I Took a 2 Week Break from Instagram. Here’s What Happened.

Bye Instagram, it's not me it's you

Spoiler alert: I got loads done.

Soooo a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how fed up I’ve become with Instagram and why I wanted to take a little break. I turned it into a mini protest against Insta’s crappy algorithm, because why not, and I took a solid 2 weeks off from the app. I thought I’d end up on there via work, posting for a client or something, but that didn’t happen in the end, so it’s been a full two weeks with zero Instas. I’ve never kept a note of how long I actually spend on social media, because some of it is for work and all that, but in the first week I think I probably had a good half an hour every evening where I found myself looking for something to do. It also snowed awfully that first week, and usually being stuck inside is Prime Internet Browsing Time, but after a few days I stopped reaching for Instagram and started reaching for Twitter instead. Then a few days after that, I stopped reaching for Twitter. I think that during the last week or so, I have hardly even been using my phone. More on that in a minute.

Here is a brief list of the things I got done that in retrospect I might not have had the discipline to do if I hadn’t had one less app to look at when my concentration wavered:

  • 2 separate pieces of art that I’d been thinking about for ages and hadn’t got around to doing properly
  • Posted a bunch of stories online to sites I hadn’t got around to joining
  • Made about 3 spreadsheets for work and actually used formulas and got my financial shit together which is probably the highlight of my year
  • Researched some events and markets and stuff, which I hate doing because selling at events means acknowledging my business requires people to survive ugh
  • Ran a survey about Patreon and did some proper market research
  • Researched potential wholesale partners for my shop, which I have avoided for 2.5 years because it requires talking to people
  • Reorganised my dressing table which is something I have steadily put off since last summer, and if I hadn’t been stuck for things to do I think I would have kept putting it off until I drowned beneath an avalanche of spare hair pins

I also started editing the first draft of the Giant Writing Project (you know, I’m just going to start calling it a book because at this point it is long enough, damn it), made macaroni cheese, had lunch with my dad, did some Pilates and listed some stuff on Etsy. I probably would have done those things anyway, but the weirdest thing about coming off Instagram was that I realised how much time I spend online generally. At first I replaced Insta time with Twitter time, but gradually I kind of just stopped looking at my phone. I think I messaged a few friends a bit more, because WhatsApp and Messenger were the only apps on my phone that didn’t require m i n d l e s s scrolling, and I think I’ve been more disciplined with work in general. I have the natural attention span of a gnat, but taking away one major distraction definitely helped me get away from other distractions, if that makes sense?

I think I also benefited from not seeing, or posting, the highlight reel photos we all post to Insta. I don’t really know any other writers and the people I follow who are also freelancers or on Etsy aren’t of the bragging variety, so I wasn’t missing anything that would directly make me feel inferior – but taking time away from all the likes and the popular page and the constant struggle to get a post noticed helped me to focus. I didn’t have myself down as someone who lets other people’s posts, highlight reel or otherwise, make me feel bad. But I must feel bad on some level, because in the last couple of weeks I’ve felt oddly at peace. That’s the best way I can think of to describe the feeling: I’m focused on what I need to do in the next few months, and I feel confident about how I’m doing it.

That being said, there are a few things I’ve missed. A handful of accounts I follow are by people who aren’t online anywhere else, and I’ve found myself missing their posts. When I go back to Insta this evening I’m going to catch up with Gerard Way’s photos, because I heard he’s got new music on the way, and @lgbt_history, which is possibly the most informative account on the whole of Instagram.

I might trim down who I follow, so I’m not seeing the same photos on Twitter and Instagram, for example, and I might set some sort of timer so I can only spend a certain amount of time on Insta per day. The good stuff on there is great, but I am ready to keep my distance from it, partly for my mental health but partly because god I’m getting so much done! This book might actually be ready to be pitched to agents by the end of the year, for one thing, and for another I can actually find I need on my dressing table which probably hasn’t happened since 2007.

Has anyone else taken time off from Insta or social media? How have you found it? I’m tempted to avoid Twitter for a few weeks next. THE SKY IS THE LIMIT.

