This morning, during the time I was waiting for the butter to melt on the cast iron pan before I poured the Dutch Baby batter, I had a vague, brief thought: what can or should I be doing right now? Mind you, butter does not take very long to melt, especially in a 425 degree Fahrenheit oven. And I was already doing something: making breakfast for my family. Well, actually two things because I was also listening to the news on the radio.
In other words: I have been so conditioned to feel that I must be busy at all times, that I feel that I should be doing a second, third, or fourth task whilst cooking breakfast for my children. I am, therefore, a soft target for the algorithms. Or perhaps is the other way around: the endless scrolling that I so easily slip into has made me feel that I must, at every moment, be engaged on multiple fronts, more fronts, even, than I actually have.
Where has this feeling of the need for constant scrolling come from? There is certainly an undertone for me of FOMO (fear of missing out). More specifically, I have a fear that if I just scroll through twitter enough, perhaps I will come across a problem that I am in a position to solve. Even if I done have the solution to any of the myriad problems that arise on social media like Twitter, I also have the fear that I could, at some future date be called upon to HAVE AN OPINION ABOUT or at least some knowledge of an event or exchange that occurred on social media. I will be asked to bear witness but I will have missed it all.
Instragram, with its beautiful visual images and flashy advertising, presents a whole other set of issues for me. On my account, I have mostly been following knitters, yarn dyers, a few writers and artists, and stationary companies. Want to take a wild stab at guessing what I’ve been, as a result, spending my money on as of late?
For a while, I was searching around for and clicking on all sorts of images and accounts related to planners (both digital and analogue) and notebooks and pens. See, over the past half year or so, I’ve had great success using my Fitbit to monitor (and increase) my level of fitness. The tracker on my wrist motivated me to hit certain goals everyday and week and even provided some workout videos and other instruction, without allowing me to get to the point of being obsessive about it. I could hit my goals and be done with it. I haven’t felt any need to over do it.
And so, of course, I wanted to try to repeat this success in other areas of my life. Surely there was some tool out there that would help me to write on a daily basis, to meal plan, and budget and organize my household and chores but still remain creative and inspired. I know, it’s a big ask. I downloaded a few digital trackers and took a look at them. I’d been ordering various lovely, bound, ribboned, and elastic-banded notebooks in the hopes that I could come up with a system that would be both elegant and visually stunning. Instagram and its algorithm was more than happy to support me in my search for some sort of organizational system.
Repeat this on everything that I’ve shown an interest (art, books, drawing, knitting, learning French and guitar, homeschool etc…) in over about the past year and you might be able to begin to see how I might have been spending a lot of time scrolling through these images, in search of some perfect items that would help everything fall into place.
Alas, this never happened.
In fact: did you ever use those Mead black and white marbled composition notebooks back in school? That’s what I’m currently using for all my organizing and planning and even my writing and note-taking. They’re not even college ruled. I’m scratching out my notes to myself on elementary level WIDE RULED. And they each probably work out to a couple of dollars each. As for the fancier notebooks? They’re simply too precious to me. What I need is a spot to jot down a few unruly notes to myself to be wrangled into something more meaningfully later on. I needed a spot for a quick, end of day brain dump so that I could sleep. And all the beautiful notebooks and planners and digital bells and whistles were simply too much for this. So I’m going with a classic.
Which brings me to these two habits that I’ve been focusing on and which I hope to write more on here in the coming weeks. The first is a habit I’d like to break: thoughtless scrolling and meaningless social media pseudo-engagement. And the second is a habit that I’d like to cultivate: writing in general and writing here on my blog specifically.
I hope you’ll check back here in the coming weeks as I share more about my experiences with breaking one habit and cultivating another.
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