Lifestyle, Mental Health, Social media, Technology, Teen fiction

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Victory is sweet as 2-month mountain is scaled

64 days ago, I made the bold decision to purge myself of all social media and practice what I preach.

Way back when we were still blessed with the last of the summer sun, I found myself in an unhealthy relationship were by I would habitually scroll through various social streams and then develop unnatural feelings of envy at everyone’s picture perfect portrayals of life.

Eventually recognising that this was a problem I decided to do something about it and figured this challenge would help endorse the underlying message conveyed with my teen fiction novel The Invite.

From here I formulated a plan to ween my way off all social media streams and then omit these from my life until Halloween (aka the 1st anniversary of my debut book release).

I am truly thrilled to announce that I have reached the end of this experiment victorious!

There were quite a few occasions that offered the potential for me to slip-up, but I found the determination to maintain good mental health was enough to deter me from caving in during those moments of weakness.

Overall, I found the challenge surprisingly easy, not to come across as egotistical at all. For me it was in those rare moments of boredom or situations where our learned instinct to reach out to the phone for answers, that I came close to undoing my hard work. I’m not ashamed to admit that I did have a moment or 2 where I longed to post some content, purely in longing of attention/ approval from my peers. Thankfully this desire was short lived.

The social media platforms themselves did not make my task any easier in the end, as they resorted to sending me emails which included status updates from friends. This sneaky tactic did not sit right with me at all and just made me more determined to see things through to the conclusion.

As I now look to reflect on the impact this 2 month plus curb has had on me, the best way I can describe it, is a feeling of liberation.

When I cast my mind back to August, the thought I how I used to use social media now seems exhausting. My mind is no longer overwhelmed with constant information and a weight of expectation I felt is starting to dilute.

As I have mentioned in previous updates, this challenge has not been the miracle cure to feelings of depression at the complexity of life’s challenges. However, I would certainly conclude it has massively taken the edge off things.

In fact, I have found the cleanse so rewarding that I am yet to reactivate any of my social media accounts as yet. I don’t feel the need.

I would recommend a social media cleanse to anyone.

For those who are yet to read up about my recent challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

To mark the end of my challenge and the 1-year anniversary of The Invite I have some exciting news! All will be revealed in the next few weeks, so watch this space for updates …

Lifestyle, Mental Health, New Fiction, Social media, Technology

Social Media Cleanse Diary – 2 Weeks to Go

Incredibly the end is almost in clear sight!

A whole 2 months of my life has been dedicated to the purging of social media and it is with sheer delight to announce that I remain on track to succeed in remaining t-total.

I’d love to predict that I’ll coast towards a triumphant victory in 2 weeks’ time and although everything has unfolded better than I could have envisaged so far, I dare not become complacent.

Once again, I am proud to declare that I am yet to succumb to social media since the 30 day mark; not even for one cheeky check on Facebook.

Although I have found this treacherous challenge easier and more rewarding than I had initially anticipated, I would be lying if I said there has not been instances where I’ve almost slipped up.

As per my previous observations, it is always in those moments of boredom where the urge to kill time kicks in that a strong and almost automatic impulse to check social media invades the thoughts.

Thankfully this hasn’t been too bad to overcome since I deleted all of the social media apps from my phone. This allowed time for rational thought to muscle in.

The other challenge I have found on occasions in previous weeks is a slight annoyance at being unable to utilise social media for some of the usages that are actually of benefit, such as finding out data to assist with my book promotion or to use the Marketplace function on Facebook to help me buy and sell during the process of our house move.

I guess it could be argued that I am now regarding social media for practicalities rather than simply to mindlessly kill time (in most cases). Perhaps this reflects a slight shift in my Psyche?

I guess the killer question at this stage is how do I feel?

Now I have given this thought a lot of consideration over recent days as I would love to say I feel great. Unfortunately, I can’t say this is the case. I think I am perhaps at an awkward stage in my life, a crossroads if you will. But what I can conclude is that I still feel better than I did before I started the challenge. And when I think about how I might have felt if I continued to bash social media during this phase in my life, I can only predict that I would have felt much worse.