Days Like These

You know those mornings when your dogs bark every time you start to concentrate on something, and you have to go out mid-afternoon so you’re reluctant to really get stuck into anything, but you can’t ignore the fact you really ought to get stuck into something, so you decide to pass the time writing a blog instead of pretending Tumblr browsing is market research?

Me too!

I try to be all behind-the-scenes-y on social media, especially Instagram, but if I showed you what my office space looks like right now, you’d all stop taking me seriously. (I’m aware that implies you already take me seriously, which is unlikely. My point is, the room looks like Royal Mail exploded.) There are two baking trays on my printer, tissue paper and open boxes sitting in places where other things should go, receipts stacked underneath the printer and a Pilates ball in the middle of the room to really set the ambience. I’m not moving any of it until tomorrow, when my mum is away and I can haul things up and down stairs without causing havoc… I’m thinking of changing my room around so I stop keeping shop supplies on the floor, but if past experience is an indication of ‘a quick tidy up’, I won’t just move some things around. I will deep clean, throw out shit I’d forgotten I owned, redecorate my desk and probably take several hours doing it.

But on Monday I will breeze downstairs and all will be right with the world… I’ll probably write four pages, finish a blog draft, do Pilates, enjoy a constant stream of Etsy orders and have a backer on Patreon. All because I spent the time re-organising, of course.

I wish I believed that.

I mean, everything is in place for all of those things to happen. I have pages of notes to turn into prose, a couple of blogs to craft into viral-article material, a free sticker scheme on Etsy until next Sunday and a Patreon full of excellent perks and reasons to support my work. But the biggest thing to happen on Monday will probably be my driving lesson. Maybe that is a bad example because driving is a huge thing for me and I often have to practice breathing before a lesson, but you know what I mean? Sometimes you can plan and organise and de-clutter and be as zen as you like and things still don’t fall into place. Is there a word for that? I feel like the Japanese or the French or the Greeks would have a word for that, while the English just vocalise it by making vowel sounds and flapping their hands. Like ‘mojo’ or ‘kefi’. What the hell did the English say before we learnt ‘mojo’?

I’m digressing. Perhaps I will decorate Indifferent Ignorance until it’s time to leave. If you have any ideas about how to describe ‘with the best will in the word, you’re running up a down escalator’ in less than 13 words, let me know.

Oh and if you follow me on the social media, I apologise for any spammy photos this evening of the O2. We’re seeing Top Gear Live That Isn’t Called Top Gear Live Since Clarkson Got Sacked. I am hoping for muscle cars and lots of this:

Top Gear complaints form dontkillthevibe.t
from dontkillthevibes.tumblr.com

Oh iPhone, You Have My Heart (and my attention span)

Yesterday I cleaned and rearranged my entire desk, so now the multiple Post Its and to-do lists are all zen, just like my mind will be when I start work every day. Coincidentally, today I activated my new phone (or half activated it, since apparently it takes ages for my provider to realise it’s sending cat emojis to a different device) and I’ve been thinking hard about which apps I want to reinstall and how I want to use the new phone. At the moment the home screen is so serene, with twice as much space as the old one… admittedly it’s twice the size, but it got me thinking that I’d really rather fill my phone with mindfullness apps and cookbooks than I would with work things or social media – which are sometimes work and sometimes personal… and always time-consuming.

I feel like getting a new device is the perfect excuse to embrace hippiness and quit my Instagram habit. Become one of those people who checks their mobile for half an hour each day, with the occasional game of snake while stuck in a queue. I always feel that although those people might not get updates from their Etsy shop or messages from Headspace reminding to keep their shit together, they must already have very peaceful minds. I want my phone to be a tool to enrich my life, god damn it, not something to which I am beholden just in case Sweet Pea the dog updated her feed.

Okay, bad example because Sweet Pea will only ever enrich my life. But you know what I’m getting at? I spent a large portion of my teenage years living with repetitive strain because I texted far too much; I often don’t sleep because I just had a quick check of Twitter in bed and two hours later I’ve got the Syrian civil war and Gerard Way’s massage Tweets papering the inside of my skull. And why do I reply to emails on my phone? I have a desktop, an iPad and a Windows Surface, all of which are easier to read, easier to type on and, oh yeah, won’t fit in bed with me.

