Sometimes we coast through this life of ours blissfully unaware of an issue which is staring us in the face. I ran, head on into one such problem very recently.
My fiancé Andrew and his children were at my house and our children were playing on the play station. He was watching the game unfold so I surfed the internet and checked in on my social media as I often do.
From nowhere, my placid, positive and generally incredibly laid back other half asked “who are you chatting to now?” in a tone I didn’t recognise. I was unsettled and asked him where it had come from once we were on our own.
What I learned, really surprised me. I have been testing Andrews tolerance without realising it.
How? With the relationship I have with social media.
I teach two days a week and for the rest of the week I try to organise my charity, look for ways to speak publicly about my journey and I blog and look after my social media. The nature of my personality is that I’m not someone who finds it easy to sit and do little. I need to be busy. I love to work and I absolutely adore what I do. Sharing our life now is my passion and as always, I have thrown myself into what I believe in. Andrew understands and accepts this. He is the most supportive and wonderful man I’ve ever known and he absolutely adores me. But he misses me.
I didn’t see it coming. I am great at multi-tasking and so on the occasions that we have watched things like reality programmes or documentaries together and we have laughed together about the comments on twitter as I post my own, I thought it was ok. But it’s not.
We don’t allow any technology at the dinner table and so we always have brilliant conversations with our children and each other over our meals. Social media is not welcome at the table while we all chat, laugh and eat together. I thought that was enough. But it isn’t.
Andrew pointed out that while I dip in and out of my social media while the boys are awake, as soon as they are in bed I have an intense half hour where I am lost to him. Usually he watches an episode of something he’s following and I sit beside him but when I heard him say “Yes but I feel like I’m in a room on my own” it really made me think. Was I telling him, without meaning to, that his company was less important to me than my online interactions? I think so (ouch!) The third party in our relationship is taking priority over the much-needed time for us and as soon as he said it, I got it.
Recently, he has been playing a game on his phone that our boys introduced him to. I have chatted with him while he’s played but been aware that he’s not really taking in what I am saying and sometimes I simply haven’t bothered asking him the question I looked over to him to ask because I know he’s in the middle of some sort of battle and wont reply properly so I simply don’t bother. There have been two or three things over the last couple of weeks that I haven’t told him because I felt that I was interrupting him. And I don’t like it. Two weeks. I have been like this for over a year.
In truth, I have always been like this. Before blogging, I was involved with network marketing where a lot of the team trainings, communications, incentives and retail groups were online. Prior to that I was a full time teacher bringing work home every night to plan, mark or assess. I have thrown myself into it all. I did say to Andrew that he knew what he was getting involved with when we decided to make our relationship more permanent than dating. Can a workaholic really change at the age of almost 40? But he explained that he doesn’t want me to change – he loves me for my focus, determination and is incredibly proud of me but sometimes, just for an hour or so, he wants me to himself without watching me checking my phone or giggling at a comment or gif (I LOVE gifs!) online. He wants a real conversation with the woman he loves and having had a little taste of my own medicine with his game (ironically called ‘Rules of Survival’) I get it.
Social media has become a part of my daily routine – my phone is my alarm clock so checking social media is my 21s century equivalent of reading the newspaper in bed when I wake up. It’s also the last thing I do before I go to sleep and its not healthy for me or, it would seem, my relationship.
When does a habit become an addiction?
So, I am not pledging to completely change my life and use of social media. Public accountability has never helped me much (one of the reasons I never make new year’s resolutions) and actually, Andrews not asking me to – he just wants me to himself for a little while. So, on his suggestion, we are starting small. From now on, once we get to the bedroom it’s a technology free zone. I never thought of social media as virtually inviting someone into my life but now I do, I’m thinking that the bedroom is definitely a no-go zone. My days of exhibitionism and publicly exposing myself are long behind me (joke – sort of!)
Most days I feel like the luckiest woman alive – I have amazing children and step children and a fiancé who is beyond incredible. It would be easy for me just to trundle along in a life I love but what matters just as much as having an amazing partner is being a great partner in return so I’ll be making a conscious effort to share my attention equally with all of my loves – our children, my husband to be and my social media ‘bit on the side’.