Confessions of a social media abstainer

As we walked through Hyde Park today my boyfriend and I noticed the countless number of selfies being taken and conversation wandered on to the topic of self-promotion on social media.

What was the purpose of these selfies and why was so much effort being taken to get them perfect? No doubt many of the selfies were being taken with Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook as their end destination, most likely enhanced by filters and accompanied by any number of hashtags.

The selfie takers were largely quite young and it appeared that they were more caught up in capturing themselves basking in the late afternoon sun on camera than actually savouring and enjoying the moment for what it was. This seemed like a shame to us but we are not sixteen anymore and we really don’t get the appeal of broadcasting our every moment to the outside world.

Over the years I have had a Facebook profile but have never been particularly active on it or comfortable about posting status updates and photos. Largely my Facebook profile sits there dormant, until my birthday rolls around and people post birthday wishes or people tag me in photos.

For the most part I use Facebook for its messenger, to remind me of friends’ birthdays, and to receive event invitations. I also like to have the occasional scroll to see my friends’ travel or wedding photos, but that is the extent of my involvement.

By only using Facebook I am most likely perceived as a social media laggard, someone who is behind the times and not up to speed with the latest trends. My friends often tell me that I absolutely must get on Instagram. It is so much fun posting photos they say, and everyone is on there (apart from me of course).

The thing about Instagram, as fun as it may seem, is that it seems like something that is going to drain my time. One of my friends once told me that she wastes countless hours on Instagram scrolling through the people and companies she follows.

I decided that considering my past addiction to the Daily Mail celebrity sidebar, having Instagram and following countless people would not be a good idea for me, so I decided to abstain from Instagram completely which is a decision I haven’t regretted to this day.

On top of this, I simply can’t be bothered taking photos of every meal I eat or every place I visit in the weekends. I am simply too lazy and am more than happy to just have my memories, as much as they may fade.

Don’t get me wrong, an awful lot of people love social media and seem to get a lot out of it, but I read an article recently about the effect of social media on young people which concerned me.

This article stated that Instagram and Snapchat ranked as the worst social media for impact on mental health and well-being, largely because “both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

No doubt this inadequacy and anxiety is not simply limited to young people, inevitably it affects us all. People post perfectly composed selfies and images of their so-called amazing lives, painting a finely polished picture to everyone looking in, which then leads others to look at their own lives and lament the lack of excitement in their lives by comparison. It is a form of ‘Keeping up with the Jones’s’ and it is not healthy.

Taking all of this into account, this is why I am a social media abstainer. I think we could all benefit from taking a step back away from our phones and the keyboard and simply enjoying each moment for what it is, and not what a great Instagram or Facebook post it would make.

Confessions of a recovering book hoarder

Over the years I have collected a number of books which are now housed on a couple of overcrowded shelves in my bedroom, gathering dust for the most part.

I have read many of these books cover to cover as they are the kind of light-hearted material which I find easy to devour – memoirs or essays from Nora Ephron, David Sedaris, Mindy Kaling, Diane Keaton, Hadley Freeman and Lena Dunham. These are books that read as if you could be having a long one-sided conversation with a friend who absolutely loves to talk and who you are more than happy to devote your full attention to. You finish them almost as quickly as you started them and feel a sense of sadness when they are over because they became a part of your life for a short period of time.

Then there are the books that I bought with good intentions to read one day and which have laid on my shelves largely untouched, potentially for years, because they are not easy reads, but have more complexity in the ideas discussed and the topics covered. Books like The End Of Poverty and the Female Eunuch fall into that camp.

The reason I have accumulated so many books is I love going to bookstores and browsing for a long, long while, hopping from one interesting book to another and inevitably coming across something I want to buy with the greatest intentions of reading it.

When I was on holiday last week I finally finished reading The Marriage Plot – almost a year after I started it! Avid readers would recoil in horror at this delay but reading has not been at the top of my list of leisure activities recently and holidays are often the only time I dedicate solid time to it.

While on holiday I remembered what a treat it is to get fully engrossed in a book and in the world that is wonderfully visualised on its pages. It may not always be on the top of my list of things to do but I’d like to dedicate more time to this pursuit in order to branch out and broaden my leisure activities.

I have counted that I have eight books on my shelves which I have started and are at various stages on being read. In the interest of putting a stop to this bad habit and to prevent my bookshelves from buckling under the weight of too many unread books I am not going to allow myself to buy any more books prior to finishing the ones on my shelves.

This means I need to get busy with reading and look at gradually finishing each of the books that are partially read. After this I think it would be a good time to look at de-cluttering that space and donating the books I don’t need to own which is all aligned with my recent minimalist goals.