Thing is, when push comes to shove – which it does too often – I have to work from my phone. It’s so accessible, and Instagram doesn’t work nearly as well from a desktop. I need all five email accounts on my phone, both Etsy apps and Tumblr just in case my zen desk space failed me and I only remember something important in the car on the way to a birthday. And what if the iPad, desktop computer and Surface break in a freak accident? I need the Internet for money, so boom, the phone is a lifesaver. I don’t even like leaving it at home on a walk because what if I get attacked by crazy people or trip over or find a stray dog and need to actually speak to someone?

Upon reflection I think that it’s all down to me not taking my phone to bed (or into the bathroom, or to situations where I don’t actually actively need to use it). I’m the one who decides whether or not I should check Facebook for the 10th time on that device that morning, and it’s down to me to choose not to. Like anything, my phone will only take over my life if I let it. The part of me that wants to be chilled and  organised has to sit on the nervous news-seeking Internet junkie part of me. I’m fed up with only avoiding my mobile on holidays and at Christmas, and I know that if I spent less time refreshing my feed and more time properly working, I’ll be more productive in the long run.

So I’m telling you this hoping that by holding myself publically(ish) accountable, I might actually do it. Think of it as a new month’s resolution (speaking of, where in God’s name did September go?!). Have any of you ever tried minimising your tech use? Did you end up moving to the jungle to be at one with nature or did you flake out as soon as the new OITNB dropped? Please share your stories, because I think I’m going to need a support group for this.

Hoop Jumping Grumping

I am not sure if today’s topic technically counts as indifferent ignorance, but it’s something I’d like to hear other people’s opinions on, so let’s go. In the last five or so years, I seem to have filled out every type of form – bar, say, births, deaths and marriages – that exists. Exam papers, coursework cover sheets, change of address, passport update, bank information update, job applications, club applications… they nearly all take half an hour, and my gut feeling is that I’ll have spent as much time on form-filling in my lifetime as I will queuing. And I’m British, so to queue is my birthright.

But how come, with all the amazing scientific advances of the last century, do I have to fill out each form individually? Before someone makes a comment about biros, I know that the speed of which you fill out handwritten forms depends on your hands/pen/the quality of the surface on which you are writing, but some email address form is not the object of my irritation. My problem is with online applications, specifically job applications and website sign-ups. Why, in the name of all things simple, aren’t they aren’t standardised?

Dog Wall 1 creamyburrito.tumblr.com
From creamyburrito.tumblr.com. I feel this image encapsulates anyone who has had to paste their CV into an online job application.

I know everyone thinks they’re standardised. All site sign-ups ask for an email, a password and maybe one of those prove-you’re-human thinggies, but there isn’t a standard password specification. Some places want letters and numbers. Some want certain symbols. Some want more characters than Twitter, and some just want a word, which is weird and leaves you open to hacking. Once you make a password and, say, forget it or keep confusing it with another, there’s sometimes no way to change it… even though you’re supposed to change all passwords every 72 days or something.

I’m being facetious; if all sites used the same template they’d be wide open to hackers. The same is not true, however, of job applications. They all want qualifications and cover letters and references and previous experience, but instead of attaching your CV, a letter and your reference info, you have to paste it all into an Excel-designed spreadsheet that requires you to include every GCSE you sat but leaves no room for your previous work experience… don’t even get me started on adding two jobs into the current employment bit. No, Mr Magazine Man, I do not plan on leaving my freelance position for your unpaid internship.

Am I being oversensitive? Is this a personal thing rather than a matter of indifferent ignorance? If you’re new to commenting, I do apologise for any issues you have with the sign-up form… but at least WP doesn’t ask you for your mother’s dog’s maiden name.

We’ve Made It; We’re in the Urban Dictionary

By ‘we’ I mean ‘indifferent ignorance’.

The term, not the site.

Urban Dictionary

Eek! I’ve been wanting to do this for ages, but the site actually has editors who decide if your definition is good enough (I know) so I had to tweak it a bit. You guys are very welcome to add your own definitions and examples. I considered adding ‘Indifferent Ignorance’ but I thought that might be a bit much.

