Leeds Castle -- looks about perfect, although possibly damp!

Leeds Castle — looks about perfect, although possibly damp!

Back in 1995, when My Best Beloved and I were living in France, we bought our first at-home computer, and hooked up email.  I still remember the ambivalence I felt.

It’s just another way for someone to get into my house, I said.

You have to understand, I’m the woman who once answered the question, What would you do if you won a million dollars? by saying I’d build a moat.  I’m not totally anti-social.  I mean, I wouldn’t put sharks in the water, but a nice little moat would be nice.  It would stop people from just stumbling up the walk uninvited.  I like to see people, but I like them to come when invited.

That feeling of having been intruded upon, of having been invaded by technology, as proved to be true for me.  How naïve, how innocent those days before social media were. 

Back then, email freaked me out then.  It came right into the house.  A phone call I could choose not to answer if I wanted, but an email… there it was, sitting in the middle of my desk like a toad.  I’ve learned, of course, than I can use my email inbox as I would a snail mail box.  I can keep it closed until I wish to check it, and at the moment I’ve decided to check it twice a day.  Once mid-morning, and once at the end of the day.  That’s it. I figure if you REALLY need me at another time, you probably know me well enough to have my phone number.

But now, of course, there’s Facebook and Twitter and Tumbler and Pintrest and Tinder and God knows what else.  It seems the entire world is exposing itself.  No one has a private thought any longer.  No one has a private moment.  I just re-read Vita Sackville-West’s WONDERFUL book, “All Passion Spent”, in which Lady Slane, elderly and recently widowed, chooses to live the remainder of her life in a small house, surrounded only by people she really enjoys, doing only things she really likes to do.  There’s a moment when she talks about the delight of the private:  “…for pleasure to her was entirely a private matter, a secret joke, intense, redolent, as easily bruised as the petals of a gardenia…”  Yes!  I thought.  Absolutely.  And yet I suspect fewer and fewer people have any private matters.

I’ve started having home-invasion dreams.  And honestly, I think it’s related to the fact I’ve let my moat run dry.  More than that – I’ve moved my temenos my sacred space, right out into the middle of the highway, and I wonder why I’m bothered by the rattle and whoosh of non-stop tracker trailers.  I feel jangled and anticipatory all the time.  I feel a need to KNOW things, things that aren’t truly useful to my life and I suspect they’re not really useful to anyone else’s either.

So, and this is the point – I’ve decided to do an emotional trial run and stay off social media for a month at least.  I want to see what it feels like.

I do recognize the irony of saying such things on my blog – for what is more fraught with egocentric self-revelation than a blog?  I get that, and so for the next month I won’t be blogging, either.  For the next thirty days or so, I’m going to spend the time I would usually spend on Facebook and Twitter and so forth either speaking to people on the phone or in person, or not speaking at all.  I did decide, however, I will return emails, since other people often depend on my getting back to them about various business things.  I’ve posted a note as to my intention on Facebook and Twitter, and I assume people will see that, but if they don’t I guess they’ll just have to wait. I’ve changed my settings so as not to receive messages.

For a month (at least), this is the way I’ll live.  I want to see if it changes the way I feel about my life and the people in it and my relationship to the world. 

At the end of that time, I’ll let you know how it went… or maybe not.  Snort.  

8 Comments

  1. sandra Legget on March 6, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Hi Lauren, I and many others feel much like you do about how technology and social media has invaded our lives. Your one month hiatus sounds like a brilliant experiment, I hope you do tell us how it went. Regards, Sandra

  2. Gari-Ellen on March 6, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Look forward to how the holiday goes…I think it will be very revealing! xo
    But of course your comments and “snorts” will be missed.

  3. Lynn Robinson on March 6, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    I cannot wait to read the book that follows this hiatus 😉

  4. Lise on March 6, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Hello Lauren. I totally sympathize with your decision, and I can add that my daughter, and her friends, all in their late twenties, are feeling the same way. I don’t know what is coming next in the social media world, but it seems that almost everyone I talk to is feeling overwhelmed by it all. Sure, just when I finally learn how to do a blog and Twitter myself! I think it is also de-humanizing us. A young girl I know was telling me that she was alone in her car, on an icy road, and had a serious accident, on a major highway. She said that the worst part for her was that no one stopped to see if she was okay. They slowed down to look in at her, but then kept going. Fortunately she was not seriously hurt, but I wondered why this would happen, when in my experience in the past, so many people have stopped to help me. And then I got it! The Cell Phone! Everyone thinks that everyone else has a cell phone, so they can solve their own problems! This is so sad. What has our society become, when we can’t take a moment to help another person in trouble? So…bravo for your decision! My daughter has said that she is now only using her computer a few days a week as that is all she can stand! So the times, they are a changing!

  5. David Henry on March 10, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Hear hear!

    I look forward to a day when living “Wired” and Plugged in” is recognized as toxic to an essential part of ourselves. Staring at an illuminated screen causes me to process information differently. Staring at blank paper opens me up.

    We even turn the wireless off at night now, on the premise that our cells need some time each day when they iare less excited by irradiation, like while we sleep.

  6. Harry Uhlmann on March 12, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Great idea! I look forward to hearing how it went, and what it means going forward. Enjoy getting to know yourself again. kind regards, Harry U

  7. jane verity on March 17, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Dear Lauren, I was blown away by your novel The Empty Room, and just located your site. I just hope your time away from social media will give you more time to focus on your writing. You are amazing, and I can’t wait to read more of your work. A new fan, Jane

  8. Wendy on April 1, 2014 at 1:41 am

    Your thoughts mirror my reason for years ago, deciding my cell phone (just a plain old type cell phone, not a ‘smart’ one) it was off unless I needed to use it. No one called me on it and if needing to reach me could just leave a message at my home. That rule still stands. When I am out in the world, my life is mine not to be interrupted. After all, for all the years before cell phones, everyone managed just fine being in their lives; no need to constantly be in contact with others.
    So, enjoy your time away being busy with your best beloved and your four legged and yourself in your life.
    I think of you.

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