This week, as part of my Artist’s Way book course, [which is a self-guided course in creative rejuvenation and recovery], I underwent what is termed as a ‘Media Deprivation’ week.
Media Deprivation could be thought of as the ‘Digital Detox’s’ cousin; similar in many respects, with similar aims and justifications for what they do, but with a slight difference in each.
So what is a Media Deprivation, you may ask?
It’s any stretch of time without any taking in of media of any sort. Kinda like a fast for your mind.
So, no reading. At all.
This is the big point that the author makes. She wants us all to stop taking in information and consuming, and start producing. Instead of reading a novel, she would have us write instead. Or paint, or jog or exercise, take up a class in language, etc. And no news means having to actually get your information from a person, not a newspaper, website or social media site, with the hopes of re-engaging with live people.
No tv, no films, no visual media at all.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I was feeling quite apprehensive. To me, all of these things are so important to most, if not all of us. Many of us rely upon social media for their livelihood, not to mention keeping in touch with loved ones and family, and most of all, for entertainment.
Believe me, I love nothing more than spending hours on Youtube watching anything and everything or wasting time on Facebook and Twitter.
And, at this point of view after having completed this Media Deprivation week, I see that I personally waste so much time on these things, not getting up to much at all.
So, how was it?
I hated it. At least at the start. The first 2 or so days felt as though I had been crushed by an anvil and deflated of any sort of emotion besides panic and boredom. I didn’t know what to do with myself besides continue on with my job hunt, write and journal, or go out for walks about town and sit in parks with my trusty journal or camera.
I felt resentful. I felt downcast and frustrated as well as panicked in those first few days. I could sense my mood darkening as I struggled to make sense of what I was to do with myself to occupy my time, and more importantly, my mind.
But, after this initial period of confusion, I did begin to notice some change. As I grew to accept the fact that I couldn’t simply google something I didn’t know, I would jot it down on a piece of paper to ask my husband when he got home. We would sit and talk, and he would look things up or inform me of things going on.
I couldn’t sit around and waste time on Youtube, so I wrote instead. It became easier for me to sit down and just start writing or typing. Anything. It didn’t have to be of any magnitude. It didn’t have to be Shakespearean prose. I just had to get writing. I began to think, ‘well, if I can’t read, I may as well be writing something’.
I noticed that my conversations with people became slightly more enriched, as I wasn’t constantly reaching for my phone and being distracted by it and its constant notifications. I was able to look people in the eye with clarity and not look away in shyness.
I felt lighter and a touch better about myself as I wasn’t going on dating apps or on Insta, with its endless parade of gorgeous gay men to make my spirits deflate.
By Wednesday I felt almost giddy as I got dressed and went to perform at the opera that night. A lightness came over me, as though I could do anything, as I skateboarded up to the grand old SF Opera house.
In the dressing room, where I would usually be stuck on my phone waiting for the call to head up on stage to perform, I instead sat there and just took it all in. The way the room looked, the heat of it as it was underground and stuffy, the fantastic costumes sitting on their racks, the din of my fellow supernumerary extras chatting away. All minor details that I may have missed, and that soon enough I would as it was my second last performance. I thought that I may never be back here so be sure to take it all in now.
I spoke to one of my compatriots, who upon asking me how I was, I responded with my being on a media deprivation week and it being a challenge. His eyes lit up and he made note that my attention and spirits seemed far more present than usual, as he noticed that I tended to be on my phone quite a bit.
We chatted briefly upon the merits of media deprivation and digital detoxes as means for clearing out the mind and helping one be aware of their usage of social media, and the repercussions thereof. He too had done some similar work and found it to be challenging yet engaging and of worth.
The next night, I attended my very first Baseball game.
I felt exhilarated and most importantly at all, present. The lights somehow shined brighter, the colours appeared far more vivid and the noise of the crowds heightened.
By the weekend, [which was San Francisco Pride], I felt pretty great. I’d not been on Facebook or Twitter the whole week and felt no compunction to check back in, I kept my checking on emails to a minimum and I had logged out of the apps; I enjoyed a weekend of sipping beers in sunny, packed with people Dolores park with friends; attending the Trans march, and dancing the night away.
The lesson that I learned from this week was that we have killed collectively the idea of ‘boredom.’.
We are always stimulated, much of the time overly, if not terminally, so.
We are bombarded every day, every moment from when we wake to when we sleep with imagery, sounds, visuals and new fads and memes and celebrity gossip and bad news over and over in wave after wave.
It feels like some kind of dystopian sci-fi nightmare sometimes. I often wonder what someone from any point up to the early 1990’s would make and think of our world today, and how we are quite addicted to social media.
Just slightly jiggling out of this all for just even a week was like taking a great big breath of fresh mountain air.
It has made me aware of how I consume and use media, specifically social media. Of how much time I waste there, how much of my life is there, and how it has caused the death of boredom. Of how neglectful I can be of interpersonal relationships.
Believe me, I know I won’t get rid of social media for a very long time, if at all. It is all something we do really need, and it has made our lives all the better in many ways.
Perhaps I’ll make it a more prolonged experience in future.
Still, I recall as a kid mum always saying ‘only boring people are boring’. She was kind of right, as I would always go back to my mainstays of reading or playing with lego or going bike riding down the park back in those pre-internet days of the early 1990’s. The point was, I always managed to find something to occupy my time without just simply consuming passively.
This last week, I found boredom to be a good thing.
It got myself busy, it got me to be more productive, thoughtful and importantly, social with everyone I came in contact with.
It helped me to see life a little more clearer, and to be a bit mindful of how I use all of this technology, as we’re all people underneath this shroud of social media, and I feel we are easy to forget this.