Live like its 1999

Recently I was reading the latest ‘Breathe’ magazine and in it is an article about turning back the clock to 1999 and spending an evening at home disconnected from all the modern forms of instant gratification. The article describes the evolution of social media and the addiction we have developed for instant gratification: surfing the tv channels – dissatisfied with the programs on offer; continual monitoring and posting onto Facebook; answering emails as we prepare dinner, even whilst eating our evening meal.

Being connected and ‘on’ is a 24/7 commitment nowadays and our body and mind has little time to pause and regenerate. We can’t be consistently on high alert for stimulus and expect our body and mind to be unaffected. There is plenty of science out there that shows the detrimental impact of the need for constant technological connection and our thirst for instant gratification but the most common include burnout… exhaustion …. loss of our ability to care… disconnection from our best self.

Remaining at the top of our game requires us to choose to take breaks from our harried and hurried lives and allow our natural regenerative qualities to kick-in and re-charge our batteries.

Peace, Pamper, Prose.

In brief, the article suggests a number of ways to mimic the last century, to give us space:

  • Putting your mobile phone into another room, select ‘old phone’ ringtone and only get up to answer it if you can be bothered. If you do answer it, do not move from that room to chat.
  • Playing music while you cook dinner, from the ancient art of a CD, listening to the whole album, rather than the smorgasbord of Spotify; Come on Over, Shania Twain; Baby One More Time, Britney Spears; Jump and Jive with Hi5
  • Buy the TV guide and circle the shows you would like to watch, on free to air TV, then proceed to plan your relax time around plonking yourself in front of the telly for the entire show – ads and all.
  • If TV isn’t your thing, then sit down to read a book from 1999; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Gruffalo, Chocolat or A Clash of Kings (Song of Ice & Fire #2) George R.R. Martin.
  • Stay off social media.

So, I thought I would give it a go, for a little longer than only one night, I tried it for the whole weekend.

I started by shifting all my social media apps off the front page of my mobile phone and changing my ring tone. I put my phone in my office. I dragged out my Ally McBeal CDs and as I have never read a Harry Potter book, I thought this could be a good time.

Wow! I don’t know if anyone out there has realised this, I may be the first, but JK Rowling is a genius!! How cool are the Harry Potter books, now I will have to go back to the beginning! Immersing myself in the fantastical world of Hogwarts was a wonderful escape from a demanding lifestyle, I found my bum got numb from sitting in the one spot, riveted, even though I knew what was going to happen (from the movies). When I looked up at the disappearing day, my thoughts turned to: I wonder if Ms Rowling has ever nagged her kids to clean their room, I wonder if she has ever fed them nuggets and chips when she is tired, I wonder if she was desperate for her morning coffee? And whilst I don’t know for sure, I reckon ‘Yes’ to all of these, and weirdly I felt even more appreciative of her skill, for here is a Mum pounding out amazing prose despite all of her life’s challenges. We Mums are a pretty special lot.

I remembered almost every word to the Ally McBeal soundtrack and I sang at the top of my lungs whilst remembering various scenes from the show. I loved that show, I loved the characters and the funny storyline’s, I used to love the hidden sanctuary in the unisex toilets, and I love that Calista Flockhart is married to Indiana Jones! I wonder if the show would be as much fun some decades later?

‘American Beauty’ came out in 1999, as did ‘The Matrix’ but I chose to watch ‘Toy Story 2’ – a favourite of my kids – as they got older. Interestingly, the one-liners and the subtle adult humour is still funny, the storyline still relevant and the technology still amazing, I think a sort of melancholy fell over me when I watched Toy Story 2, for the giggles and joy of my children are not recorded nor the memories recalled often enough. This was a special moment of turning back the clock and recalling those years of being everything for my children and pausing to sit through movies and experiences with them.

But the most enlightening and surprising part of my weekend in 1999 was the burden lifted off my shoulders when I disconnected from social media. I wasn’t aware of how heavy the burden of comparing myself to others was wearing on me. I became aware of a reaction I have when constantly connected; the tug of chest pain when I read how fabulous others are living their lives, achieving their goals, and how wonderful their holidays and adventures are, and then I look down at the pile of bills, dog-hair covered floors and all the unattended jobs in my own life.

I think my energy and purpose for a day has often been linked to the 30 mins I lay in bed and ‘catch up on the news of friends’ on facebook. I have become painfully aware of those moments when I judge myself very harshly because my business is not as successful or my skills not as honed or my grief recovery not as productive. I have been looking for the signs in the posts of others that would prove I am not good enough. I sunk to the point of assessing my own value by the success or failure of others.

All of this isn’t all of the time but is most dangerous when I am feeling vulnerable. I have been stuck on social media a lot since Liam died, in a world where I am disconnected from my reality, where there is none of the pain of my present; social media becomes a welcome world where I can mimic or project the ‘fabulous life’ I have and I can also feed the evil voice within me that insists I am a fraud and not worthy. I have become addicted to a community that doesn’t actually exist and have disconnected from communities with real people.

Now, some weeks or more later, Facebook is now emailing me asking me where I am, and telling me how much my friends miss me?

This got me to thinking more about the work of Ginger Gorman and her book ‘Troll Hunting’ and how at risk are the vulnerable on social media and where is the community where real people exist for the purpose of highlighting the value of others.

Are you part of such a community? How does this community make the challenges of the workplace easier? Would you please tell us about it here? Can others join?

As I returned to 2019, ‘two decades’ after my weekend away, I left Facebook mixed with the other backpage apps I have on my phone. I have a plan to choicefully allocate time when I can engage on this platform, and the engagement is purposeful. This has not been easy. I find there are many times where I am bored like I have nothing to do and my past habits have been filling this void with facebook or food… neither of which I need any more of. So, as I look for activities to do in my newly found spare time (maybe I could vacuum? Nah…) I am wondering what else I could bring back from the last century to bring Peace, Pampering and Prose to my life.

{And, before anyone feels the need to point out the obvious irony – yes I am aware I am asking this on social media. 😉 }