This year I decided I’d treat myself to some time off over my birthday. Nothing major, nothing extreme. I’d just not sit down at my desk for a full day’s work for a few days – I’d update social media, maybe dip in to edit or schedule, but mostly I’d be away from the internet, I’d relish in people and experiences and the old kind of life I remember.
You remember that sort of life? We’re the last generation to really feel it – to know what it’s like to live a life separate from the internet. To see friends, to have lunch, to go on holiday, to do amazing things without stopping to upload the moment to social media to prove it ever really happened. And then to sit back and wait for all the positive affirmations to roll in and prove we’re worthy as a person. Yup, it’s a grand old life the internet has helped us create, ahaha.
I was 14 and in year 9 when the internet first started becoming an important part of who I was. We spent hours (or days during the summer holidays because omg six weeks without boys to flirt with during lunch break is dire) on MSN Messenger and Myspace constructing these visions of who we wanted to be. Communicating with people in a boundary-less way.
I was shy and quiet at school, I lacked confidence. And then suddenly there was this way that I could be the girl I wanted to be – the outgoing girl, the fun girl, the chatty girl, the charismatic girl, the girl boys wanted and the girl girls wanted to be.
It’s addictive isn’t it, suddenly having this new-found freedom to say and act however you like without the terrifying reality of eye contact and facial expressions and body language? To be the version of yourself you’d always dreamed of being without any social awkwardness holding you back.
And, as much as social media has come on leaps and bounds in the decade since then, the joy of those early days was that you could switch off. You’d go on holiday and bye bye MSN Messenger for a fortnight and hello fun in real life. You’d go to school and you’d be away from the internet all day, you’d have real conversations, you’d have thoughts that weren’t constantly a roundabout of comparison towards every person you followed on various social media accounts.
OMG I SOUND LIKE A GRANDDAD.
But you know what I’m trying to say. The internet wasn’t this thing that controlled who you were or how you felt, it was just a thing. Like, I dunno, The Sims or Nickelodeon or something, just a tiny fraction of your overall life.
Anyway, there’s very little I miss about my 16-year-old self, but I envy her lack of reliance on the internet.
The first thing I do when I wake up is check my social media accounts and emails and blog stats and comments, and it’s the last thing I do before I fall asleep. But back then it was different. Sure, I’d probably check my phone but it was only for texts, it wasn’t time consuming or energy consuming or soul consuming. I didn’t just sit and while away the day refreshing things and re-reading the same statuses over and over again because omg plz someone hurry up and upload something new. I’d check my phone and then oh look, a cute text from Virgin and nothing else, now I’ma put my phone down and maybe do some art or watch Crystal Maze re-runs.
So for my birthday I wanted that kinda time. The kind of time where my mood wasn’t dictated by whether a stranger was telling me I looked fat in a fashion post or whether every other single person in the whole damn bloggersphere had been asked to take part in some paid campaign that I wasn’t part of. I wanted to switch off from that, remember the way it used to feel before my iPhone became the most important and mood-controlling thing in my life.
And y’know what happened? Y’know how it really felt to be sat at home on my own without my blog and my work and my online community and blogging friends?
IT FELT HIDEOUS.
I felt so flat. I think I cried about four times over three days.
I am so addicted and obsessed and entwined into the internet that I don’t know how to unravel from it, and actually, when I try to, it makes me feel worse. I don’t know how to be a functioning human being without the internet.
Now, isn’t that sad?
It’s the main reason I kind of went FUCK IT, I’M VLOGGING MYKONOS AND UPLOADING EVERYTHING TO SOCIAL MEDIA AND INTERNET INTERNET INTERNET. I was so underwhelmed by how it felt to pull away from my online life over my birthday that I realised it would make me more miserable to attempt to go cold turkey on holiday.
The internet is me, it’s who I am, who I’ve become.
Twitter makes me feel like I’m part of a really fun, chirpy group of people at a house party, it makes me feel like I’m surrounded by cool people working in an office even when I’m at home alone. Instagram makes me feel like the popular girl at school and the likes translate to people liking me and it gives me a positive self-esteem boost, and people reading my blog and commenting makes me feel like I’m good at something, like I have a skill, like I’m worthwhile, that I’m doing something that helps people.
Without that combination of community and positivity I feel so dull and uninspired. I have come to rely so heavily on those invisible pick-me-ups and affirmations to give me strength and motivation for everyday life.
How did people feel good about themselves before? Without the likes and the retweets and comments and favourites? Did we communicate to each other in real life and shower each other in compliments and happiness?
My mood is constantly a rollercoaster, dictated by whichever emails have landed in my inbox and how many new followers I’ve received, rather than what’s going on in my offline life and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to switch off from that and flip it round.
Chris and I have our phone-free date night once every couple of weeks but by the time we roll into bed we’re both gagging to get our phones back in our hands to play catch-up with our feeds and find out what we’ve missed from the ever-constant online world. There is no real way to peel yourself away from this addiction, to feel normal without your phone in your hand.
Unlike with drugs and alcohol, the internet is something that we cannot survive without. It has become a fundamental part of not only our every day lives, but our working lives and out careers and our livelihoods.
I’m not sure where this post is going but HI. Basically I enjoy the highs the online world gives me too much to ever pull away properly, if even for a few days, no matter how hard the lows can be.
Whatever happens and however my relationship with the internet changes, I’ll just forever be glad that I can remember a life before it. It may be all-consuming and a right little bitch to try to get away from because flippin’ heck I could spend hours editing my photos to perfection on VSCOcam but at least I can remember playing chubby bunnies with my friends at sleepovers as a kid without frantically wondering if my Insta grid looked on fleek.
And on that note, I’m off I’m off to squirell myself under the bed covers with a notebook and a good bit of old fashioned hand-writing.