I think to truly reap the rewards of not using social media is to give it up for good, or at least for a much longer period of time. And I can honestly say that I would be open to such an undertaking.

Anyway, as my world continues to remain hectic, I think this will be the last social media diary I log before I reach the end.

I’m confident I will manage to stay of the social until then, but make no mistake I will be keeping my wits about me to ensure I remain on the path of riotousness.

Wish me luck and see you at the finish line. 

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

Books, Lifestyle, Social media

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 30

Screen Time | How Screen Time Works

I feel supernatural forces are in motion this year; hell bent on playing with the passage of time.

Only a moment ago I posted an update from day 5 of my social media challenge. Now here I am looking to catch up on my progress log, only to realise I have made it through an entire whirlwind month already. It has passed in the blink of an eye!

To be fair it has been a manic month as I have embarked on the exciting and also stressful journey of moving house.

Thankfully I have just about had time to keep on track with my tally of daily social media hits.

Given the lengthy delay in dishing out the dirt on my social habits, there was potential for this post to transpire as an essay style confession regarding my array of struggles encountered, accompanied with a huge list of social media useage logs.

I’m thrilled to use the word ‘potential’ as the past month has been anything but a disaster.

I can honestly say that my social media exploits have been practically non-existent since my last update. I still have to pinch myself to believe the words I write right now.

Here is an overview of how things have panned out over the past few weeks.

During week two of the challenge, I used Facebook twice for 2 minutes on each occasion, Snapchat once for 1 minute and Instagram once for 1 minute.

Now I could reflect on this with critical eyes, considering how well I had done in week one. The main plus here however is that social media usage has still reduced by about 30%.

Week 3 is where the magic really started to ignite. I only engaged with any form of social media a grand total of 3 times all week. This encompassed 2 minutes spend on Snapchat and 1 minute on Facebook.

I was in full stride during this period of time, fully absorbed into house viewings and mortgage discussions. This meant that even the idea of accessing social media, didn’t cross my thoughts for the most part.

Regrettably as the craziness from previous week simmered down ever so slightly I did regress a little bit in terms of my progress during week 4. I used Snapchat on 3 occasions for about a minute each time and Facebook twice, one of which to wish my grandad a happy birthday. I must admit the birthday thing did get me questioning this odd habit we have developed. Rather than actually saying happy birthday in person why do we feel obliged to send a Facebook message. This is something that may never have occurred to me in previous times.

Anyway this slight relapse just confirmed to me how insidious social media can be and how easy it is to fall back in the habit of having a cheeky check on it every now and then; particularly during times of boredom. This realisation prompted me to delete every social media App downloaded on my phone, with the exception of WhatsApp. And for the past 4 days I haven’t looked back.

In terms of how I’ve been feeling mentally during this whole time, it would be too good to be true to say that I’ve felt a million dollars every day of the week, but yes on the whole I am feeling pretty good. I am starting to no longer feel those strong feeling of envy that were becoming common place before and (if anything) I am actually finding peace in knowing other people are experiencing big moments in their life.

I don’t want to jinx it but I genuinely don’t think that the second half of my challenge will prove to be an almighty battle. I refuse to declare this with any certainty as I am all too aware how powerful the allure of technology can be during times of weakness.

As long as I keep working on my head space and sticking to my guns I’m hopeful this challenge will end in successful and enlightenment.

Regardless of the outcome I’m sure there will be some more twists and turns as I approach the end of this journey and so I’ll try and be on the ball a bit more with the updates from here on in.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits.

Lifestyle, Mental Health, Social media, Uncategorized

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 5

Looking back it this time last week…

I made it to the end of my first working week in surprisingly good shape.

I figured it would be most difficult to kick social media to the curb during working day as the impulse often becomes so strong at times of boredom whilst in the home office.