It’s time to get reading!

Confessions of a former TV addict

There once was a time when I was a bona fide TV addict. I was struck by this affliction in my early teens and a typical evening would involve intense co-ordination of TV schedules.

If it was a busy night I would need to run back and forth from screen to screen, watching Buffy on one TV, recording Friends, Spin City and Veronica’s Closet on one VCR and recording Survivor on another.

VCRs are now a relic of the past, long overtaken by PVRs and SVOD services that allow us to watch our recordings and binge watch shows whenever we want. At the time though, I regarded our VCR as my saviour, performing a wonderful service for those of us who technically had no life and relied too heavily on TV for entertainment.

It shocks me to reveal this, but at one point many years ago I counted that I was recording eighteen shows a week on my PVR. How on earth I kept up with that much TV is beyond me. I was young, almost everything on TV looked as though it was worth watching, and no one was going to stop me consuming it all. Not even my parents who attempted to offer words of warning but to no avail.

Part of my problem was in the misguided mindset that once I started a series I should really try and finish it. I mean, I even stuck with Felicity long after her hair was cut and grew back again and into the strange last season storyline involving time travel.

A crucial turning point came when I first decided to quit a show – this came in season 4 of Alias when it really started to go nuts and it was time to start trimming the fat where my TV viewing was concerned.

Since then I have gradually cut down my TV viewing, to the point where I am currently only watching three shows a week (Big Little Lies, Girls and Billions – all brilliant!). It is about quality, not quantity, and being much more selective about how I spend my free time.

As I mentioned in my post about my attempts to minimize my life, cutting down on TV and only selecting a few shows to watch a week is part of my strategy to declutter my life.

It has also been a part of my shift towards leading a more active lifestyle, aided by my newfound love of Zumba and the long walks I have been taking in the evenings now that it is staying lighter for longer.

Don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoy watching TV but my priorities have changed over time and I am no longer the addict I once was. That is the thing about growing and developing as you get older – hopefully you gain more wisdom and I have found that cutting down on TV is one of the wisest things I have ever done.

Confessions of a minimalist hoarder

Recently I have spent a lot of time looking into the concept of minimalism and what it would mean for me to start minimizing my life.

I love the idea of eliminating aspects of life and material possessions that are bringing you little or no value. It is a process of de-cluttering not only your physical space, but also freeing up your mental space, so that you are able to focus more clearly on what you find to be truly important.

Historically I have been a bit of a hoarder. To clarify, I am not a hoarder in the sense that my house is so crammed with things that there is no visible floor space, but in the past I have had a hard time saying goodbye to things that I’ve held some kind of nostalgic attachment to.

I have clung on to old movie tickets for years to the point where the writing has faded beyond comprehension. I keep mementos from all of my holidays – postcards, old ticket stubs, brochures and other paraphernalia I picked up along the way. I cling to clothing that I haven’t worn in years with the thought that one day there may be an occasion to wear them…one day. My PVR is filled with TV recordings and movies I am adamant that I will watch when I can find the time – which is often never.

At the beginning of the year I decided to reverse some of my hoarder tendencies by clearing out most of the old clothes I had left behind at my parents’ house. As a former charity shopper I had piles and piles of clothing to sift through and set aside to donate and the feeling of clearing everything out was positively liberating.

After going through the process of eliminating so many clothes I realised that I have more than enough clothes, to the point that I really shouldn’t be buying any more. So as part of my attempt to become more minimal I have decided that I am not going to buy any new clothing unless I have items that are close to falling apart and need to be replaced. So far so good – I haven’t bought anything for three months and counting.

As part of reclaiming my time I have become more purposeful about how I spend my free moments. As an avid reader of the news I noticed that the largely negative focus of mainstream news on my commutes would start my days off with a cloud of negativity hanging over me.

I realised that part of clearing my mind in the morning would involve cultivating a meditative state and reading more optimistic articles, all of which has helped me to start the day from a more upbeat and positive place.

Another tenet of minimalism is to consume less and create more, which is where this blog comes in. Being productive and creating content as opposed to simply consuming it all the time has given me a more purposeful way to spend my free time.

Adding to that, the act of writing has not only provided a great form of creative expression, it has also provided me with time to focus and centre myself, akin to a state of meditation.

With all of the changes I have made towards leading a more minimal life, I can see that they have gradually made me happier and healthier by extension.

There is further to go, more ways that I can minimize going forward, but starting the journey is the hardest part and I feel good about the fact that I am on the path to a simpler, more minimal life.

Minimal