This is the next of Five Ways to Celebrate Five Years of Blogging, in case you were wondering. It’s basically the reason I started Five Ways to Celebrate Five Years of Blogging. I’m very proud of myself for a) defining the term, b) getting it accepted on there and c) contributing to my favourite social encounter-based resource.

Muhahahaaaa! Let’s throw a party.

Climbing the Internet Ladder of Infamy

I read in a blogging book that the average blog lasts about three months, which makes this place a dinosaur. Or an antique, or vintage wine, depending on your world view. Part of me was loathe to make a post today because it felt self-aggrandising, but that’s kind of the point of a blog. I wasn’t sure what to discuss – the days when I could write ten lines and get a comment thread 20 posts long? The irony of how I’ve focused what I discuss and get less interest than when I rehashed MCR news with a mildly offensive image? Halloween?

Remember this? I try not to either.
Remember this? I try not to either.

I dunno. In the last few years and months I’ve looked at other blogs and it seems like most people who have been doing it for 18 months plus have bagged themselves a book deal and half a million Instagram followers, which is really hard to reconcile with my experience of blogging. I’ve never read a whole lot of blogs but there seems to be an ocean of people tapping away at keyboards with very little response unless they a) write shit about other people, b) take photos of themselves in vintage clothing for a style blog or c) have a life-changing story. I have no interest in pursuing any of those things, and I’ve lost sleep over how to engage people. Which is stupid, because I will probably continue to write this as long as I enjoy it, and my enjoyment should not be linked to the reaction I get.

It kind of is though, because I was fortunate enough to have a relatively large audience almost from the get-go. Well, from about 2010 upwards, which coincided with the release of Danger Days and my friends’ interest in both MCR and reading my writing instead of doing homework. Course, the end of MCR coincided with a lot of crap in my life – neither of which I really wanted to write about immediately – and a growing sense that Indifferent Ignorance should keep climbing the Internet ladder of infamy. My favourite part of every post has always been the comments; I aspired to be the sort of writer who could garner a dozen every article. Typically, as I began over-thinking posts and trying to get maximum reaction from as few lines as possible, readers started dropping off the radar. My biggest audience was always my friends and family, but while I was still passionate about MCR, bemoaning the tabloid press and never getting a desk job, they were more interested in school work and clubbing – neither of which ever held any lasting interest for me.

When I started The Six O’Clock News in a bid to reconcile exam prep and my hobbies, I felt like I was back at the roots of the site; indifferent ignorance is a pandemic that’s never more noticeable than the headlines. So I decided to hone posts, to go for quality not quantity, to ask questions as much as I paraded perceived indifferent ignorance – and of course I’d never stop writing entire blogs about my dogs or the latest updates from the Musicians Formerly Known As MCR. Despite everything, I still wasn’t getting anything near the interest I was a few years ago, and in the back of my mind there was a little voice saying ‘that was your heyday. Quit while you still have a reader or two and get a proper job’.

I should probably add that I’ve always considered ‘readers’ to be people who leave a comment every handful of posts. Anyone can sign up for updates; most people completely ignore every post from then onwards. Which is okay and your business, just don’t pretend you’re a super fan if you’re not. But that voice was still suggesting I cut my losses, and while finding a new example of indifferent ignorance every week is easy, writing 500+ words and sourcing pictures is not; especially when you’re a freelance writer  and every article which doesn’t get financially compensated is technically speaking a waste of time.

Still my favourite still of  mid-work mess. The piece I was working on, a 'Danger Days' fan fiction, never got finished.
Still my favourite still of mid-work mess. The piece I was working on, a ‘Danger Days’ fan fiction, was never finished.

So I’ve forgiven myself for not wanting to make a song and dance out of today. I’ve still got a few Five Ways to Celebrate Five Years of Blogging to finalise (they have deviated somewhat from mid-August’s planning, mostly due to a lack of funds) which I will hopefully have announced by the end of the year – and what’s a celebration if it isn’t several weeks long?