I must admit Friday could have been a potential banana skin as the workload started to die down throughout the day, thus introducing opportunities for boredom to take hold.

I’ll also admit I encountered some strong urges at various intervals, mainly as I craved to find sports updates in preparation for the weekend’s fixtures.

I ended up using social media just the once in the end, which I am chuffed about. I am however a bit bitter sweet about it too, as I felt it was a temptation that could have been prevented.

The indulgence consisted of a quick check on Instagram for updates on the climbing centre that I attend and had plans to visit at the weekend.

My friend had told me the centre was to be half closed due to a leaky roof and flooding and this threw our plans into disarray.

I tried to find out more on the situation through their website, to no avail. My friend advised updates were being provided on Instagram.

Great!

Due to this lack of consideration of those who do not use social media, I found myself too demanding of information to resist. Obviously, this meant I had a cheeky check on my Insta feed whilst I was at it.

As I say, very frustrating. But the good news is that this just ended up being a one off and I managed to steer clear of all platforms for the rest of the day, which was great.

Things since Friday have been crazy busy and so I haven’t had time to log how things have progressed in the week that followed. I plan to post a week long summary over the weekend so do keep your eyes peeled to find out how things have gone in week 2.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

Lifestyle, Mental Health, Social media, Teen fiction

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 3

After yesterday’s myriad of mind games, I feel like today has been much more straight forward in terms of my emotional response to this social media cleanse.

The great news is that I have managed to build once again on yesterday’s success and in fact only used social media once all day!

In my wildest predictions I would not have expected myself to curb the habit to such an extent at this very early stage.

Oh I do hope the whole 2 months will continue in this vain.

The one time I did use social media, it was a quick 1 minute check on Facebook. I was immediately greeted once more with the social media post that has annoyed me all week and so I went straight to refresh the newsfeed wheel of fortune which decided I would like to read about a burned out car instead. How lovely.

It is worth mentioning at this stage that my partner is a bit sceptical about my methodology for this challenge.

She believes I should go cold turkey from the offset and she also doesn’t believe that I should keep Direct Message platforms such as WhatsApp available for usage.

She even believes that using my blog to post updates is in fact using social media and therefore contradicting what I am trying to achieve.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and my other half doesn’t hold back with her opinions I can tell you that much for sure.

Perhaps her observations are valid to some extent and maybe this is why I have found things rather easy so far. It is difficult to say.

In spite of this I will continue on with the same plan, but I am now contemplating whether to up the anti for the final few weeks of the challenge and simply ghost any and all online avenues until I reach the end.

Maybe I could go as far as chucking my phone out and communicating via barn owl. Who knows?

All I know is I’m feeling good at the moment and hopefully this will be a feeling that grows as the challenge goes on. Only time will tell.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

Lifestyle, Social media, Teen fiction

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 2

Success is Relative. I would like to think that all humans… | by Mitch  Massman | Live Your Life On Purpose | Medium

So, I breezed through my first day of cutting out social media yesterday and this injected me with confidence as I prepared for day 2.

All things considered my second day was another great success. Looking back at my log, I can see that I did in fact access social media one time less than yesterday which I’m ecstatic about.

I should note however that not everything was as rosy as it sounds. I experienced a strange complex whereby I found myself instinctively reaching for my phone in search of social media but then stopping myself before deciding to click on the App. Sounds like a good thing right? Maybe it is, but the problem here I feel is that this prevention tactic is actually preventing me from getting a clear picture of my social media habits. It has also meant that the few times I actually did access social media, it was accompanied with feelings of guilt and shame for some bizarre reason. 

Perhaps this is just helping me to achieve my full social media blackout more quickly? I do hope so.

Worse still the very few times I did access social media, I was displayed with the same update from an individual that filled me with anger and sadness. I felt as though Facebook knew that the post hit a nerve and decided to keep throwing it in my direction.

I feel all of this emotion is making me more determined to get rid of the damn platforms as quickly as I can, which is surely a good thing.

