And That Time of Year, Too

End of year restlesness. Usually it doesn’t set in until after Christmas and is gone by New Year. Now it seems to grip me earlier and earlier each year.

Last year I got fed up with how much time I was spending on my phone and set out to de-phone my life. I made some changes that proved to be beneficial and became permanent, though I do still use it more than I feel is healthy.

This year I’m thinking about social media. Facebook in particular, but also social media in general. I would love to quit it all, particularly Facebook, which is the only one I use regularly now. I don’t like how it works or how it eats up my attention and time.

For years now I’ve looked at alternatives. I tried Ello twice, but there was never much happening there. Vero looks promising, but when I contemplate joining I realise that I’d likely just be swapping one data mining company for another.

I want to leave all social media completely, but I hesitate. So I’m going to consider what I’m afraid of losing, and see if it’s really worth worrying about.

1) The connection to friends and family.
My family doesn’t use social media, so I lose nothing there. My friends do, but they don’t share much about their personal lives, really. At every FB scandal they interacted less. I can’t help thinking that if my friends dump me because I’m not on FB they’re not my friends. There are other ways to keep in contact, even when you’re a long way apart. I have text and Messenger conversations with my closest friends. Yes, the latter is a FB product, but it’s not a social media.

2) The ease of organising events
But not the unreliability. Recently I tried to organise a couple of events within a group of FB. After getting only one response I checked the post to find that only that one friend had seen it. I asked in a general post if anyone else in the group had and a few people said yes but they hadn’t responded.

Not responding to event invitations or only doing so at the last moment is being noted as a new kind of rudeness. I suspect what happens is that when people can’t answer a question on the spot (say, they have to consult their calendar or spouse) they move on to the next FB notification and forget all about the invite. So no, organising events is not easier, in the long run.

3) The calendar reminders
To be honest, I’m not that worried about this. I bought a small diary last year and it has been so much more useful than the FB or phone calendar. It doesn’t, for one thing, lose past events. I note the birthday of friends in it who are close enough to me that I’d wish them well on or near the day. Not using FB would release me from those awkward moments on FB when you ignore a birthday notification because the person really isn’t that close to you.

5) A diary of your life
Yeah, nah. There are plenty of alternative ways to record your life. Even public ways. (Blogs, anyone?)

6) Showing people your holiday snaps, or other pics
These days when someone goes on a trip or has a party they put pics and anecdotes on an event or group page so as to not annoy everyone in their feed. It’d be just as effective to put them on a website and provide a link. I like to remind myself of a trip by looking through my diary and photos, but I don’t if they’re on FB. I write a physical diary most trips, which I read later. We don’t get around to making physical albums any more, however.

During the last trip I deliberately didn’t put anything on FB, and it felt weirdly liberating. It was like saying “FU Facebook, you won’t be earning money from this bit of my life.”

7) Another way to contact friends in an emergency.
If you can’t get in touch via a phone call or text, then perhaps you shouldn’t be relying on that person in an emergency.

8) Promoting myself for work
The only reason I didn’t leave Twitter completely last year was because it was the only way readers of my books could contact me, once I had to shut down comments on my blog to stop the endless stream of spam. But I don’t use Facebook for work (not for lack of trying… long story!) so there’d be no loss there.

Well, that’s a fairly thorough examination. I’ve decided to do what I did with Twitter: take Facebook off my phone so I only use it on the desktop computer. I only turn my desktop computer on a few times a week. That means I’ll have Facebook-free days. If I don’t miss it between now and New Year’s Eve I’ll delete it completely.

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!


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.


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.


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.


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 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.