I have no idea where I will go from here. Indifferent Ignorance might not make ten years, and if it doesn’t that’s okay – I’m going to prioritise my health and peace of mind over a website even if it gets 10,000 independent readers a day. I might keep taking the piss out of the press; I might talk more about social issues or pay a designer for the sidebar I’ve always wanted. I’ll probably keep being disappointed when entire essays go unnoticed, but if I’d wanted to get loads of attention from people on the Internet, I’d have opened a Facebook account aged 13. I started this site with no agenda other than to carve out a platform on which I could say what I wanted, and I’m going to try to stick to that ethos. I’m grateful to everyone who is still reading, or who isn’t but used to, because it’s definitely more fun when there’s a conversation. But it’s okay if there’s not – and I’m delighted that it’s taken nearly a thousand words to say that… continuing as I mean to continue!

So have a good Halloween (or Friday, or both) and don’t accept any sweets from creeps. Unless you’re looking for a pathway to self-destruction, in which case don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Six O’Clock News: Keeping Up With Current Events

With the ever-changing nature of ‘current events’ and the complications of understanding it anyway, I thought the Israel-Palestine conflict (war? See, defining this shit is tough) would be a good topic to use to discuss ways to keep up with the news. All the cool kids are doing it, so listen up!

The Traditional Way: Newspapers and Magazines

Aw, print media. A declining medium and usually so full of editorially-biased bullshit that often it’s not worth going near anyway. We all know that tabloids aren’t worth even opening (I discovered a Daily Mail parody on Twitter the other day. It’s beautiful) but what about the broadsheets?

Well darlings, there are some good choices. The Guardian and Telegraph, traditionally a bit leftie and rightie respectively, have pretty decent articles which give a detailed explanation of a story, usually with some photos or maybe an infographic. I don’t usually get the Financial Times but I’ve heard it’s good too, as is The Times, if buying something owned by Rupert Murdoch doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies. Then there’s the Independent and its sister publication the i, which I loved to read at school because it’s really short and has super-duper-easy-to-digest articles. It’s also only 30p and available from Starbucks, so you can look smart while sipping a skinny mocha polkadot frappe. All the papers have websites too so you can read an article as many times as it takes for your blood pressure to return to normal!

That’s pretty much the extent of my paper knowledge and I encourage you to utilise your local library and have a read of whatever you can get your hands on – you’ll find your favourite style of writing pretty soon. One word of warning: even the news articles will contain bias. Not as much as a column – not as obviously much as a column, anyway – but differentiating between reported fact, the writer’s opinion and a senior management-based reference (like a journalist highly rating a film released on a company owned by the newspaper’s owner) is a fun and useful skill. One that Daily Mail readers are lacking above all others.

In terms of magazines, there is only one I read, though I read it more thoroughly than I do all papers: Private Eye. Edited by the dude who sits on the left in Have I Got News for You, it’s predominately satire but also has some serious reporting and its Street of Shame section calls out other newspapers’ crap. If I remember correctly, it was one of the few publications that picked up on Cyril Smith being a paedophile about 20 years before the Jimmy Savile scandal – I think they got sued over the allegations. They get sued a lot. The Economist is also useful if you want to get really intellectual – and the ads in the back are brilliant if you want to pretend you have a PhD.

The Family Debate Way: Television

Ah, the real Six O’Clock News. I love it. If you’re anything like me, couch-surfing wise, you start your channel-flicking marathons around the entertainment channels (Virgin Media 121) and go up to music (Kerrang! TV is 342) and maybe into films (avoid the porn channels just past them).

This is stupid.

Go straight to the good stuff: the plethora of news channels. BBC News 24 HD is 604 for me and it’s on all the time. So if you’re out at ten o’clock or eating at six you can keep in the loop! I’m assuming your family bought a huge massive mega TV broadband phone package deal, in which case you probably have access to CNN, Al Jazeera English, Euro News, BBC Parliament and if you’re unlucky FOX.

The good thing about TV news is that because they’re broadcasting to everybody, they have to explain everything. Hence why reporters go to whacky places or walk through green screened graphics – the information needs to be understandable to the average viewer. You’re not the average viewer because you’re a) reading this and b) you know that you can access CNN.