Another interesting conclusion I found from today is that I felt less likely to use social media as I knew it would involve making a log of it, which I simply could not be bothered to do.

Maybe I have just been overthinking things with the challenge today and hopefully tomorrow will be less tubulous and even more of a success.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

films, Lifestyle, New Fiction, Technology

So, it is acceptable for our tech to snoop?

In a recent attempt to bypass the lockdown boredom, I stumbled across a film that really captured my attention. I seem to keep doing this at the moment.

The film was called The Circle and after watching the trailer I immediately questioned how and why I had never watched or even heard of this before.

I mean the movie had an all-star cast, which included huge names such as Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. It was only released in 2017 and the concept looked pretty on trend to me.

After enjoying the trailer, I didn’t have to think twice before initiating a search for it on Netflix. However, in the few moments before playing the thing I scoped out the reviews on IMDB and was dismayed to learn that it only had a rating of only 5.3. With no back-up option at the ready, it felt like a slap-in the face.

In my stubbornness and determination not to follow the flock of film critical sheep, I disregarded the information at hand and decided to give the film ago regardless.

I’m really glad I did.

Ok so it wasn’t the greatest Tom Hanks film I have ever seen, but it was certainly an eye opening one, that is for sure.

To explain in a nutshell, the movie was basically about a rogue tech firm who glorified its new surveillance products as innovations that would make the world a safer and more transparent place. Furthermore, the company headquarters were essentially a camp where young employees were brainwashed into endorsing a rather sinister obsession to eradicate people’s privacy. Emma Watson’s character was introduced as the company’s latest recruit/ victim and the story considers her disturbing journey which leads her to discover and challenge what is really going on.

Aside from the immoral undertones of privacy breaches explored within the film, I found I could really empathise with the culture of the company that was portrayed; which was one of obedience, intense pressure and a lack of longing or courage to challenge an unfair system. It is quite disturbing to realise that this culture is one of familiarity and I’m sure this is an ethos that many major companies instil. The company in the film was on a mission to gain power and control in order to maximise profits at everyone’s expense.

On a whole the film really helped me to consider a dangerous side to technology that I hadn’t considered or at least was not overly concerned with before. It made me think about how our phones quite clearly listen in to our conversations and then as if by magic offer us a targeted advert or offer us a news article based on the subject. I’m sure lots of you will have noticed this.

At times this may seem comical and sure, we are just being provided with an innocent looking advert. But if you take a moment to actually think about it, it just isn’t right. And The Circle just made me ponder the possibility of how the benefit of technology can quite easily turn into turn into a danger if manipulated against us.  

So again, I think back to the IMBD rating and have to ask myself the question, why was it was poorly rated? Aside from the important overall message, it had a big name cast, lots of action and some good twists. I just cannot seem to comprehend it. Perhaps I have an unusual taste in films, who knows.  

It is all a matter of opinion, I guess. Maybe it is the fact that we find the concept far fetched? Worse still, is the premise just too real that we can’t handle the dark reality?  

Or are we simply not bothered or even interested in our own right to privacy?

Whatever the reason behind the ratings, I find the poor response to the film rather unnerving. Ok I get that it is only a film, but I believe we should all be intrigued by the big issues that are arguably happening right now.

If IMDB ratings aren’t the be all and end all and you are interested in issues around technology and privacy, you can check out The Circle on Netflix

In recent years I have become both fascinated and disturbed by the emergence and potential dangers of technology. So much so I decided to explore this issue with my fantasy fiction debut novel The Invite which is aimed at young adults. The story considers a scary concept of VR and addiction, but doesn’t cover privacy. Maybe it should have. Something of a thought to follow up on perhaps.

All that is left for me to say is I’m not too sure what will it take for us to wake up? Maybe movie directors should go with Tim Allen over Tom Hanks next time…

Books, Lifestyle, Smartphone, Technology

Smarten up on the dark truth

Teenagers chained to their phones

After sharing an update on my new book release, I received a comment online that intrigued me.

