At a high-level, computers work by taking information that’s frequently accessed on the hard disk and loading it into RAM so that when a running application needs it again, it can access it in RAM rather than from the hard drive itself.

The idea behind this is so that it improves performance and this is why having a lot of memory can often give you increased performance. Today, it’s not uncommon to have 16GB of RAM available in a computer, so the amount of information that can be held in RAM is pretty impressive.

Let’s say that you’re running some intense applications, or you’re working with a demanding application, and you’re exhausting the available RAM. What happens then? At this point, the computer ends up thrashing. Sounds like fun (if you’re at a hard rock concert, maybe), right? But the gist of it is that you end up taking information in RAM, writing it back to disk, and then replacing that data with new data from the disk.

Wikipedia defines it like this:

In computer science, thrashing occurs when a computer’s virtual memory subsystem is in a constant state of paging, rapidly exchanging data in memory for data on disk, to the exclusion of most application-level processing. This causes the performance of the computer to degrade or collapse greatly.

The emphasis added is my own because it’s ultimately the point I want to bring up as it relates to the rest of this post.

Trashing and Social Media

A few years ago aggressive about pairing down the social networks I was using. That is, I deleted my Facebook account, I deleted my Instagram account, I deleted Snapchat, and I deleted who knows what other applications I had installed.

The point of it was that I found them being far more distracting (and even affecting my mood in ways I didn’t like) than beneficial and I thought I was better off without them. To a degree, I don’t regret that decision; however, in the last few months, I’ve become more active on some of those social media channels again.

Case in point:

  • I set up a new Facebook account primary to follow along (more silently than anything, at this point) everything that’s going on in the Advanced WordPress Users group.
  • I started using Instagram a little bit more because I noticed that some of my younger nieces and nephews are using it, and I want to be able to keep up with what’s going on in their lives like the young, hip uncle that I am.

And these are but two examples. This is on top of continuing to use Twitter and Path, the former being the social network of which I’m most active. It’s also the place on which I’ve met most of my “WordPress friends” (I’d rather just call them friends but if I said I met most of my friends on Twitter than it sounds creepy so I’m just going to stop this sentence right here).

Last week, my family and I were out of town for our annual summer vacation (and it was awesome). We spent a week at the beach with my in-laws, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. and we had a blast. Aside from using my phone to snap some pictures, I wasn’t particularly interested in what was happening online because the most important stuff was happening right in front of me.

Tybee Island 2016

Hanging out on the beach at Tybee Island.

Even still, there were moments during the day where we’d have just gotten the kids down for a nap or we were waiting for someone to bring something over to the beach house and I’d find myself wanting to kill a little bit of time. So I’d pick up my phone and page through my various social networks.

hate that feeling.

This causes the performance of the computer to degrade or collapse greatly.

On the same trip, Meghan (who is a total bookworm) and I got into a really good discussion about e-books versus physical books. Generally speaking, she’s not a huge fan of e-books (with good reasons), and I tend to favor them; however, after talking with her, I’m starting to come around to returning to physical books (in fact, I ordered one just two days ago).

After that conversation, I found myself wishing that I had a physical book nearby that I could grab, read a few pages, and then turn my attention to whatever or whoever needed my attention. I was getting frustrated with the amount of screentime I was spending in the little moments in between the bigger moments to a point where it was irritating me.

To be clear, I see this as an issue of personal preference and individual responsibility. By that, I mean if you’re one of those people who do better with their phones or other mobiles devices than anything else then that’s great. And if you have the ability to pick up a device and go straight to whatever it is that you want to read, browse, pursue, or do then that’s great, too.

This isn’t about me pushing any “Well what you oughta do is” mentality on anyone. These are observations about myself.

As I noticed this in myself, I began to think about what’d be like if I wasn’t looking for a screen or paging through various apps during my downtime. Instead, I thought about it would be like to replace it with reading an article, reading a book, or just taking some time to stare out of the window, or talk with someone who I’d never met.

Basically, what would it be like to pass the time without the ways I’ve become so accustomed to doing? Remember back in the 90’s when we used to use afk or brb when we were stepping away from the computer? I kind of miss that.

Ultimately, this led me to the conclusions that I want to take a short break from social media channels. This doesn’t mean I’m closing accounts, it doesn’t mean I won’t respond to tweets, nor does it mean I’m ignoring emails or anything like that.

Instead, it just means that I’m setting stricter boundaries for myself on these services for the next week-to-month (depending on the service) and how I’m interacting with them. I’m going all out, too: I’m planning actually to track what I do and how my mood is over time to see how it feels as screen time is replaced with something else.

Productivity, Focus, and Socializing

Because Twitter is the primary way in which I chat with some you involved in programming, development, WordPress, and so on I’ll still be active on it but only at certain points throughout the day. As far as the other networks are concerned, I don’t have a strict plan of action other than I’m taking a step back.

Finally, the point in sharing all of this has nothing to do with trying to push any ideas on how you or I should be using our devices. I don’t know how you or anyone else does nor do I care. But as someone who spends the majority of my workday on a computer and who noticed some less-than-stellar habits creeping into time in which I’d rather not have them, I’ve opted to share what I’m doing to try to curtail that.

This causes the performance of the computer to degrade or collapse greatly.

The bottom line is that I believe I can increase my focus and productivity without having to constantly thrash back and forth between what I’m doing, sharing, liking, hearting, considering, and scanning as it relates to social media. I think keeping up with people is great. But, for me, I need to make sure that I’ve got the necessary guardrails in place so I’m not negatively impacting the things that matter a bit more than that at any given time.

Ultimately, I want to be able to enjoy my time both online and offline but I’m never really offline, how can I know if I’m enjoying it that much? And that’s what I’m hoping to find out over the next few weeks.