A downside to the TV is that because most non-24-hour slots are short, detail can be missed from a story, and some stories aren’t told at all. Syria is big news when there’s been a huge bombing or war crime, for example, but gets overtaken by the next big thing. The same thing happened in all areas of the mainstream media to #BringBackOurGirls and Flight MH370. Both are still missing, by the way.

 The Hands-Free Way: Radio

You know, the way they kept up with business in World War II. Radio is cool because you aren’t rendered immobile and you can listen while you’re in the car or doing boring stuff, like chores. BBC Radio 4 has a good broadcast in the morning, which I discovered completely accidentally when I was searching for a radio station without jingles or adverts for my morning alarm. I’ve also heard good things about the BBC World Service, which apparently has a worldwide following because it’s an alternative to propaganda-ridden state media.

The Hipster Way: Websites and Social Media

I should probably point out that I’m not entirely sure what a hipster is, although many of the people I’ve known who have declared themselves to be one have actually been twats. I’m not sure if that’s the point. Anyway, social media basically sparked the Arab Spring, because for the first time people had ways to communicate meet-ups and ideas quickly. So instead of using Twitter to hashtag how great your favourite band is to promote a crappy MTV contest, use it to keep up with a conflict or political situation as-it-happens. There was a Russian soldier who posted a picture of himself with Russian weapons inside Ukranian borders on Instagram, and Osama bin Laden’s house’s siege was posted about on Twitter as it occurred, which says it all. The people inside war zones are exactly the same as everyone else so you can see the actual stuff that’s going on. You don’t have to follow accounts if it bums you out, but searching a tag here and there makes you like well intelligent.

Word of warning: social media is the least moderated of all broadcasting platforms and there are just as many idiots posting political things as there are idiots posting pictures of themselves in their underwear or bitching about their boss. Take with a bucketful of salt and always use two sources to corroborate information, especially if it’s for a school thing. I once stumbled upon a Hammas-supporting website which bitched a lot about Israel and the stats I collected were totally the opposite to the ones we learnt in school. For quick info, use the BBC News app and for research, the CIA World Factbook has great profiles on each country – well, they would – and lists states numerically by how great their literacy rate or GDP is, amongst other things. The BBC also has great country profiles for getting a simple explanation and timeline of a country. This explains Kosovo perfectly, for example.

The Fun Way: Entertainment

Not going to lie, Tim Minchin taught me the background to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Then there’s Have I Got News for You, Russell Howard’s Good News, The Daily Show… the list  of programmes is endless. If you’re prepared to put up with some Hollywood gloss, films and books are useful. Some, like Shooting Dogs or books by Khaled Hosseini, don’t have gloss. They may make you cry noisy tears and expand your cynicism. But they’re actually really important because you’re more likely to empathise and understand the nuances of a situation through fiction than you are just by watching the news.

Documentaries are also excellent because it’s their job to make sense, tell the truth (again: apply salt) but keep hold of your attention. Plus your teachers will support the concept of watching them instead of doing a timed essay. Probably. Possibly.

Okay, I’m off to watch the diving at the Commonwealth Games and keep a tally of my parents’ homophobic comments regarding Tom Daley. Let me know if I’ve forgotten a supercool way to follow the news!

Is This an Audioblog I See Before Me? Yes.

Thought it would be interesting to dip a toe into the world of audioblogging, so here is my first ever attempt… To ensure visual satisfaction I have included little additions for you to look out for at X number of minutes.

1.18

“crshchrshcrsh” means “downloaded”. I think I moved.

2.20

“COUGH for example COUGH I went clubbing with my friends” Actually that might have been more movement. This is why it takes eight years to put a post together.

4.43

From http://s1.hubimg.com/
From http://s1.hubimg.com/

They were more appealing in the dark. Also Chloe made me have one.

4.48 

From http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/
The ‘Pacific Rim’ Jaegers looking cute. From http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/

Turns out they are pronounced the same way… do you think the Pacific Rim people had the drink in mind in the design room?

7.15

From lisce.tumblr.com
From http://lisce.tumblr.com

8.03

Really?

8.07

Heeey it is! Right, done. Thank you for listening – unless you didn’t in which case why are you here? – and let me know if the quality is okay and all that!