A Phoney Life

Late last year I came to the conclusion that I was addicted to my phone. Gosh, that’s a statement that would have made no sense fifteen or twenty years ago!

Earlier in the year a friend had shut down Facebook for three months because she was spending all her time there and not interacting with her family. Ironically, this is the same friend who insisted I sign up because I’d be left out of social events otherwise. At the end of the three months she reactivated her account. She said it didn’t make a lot of difference, as she had spent the time she used to waste on Facebook in other apps on her phone.

It seems like the phone is the problem, I thought.

After eye surgery, while I was sensitive to light, it became really obvious that I spend too much of my time looking at screens. I’d wake up and check my phone, get up and shower, look at my phone while eating breakfast, sit in front of the desktop computer, check my phone in every break, settle down at night to watch tv and check my phone during the ad breaks or if the show was boring, then go to bed and listen to podcasts, read on the phone and, most often, look at social media before going to sleep.

If I put my phone out of my reach at any of these times of day, I’d find myself reading for it without thinking. If I set it down next to me and told myself I wasn’t going to look, I’d find myself scrolling through Facebook minutes later.

That sounds like addiction to me.

Was this a bad thing? I loved my iPhone when I first got it. It replaced my watch, diary, Melways, notebook, book, torch, ipod Nano and camera. It connects me to the world and my friends. But was it having a detrimental effect, too? Like my friend, I tended to blame the apps for making me anxious or distracted. I hate the nervy feeling that I’ll lose friends and become dangerously uninformed if I don’t keep being a slave to social media.

So I decided to see what would happen if I cut back my phone usage. I decided to:

– charge my phone away from my bed
– remove Twitter, Instagram and Words With Friends from my phone
– leave my phone in the kitchen during the day, unless we go out
– during breaks I can check my phone, but I must spend as much time not looking at it
– go back to using analogue versions of a notebook, diary, and watch, and even books

After a few weeks I noted I was feeling calmer. I fall asleep faster and have had less and milder insomnia. When I wake in the morning I think about the day ahead and make plans, and don’t forget what they were so easily.

And the memory improvement was the most surprising. I realised that by stuffing phone use into all the little gaps of time between activities I wasn’t allowing my brain time to remember the small things. Letting it meander before sleep and rising, or during breaks, gives me time to not just recollect, but to see the big picture, rather than bouncing from one thing to another without an overall sense of priority. Also, my subconscious isn’t waking me up through the night to remind me about things I need to do as often as it used to.

I’ve also noticed that friends really do expect me to be checking the phone constantly. It’s not so much that they want answers to questions straight away, but that they leave decisions that might inconvenience me to the last moment, expecting that a Message will reach me instantly. Nobody rings when it’s urgent any more.

Another advantage of putting the phone out of reach is I’m not being constantly bombarded by advertising. Oh, such a relief!

Which has had me thinking… These new devices that you can talk to in your home… How long before they begin to chirp advertising at you? Because the ploy of social media was to get people to think they can’t live without it, then slowly introduce the ads. How long before your internet-connected kettle and washing machine are telling you what coffee or laundry powder to use?

Now there’s a nightmare of a future. Maybe I shouldn’t be spending all that extra time thinking!

InstaPinterTwittaWhatever

I joined Instagram a year or so ago because a writer recommended it as the Place to Be on the Internet, where people were still friendly (compared to Twitter). It’s been fun and, being on the visual side, the crafting ‘grammers’ I followed soon outnumbered work-related ones.

Now there’s been talk about algorithms and monetisation and such. Of non-chronological feeds and advertising. I haven’t noticed a sudden change, like I did with Pinterest and Twitter, but based on what happened to them I expect social media to change. And that if I really like it, chances are the changes in future will turn it into something less suited to my needs.

Perhaps because of P and T, I haven’t got as sucked into Instagram. I don’t want to get invested in something that will probably go the way of other social media. Which makes me wonder… will I even bother trying the next one that comes along?

I’m not sure I’d bother. Does this make me wise or just cynical?

I worry that if I don’t keep up I’ll fall behind. Few people thought, 25 years ago, that the internet would become integral to everyday living. Now it’s a handicap to not have access to and an understand of it.

Perhaps one day all the social medias will merge to form one digital monster, which we’ll all have to participate in to meet our most basic needs and communicate with our loved ones, where the algorithms will decide what we buy, sell, learn and believe, and who we interact with.

That probably sounds like heaven to some people. One person’s dystopia is another’s utopia. But on the other hand, trying to get all people to do the same thing has to be like trying to herd cats. I don’t envy anyone who takes on that challenge!

The Last Post About Pinterest, I Promise

The last week and a half has been really interesting. And annoying. And frustrating. And ultimately good for me, I hope.

I had no idea how addicted to Pinterest I was.

It was more of a habit than a physical addiction, of course. Though really, the brain is bit like a big chemical factory so everything mental is physical anyway. Pinterest was probably working on my brain as a pleasure-reward feedback loop or something like that. I hate being bored, and the sort of images I got in my ‘feed’ satisfied a need for constant idea-related image stimulation. But the moment that feed was disrupted, Pinterest didn’t satisfy the need any more. My interest in it was switched off instantly. And then I became creeped out by how much I’d been sucked in by it.

