Could you go one week without the internet?

A guest post in a series form students on the BA Creative and Professional Writing at Nottingham University.

A friend texts me an invite for coffee, but spends the next two hours continuously checking her phone. She isn’t receiving calls or emails from work – she’s refreshing her Facebook live feed. I ask her why she bothered to invite me out if she can’t pull herself away from cyberspace. She snaps back, ‘it’s only Facebook!’

We are a generation defined by our internet usage. 24/7 connectivity to the world, thanks to wi-fi and 3G, allows us to stay on top of our emails, friends’ holidays, twitter timelines, and tumblr memes.

It’s normal to carry a phone around with you. We stay in touch with family and friends throughout the day, arranging and re-arranging, updating. But is there a point of no return?

We rely on the internet for everything – news, conversation, shopping.

So could you push through a single week without access to the internet? You wake up in the morning and you don’t check BBC news. You can’t even go to Facebook’s main page. Twitter is off-limits. So is Eat Student (if you want a takeaway, better take a stroll down to the actual place itself!), eBay (no more staying up til 3am waiting for bids to end), and Reddit. You wander through the day without ‘liking’ anyone’s status, retweeting those oh-so-witty one-liners, or posting pictures on Instagram.

Is our ever-growing dependence on the internet becoming a problem? Maybe not on the surface. But multiple studies have proven that Internet Addiction Disorder is a real thing – this is nothing new. But are we taking it as seriously as we should? Internet users experience “withdrawal” symptoms similar to those of drug users – shakiness, anxiety, a general desire to throw their televisions out the window. I tried to go one week without internet access in 2011 – and broke after three days, because I “needed” some new music to listen to. I haven’t tried since.

Could you ignore your emails for a week, or disable your Facebook for one month? Would you cry without your daily dose of cute cats on Youtube? Could you abandon 4oD and go back to TV programmes with adverts?

One day? One week? One month?

And if you can’t do it… well, neither can I. So, I guess we’re all addicts.

Not knitting but blogging

Are older generation writers missing out on the power of social media to further their work?

GUEST POST : Carolyn Doudge is a late-comer to fiction writing. She is currently studying for a degree in Creative and Professional Writing at Nottingham University.

You would think that upwards of half a life-time hanging out on the planet would count for something when it comes to creative writing. Most of us oldies have been places, met people, had stuff happen that would fill volumes. Our pasts inspire our plots and colour our characters. But this advantage may be wiped out if we are not up to speed with social media.

We write for imaginary audiences and want our writing to reach people, not sit in a black hole waiting to be discovered. This is where it all falls down and we find ourselves on an uneven playing field alongside younger writers.
As a newcomer to fiction writing, I am beginning to accept that to create shock and awe, or even mild stirrings of interest on the literary scene, I must overcome my reluctance to engage with social media in general and blogging in particular. I must get ‘out there’, wherever that may be.

I came to this conclusion while stumbling around the internet. American author and super-blogger, Ollin Morales sums up the prevailing wisdom, ‘If you hate blogging you should really reconsider being a writer.’

Time to examine my reluctance.

‘Blog’ is such an ugly, off-putting word. Je blogue, tu blogues, nous bloguons. It’s even more an affront to the French language than English. Without wishing to insult the Germans, I can’t help feeling ‘bloggen’ sounds more at home in their language. But like it or not, the world is stuck with it.

It seems weird sharing personal updates and opinions with an anonymous, disembodied audience located in Nowhere-in-Particular. How could something as crazy ever take off? But as I watch younger folk with their obsessive-compulsive checking and tapping at screens, I suspect I may be missing out big time on the vast global ebb and flow of information, maybe gems among the trivia. I am disabled, disenfranchised.

A few taps and clicks give us an instant global voice, but if we are neither celebrities nor experts in a particular field, it seems arrogant to assume the world will be listening. And what if we stray into controversial territory and trolls pop up from beneath the rickety-rackety cyber-platform? Do we really need the aggravation?

Those who grew up in a pre-digital age often lack know-how around computers and electronic gadgets. How many of us have explored the full potential of our TV remotes? How many use mobiles for anything beyond phoning or texting? We are bewildered in the world of widgets and plugins and apps that make possible things we never knew we wanted. We call children to fix problems – digital natives to the aid of digital aliens. The knowledge and skills are not beyond us. What we lack are interest and impetus. Keeping up with technology has never reached the top of our priorities. As a result, a whole raft of older generation writers may be missing out on the huge potential of social media to further their work.

It is no longer enough to just write. Platform wins over content. We must join the connecting classes or perish into obscurity. Cyberland awaits. No good dithering at the boarding gates. Upload, preview and publish – three steps to blogging bliss or blogging hell. Who knows if anyone will read or react to what we have to say? Hotspur put his finger on the problem in the exchange with Glendower in Shakespeare’s Henry 1V part 1:

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: And so can I or so can any man; but will they come…?

With reckless optimism I have added ‘check blog’ to my weekly list of stuff-to-do, just in case.