading light/Of an iPad/We lived in caves/Supported by/Our misconceptions/Doodling on walls/With the charred/Bones of/Our enemies/Drawing what we/Imagined/The world/To be.

    Like

  5. Pingback: #tds888 Is your internet-distraction reaching critical levels? | The Daily Stillness

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