I set myself the huge task of saving pins and their links to this blog. That kept me busy during the withdrawal period. I soon realised that it would be faster to simply save a pdf of each board to take screen grabs of later, and then make bookmarks in Safari of the links I wanted to keep. I spend a couple of evenings going through pins during ad breaks to delete anything I wasn’t interested in any more, and check the links. I pared them down quite a bit.

Then later, as I went through the pins again to save the links something strange happened: some of them now brought up spam warnings or linked to unrelated pages. As if the links had been hijacked since I checked them.

Another night I saved a whole lot of bookmarks to Safari on my iPad, only to discover that since the recent update of my desktop computer they aren’t being copied across when the iPad synchs.

I’m really over it all now. It’s tempting to just delete everything in the last few craft-related boards and if I ever want to find a tutorial or product again see if I can find it with a Google Image search.

Ultimately I think this has been good for me. I will miss having something to browse of an evening, but I still have Bloglovin’. Though I am wondering if Bloglovin’ will be the next nifty website to stuff up the user experience by fixing what wasn’t broken.

In the meantime, I’ve finished the edit and can start crafting again. Yay!

The Plan

I’m on the last week of edits so no craft is happening, but at least this Pinterest thing has provided something to blog about this week.

I have a plan coming together. I’m going to:

Off Pinterest
Take screen grabs of the image from pins I’d like to keep
Save the website address from each pin as bookmarks in my browser
Put the tutorials and information sources under pages on this blog
Put inspirational pics in folders on my desktop, as I used to do

On Pinterest
Visit the “Pin” pages of pinners I particularly like following
Continue using the search feature to find interesting things
Keep my writing-related boards

Recently I noticed in StatCounter people are coming to this blog from StumbledUpon and Indulgy. Since that’s how I found Pinterest in the first place, I decided to check them out. StumbledUpon seems to be the “picked for you” bit of Pinterest in overdrive. Indulgy is a visual bookmarking site, as Pinterest was in the beginning, with a similar search feature.

I signed up to the latter. There’s no app for Indulgy, but it seems to work okay in Safari on my iPhone and iPad.

I’ve also been thinking of checking out Flickr as a source of craft inspiration.

Pintarrested

My love for Pinterest just withered away and died, all in a matter of a day or so.

A while pack they started putting “promoted pins” in my feed, which wouldn’t have been too bad if they actually related to what I was interested in seeing. On fasting days I don’t want to see food, so I unfollow the food-related boards of everyone I follow. But I did have a board of recipes and the new feature decided this meant I wanted to see food pins.

So I deleted that board. After clicking “I don’t want to see this” to get rid of some of them, they stopped appearing.

Now “picked for you” pins have suddenly flooded my feed. Almost as many of them as legitimate pins. The quantity is only half the problem, too. I have the same issue with pins appearing that I don’t want to see. Having a board with machine knitting pins in it means I get hand knitting pins. Having a weaving board means I get beginner instructions and pics of those retro wall hanging things that are all the trend on hipster interior design blogs.

And I can’t turn these ones off.

I figured plenty more pinners would be pissed off about this and complain, so maybe in a week or two things would go back to normal or an option to turn off this feature would appear. But when I did a google search, it seems it’s been a problem since at least September 2013. I don’t know why I haven’t had the problem until now, but it seems pretty clear that “pinned for you” is here to stay.

The weird thing is, the pins aren’t ads, and it’s just doubling up on the search feature. It doesn’t make sense why they’d do this.

Anyway, as always when a social media site changes in a way that doesn’t work for me, I’ve been asking myself if I really need it. It took me all of a few hours to realise… no, I don’t need Pinterest. It’s not of benefit to my work. It’s not a way to keep in touch with friends. At the most, for me, it’s a conduit to new ideas and a way to bookmark useful pages on the internet, available on all my devices, home and out.

Which is why I’ve been a big advocate of making sure links are legitimate on pins. If they aren’t, they’re a lot less useful. Some of the “picked for you” pins I investigated didn’t link back to a source, so Pinterest obviously doesn’t value that much any more.

Since Twitter stopped listing tweets chronologically in the feed, which I find too confusing, I’ve not used it much. I only joined Facebook because my friends were there, and I hate it for the same reason. I am so over social media sites fixing what wasn’t broken.

I’m not leaving Pinterest, as there are still ways it can be useful, but I have a few ideas in mind to replace its function as a pinboard of interesting craft and DIY ideas.

Bloggyversary

March the 9th 2006. That’s the day I started this blog. That’s eight years ago. Eight years!

The blog has gone through a few incarnations. First it was called “Knitting & Chocolate” and was only about knitting, with a few other crafts tossed in now and then. Then on November 5th 2009 I changed it to “Creative Fidget” and started blogging about all my creative projects.

That was also when I changed to WordPress. I looked back through my posts recently, gathering information as I added old weaving projects to Ravelry, and boy did I have a lot of grief using Blogger. WordPress isn’t perfect, but it is such an improvement.

