Over Christmas and New Year, I exchanged my internet access for quality time with family and friends, for eight days of rest and relaxation and a chance to ease down from ‘working mum’.
I was expecting it and prepared for it – and the break was both difficult and welcome.
The change of environment made it vital – meant space to walk and smell the sea, time take my son to the edge of the wild winter water. Danacea was a world away, a Planet away – left in the endless anticipation of the scrolling Twitter screen.
Upon my return to Sutton, my laptop was waiting for me with eager puppy lights, begging me to log on. I succumbed to the Firefox double-click, braved the onslaught of emails, notifications, postings, twitter replies that I hadn’t seen… after the quiet of wind and water, it felt like white noise, but it felt like welcome.
More recently, I’ve been a victim of a Virgin Media power outage – and left spinning for two webless days.
I was neither expecting it nor prepared for it – at home, with my partner away and my list of evening-filling online projects abandoned, I was left hopelessly seeking something to do.
‘Something to do’, I say.
I have a job to do, a family to care for, a home to run, friends to see, a fitness schedule to keep… yet how many times do I glance at the clock in the corner of my pc screen and think ‘I need to go to bed’, ‘I need to get moving’, ‘I really need to get off my arse and spend this afternoon turfing three years’ worth of crap out of my son’s bedroom...’?
My partner doesn’t understand my shiny new fascination. He pushes himself away, swearing he’ll be the last person on earth to sell his soul to FaceBook. He throws Bill Hicks quotes at me – I’m sure fellow Marketeers know the ones I mean – and curses all things virtual.
He’s extreme, but he has a point.
It’s very easy to let Twitter consume your time.
Over my two webless days, I finally did those tasks I’ve been putting off. I had energy to burn, idle hands with twitching fingers. I was bereft, but I was busy – my windows have never been so clean.
During that time, I was thinking about the two tines of Twitter – about how they affect the lives of its users, their families, friends and businesses.
On the positive side, the sheer and overwhelming strength of the community to pull together in a time of crisis, or to support a friend – the huge force of fellowship that responded to Susan Reynolds and Ashley Spencer has brought forth tears all around the world.
On the positive side, an open arena for the exchange of information, both professional and personal: any member of the community can absorb as much or as little as they choose – from whomever they choose.
On the positive side, an environment where social groups are created. In the middle of my Christmas break, I dropped in to loudmouthman’s ‘social media living room’ to drink whisky and talk tech. I’d met warzabidul briefly, but had a chance to meet jasonjarrett, markharrisonuk and fred2baro – Twitter creates smaller communities within the larger one.
On the positive side, when you’re doing a wee bit too much of the Stay At Home Mum thing, your Twitter friends keep you from climbing the wall.
Fellow twitterers reading this, I know none of this is new.
Twitter is enormously powerful. The flow of conversation never ends; the ripples of activity as your worldwide friends awaken is perpetual motion in action, endless potential as new days begin. Like all tools, it’s as good or bad as you make it.
There are just times I need to pull my head out of the screen and focus on what’s in front of me – my family, my home.
And there are just times when I dearly wish that the chasm between those two worlds were not so deep.
Over Christmas, my partner strained his knee and was sitting on the couch with a bag of frozen peas pressed to the joint to ease the swelling.
And there was no-one to understand why I chuckled.