It was a suggestion to watch a documentary on Netflix called the Social Dilemma.

I was told it would blow my mind… and it did!

This production was suggested due to a strong overlap of themes to my book release, The Invite.  In my haste to find out exactly what these might be, I decided to watch it that very same evening.

The first thing I noticed is that the documentary was being presented by original employees from tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. I immediately thought this was unusual and so did not expect the content that was to come.  

The whole thing was cleverly done and quickly turned from being light-hearted and conversational to deeply disturbing.

The best way I can surmise this unnerving watch, is as a stark diagnosis and warning about our relationship with social media. The content focussed primarily on the sinister psychological methods of social media technologies to manipulate us, the people. We were educated about the use of clever algorithms that learn our behaviours and exploit them to the achieve the goals of the tech companies.  

The key message was that we are the product and social media companies will do whatever they can to keep us plugged into their pages.  

Without giving too much away, some of the shocking topics discussed included revelations such as how your phone knows what you are looking at, for how long and then feeds you info related to this.  

Scarier still, these algorithms conveniently refrain from showing you content that may contradict the opinions/views that you are being spoon-fed. When you factor in that social media sites do very little to filter out fake news, which in fact often enhances consumer engagement with their sites, it is very easy to see how many of us can develop a warped and extreme view of the world.  

There are various key messages conveyed throughout the short film, but rather than verging any further into spoiler territory, I will zip my lip there and strongly recommend you give it a watch. https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81254224

The more engrossed I got into the documentary the more I realised how the content directly mirrored a lot of the dark themes presented in my own book. When you consider my story is fiction and this is real life, that is a rather terrifying conclusion.   

The warning conveyed on my screen made me realise that the release of my book might actually be the most important thing I ever do and is needed right now!  

Thankfully I can announce that my book is ready to make us all think about online addiction. You can actually order The Invite now by visiting  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

In the interest of objectivity, I should say it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The narrator’s believed that it was never the initial objective of tech companies to brainwash society. Like any other business, they just want to make money. It is just that somewhere along the way, things have got out of control. The key message I guess you could say, is that we need to get it back! 

Books, Lifestyle, Technology, Teen Novel

Editing Out Lockdown

I hope that everyone is still staying safe and well during these very uncertain times that we find ourselves in.

The past 3 months have been the most turbulent and bizarre times I can ever recall. I’m sure this is the same for all of us.

Right from the start I became determined not to succumb to despair and tried to find solace in my writing as a distraction from the horrors we have had to endure.

I wrote a teasing little blog here some months ago now, which briefly introduced my plans to write my first ever novel. I should say that a lot has happened since then and lock-down has offered me a rare opportunity to throw everything but the kitchen sink at it.

When I posted previously, I had just finalised my first draft.  I rather naively thought that this would be the holy grail and the final preparations would be a breeze.

Since then I have spent several years adding, refining and cutting out sections and it felt as though I was getting nowhere with it for a while.

Life in Furlough has given me a rare opportunity to hammer that final nail in the coffin and I’m excited to announce that I’m almost there!

I have a few final editing queries to address and then I intend to send it off for a final proofread before preparing the final manuscript.

In the coming weeks I plan to reveal more and more info about the novel, including the big title and front cover reveal along with the blurb details.

All I can say for now is that I hope my brain-child helps to make a statement about issues in society, such as addiction, technology and fear. My book is a non-fiction fantasy that aims to trap readers into a warped new world that will only spit you out when its finished with you.

If this sounds like something that might just be your street, feel free to watch this space for regular updates and sneak peaks.

You can also sign up for a newsletter below which I plan to drill down into more of the nitty gritty and also include exclusive offers for the book release.

At the moment I’m simply planning to publish for Kindle devices, but this is open to change depending on demand.

My aim is to get things done within the next few months so hopefully I can give you something different to enjoy as we try to endure this new normal.

I look forward to letting you know more soon.

Chris