I’ve had the same WordPress theme since then. I did try changing it once, but it resulted in a blank white page and I had to restore the old version from the backup. I tried again a few weeks ago and it worked (obviously). A different website host that supports the most recent version of WordPress probably helped.

Though I looked at a pile of other themes, I settled on the one that failed to load last time because I still like it. It’s simple and clean. The only big change is I can put an image up as a header.

And the blog content? No plans to change. Lots of craft, art, DIY, Recycling, home and wardrobe improvement, holidays, and occasional baking and gardening posts.

Blog Lovin’

Following crafty blogs has never got old for me. I get so much inspiration from reading about other crafty people’s projects and lives. It took me a long while to work out what an RSS feed was, however. I think I did when I got a Mac and discovered that if I bookmarked the feed of a blog in Safari a handy little number would appear beside the bookmark if there was a new post to see.

So I was rather annoyed when the feature disappeared from Safari when I upgraded the operating system. Sure, you could now put your feeds in Mail, but the corresponding Mail app on the iPhone and iPad didn’t have that feature so I could no longer snatch bits of time here and there catch up on blogs.

I looked into sites and apps but they all seemed to involve signing up to Google. Not that I was avoiding Google, it’s just that since they took over Yahoo it seems a different combination of my yahoo/google username and password work each time I try to sign in, and now I avoid having to sign in at all. Yeah, I know that’s pathetic, but I’ve never had anything important enough to do to force me to sort it out.

When I heard Google Reader was on the way out I was glad I hadn’t wasted my time. People began recommending other RSS feed apps and sites, but it seemed they all required my Google username and password or else a Facebook login. (I also don’t do Facebook.) That was, until one of the bloggers I follow, over at Kootoyoo, posted that she was switching to Bloglovin’ as it didn’t use Google Reader. I checked it out and it didn’t use Facebook login’s either. And there’s an iPhone app. Sweet!

So I’ve signed up to Bloglovin’ and I’m lovin’ it. The interface is clear and you can separate blogs into categories. The iPhone app works fine for catching up on blogs during morning tea or tv ad breaks. I’ve ‘claimed’ my blog on the site, too, so it’s easy to find. Or you could just click on the link in the sidebar.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Recently I had to move my author blog to a new hosting company, because the old one wasn’t going to upgrade their servers so that they could support the most recent, more secure version of WordPress. In my hunt for a new host company, I found one with a domain name hosting plan for $6.95 a month, less than a quarter of the price of the old, and would host additional domain names on the same plan for just an extra $9.95.

Before I transferred the creativefidget.com domain name I got rid of my old illustration website and painting gallery site. I put a smaller selection of illustrations onto the “The Telltale Art” page and my artwork into the “Painting Gallery” page in the menu above. You can also find links to them in the sidebar.

I’d also like to try a new theme, but so far everything has worked and I don’t want to push my luck. Last time I tried to change my theme the blog disappeared, and I had to reload it.

Post-Blogtoberfest

It was fun, but now it’s done. I’ve enjoyed my month of daily blogging, and discovered a few new blogs to follow on the Blogtoberfest page. It was lovely to see my crafty blog friends posting more often, too.

I usually post about two or three times a week, depending on whether I have any craft or art projects to blog about. To increase it to a post a day mostly meant breaking some posts down into two or three. I took more in-progress photos too, which is something I did more often when this was a knitting-only blog. After all, knitting is slow and if I’d only blogged when I finished something I’d blog twice a month. I also wrote a few filler posts when I had the time – like the lizard one – and had them ready for when case I ran out of things to blog about or time to write new posts.

Looking back on my posts, I certainly lived up to the name of this blog. I wrote about machine and hand knitting, furniture renovating, refashioning, drawing, cookie baking, jewellery making, bead weaving, paper beads, origami, stamp making and wrapping paper printing. I didn’t write about two of my main hobbies, weaving and bookbinding, which seem to have taken a back seat lately, or gardening, or home decorating projects. I suspect I gravitated toward crafts that could produce something interesting quickly and provided lots of good photos, and now I will shift back to more time-consuming ones.

I also organised more creative time in my schedule, arranging to have a few weekend days free and even getting my butt into the studio for a few evenings. I’d like to continue with both, but realistically I doubt I can. My day job tends to suck up a lot of my creativity and my back and hands need a rest in the evenings.

In the past I’ve watched month-long blogging commitments come and go, and the one effect they always have is that many bloggers who signed up in the hopes that they’d get into the habit of blogging more end up not blogging at all when the commitment is over. I’ve also found that blogging every day actually seems to reduce the chance of anyone commenting on a post, as most visitors don’t drop by every day and may not have time to catch up on a pile of posts.

So I’m happy to go back to my two to three times a week habit. However, I’m going to be doing a bit of travelling in November, so there’ll be longer gaps between my posts than usual – and I don’t think I can convince Paul to guest blog in my absence. But I might see if I can set some blogs to auto-post. If I have anything left to write about!