#SOL17: Digital Life, Post-Concussion


"sharrow"- arrow indicating bicycles & cars share the roadI haven’t blogged since July. First there was a bike trip to the San Juan Island. Then there were other things related to giving this old house the kind of love it hasn’t had in a while. And then came the eclipse.  I watched it from a lawn chair in my sister-in-law’s backyard, coffee mugs and cats at our sides. When it was time to head home, I got on my trusty city bike and headed off.

We’re a cycling family. We are scrupulous in following the rules of the road. Even when our daughter was in a bike trailer as a 5 month-old, she wore a helmet. The day of the eclipse, I wore a neon jersey. I had lights flashing on the front and back of my bike and on my helmet. Part of my route took me on a main road with a large shoulder and a dedicated bike path. It didn’t bother me; I’m an experienced road rider. But stuff happens. That day, a driver in a hurry to turn right cut me off as I was heading straight through a major intersection. In case you wondered, events really can happen in slow motion. Suddenly there was a car in my path. Then, everything slowed way down. I remember a gold colored door appearing and the thought, “I am going to hit this car and there is nothing I can do about it.”

There was a loud thud. I remember the hit and being surprised that there wasn’t more pain. Then I was down in the middle of the road. I think I blacked out, but heard my brain screaming from a distance, Get up! Get up! You’re going to get run over! so I did.

When the driver was finally calmed down– I remember thinking perhaps she should be calming me down, but teacher/mom training kicks in when you least expect it– I got on my bike. The brakes, gears, shifting, and pedals worked, so I headed for home.  (I know, I know. But my husband and daughter had ridden far south to catch the eclipse totality, so they couldn’t have helped me. And my neighbors have already yelled at me for not calling them. They still kind of rub it in.)

So, emergency room, stitches, and when I woke up the next day, a headache the size of Montana. Concussion, the doctor said. Dark room, limit screen time, sleep, etc. But as time unfolded after the accident, it became clear that recovery from a concussion is much more complicated.

My memory is still funky. It took until mid-November to be able to process multiple sensory input– after a near-miss driving, I realized I couldn’t manage all of the input, so I stopped. No gym– too much mental stimulation, the doctor said. Try a walk around a block, then back to the dark room. There was light sensitivity such that I wore tinted glasses even inside. Forget complex reading. Forget thinking about more than one thing at a time, or trying to balance planning family and personal activities. And especially, forget time on the computer. When I went to have my stitches out, I asked about that. The doctor allowed as how I could try 45 minutes and see how I did. Forty five minutes? I was talking about half-day stretches so I could finish some writing. She gave me what would become her standard response: “The longer you try to fight the symptoms, the longer you will have them.”

So. There went Twitter, Facebook, blogging, even regular email. For almost two months.

And you know what? I didn’t miss it.


white water rapids


So, Twitter. Facebook. InoreaderGoodreads. Other spaces that don’t come to mind right now. (There’s that memory thing.) They are all forms of interaction for me. Even if I am only reading someone’s blog, I hear the voice, new thoughts enter my mind and I talk back. The long period of quiet in my brain has made the buzz of social media that much louder. Maybe an outcome of the concussion is a lower tolerance for buzz. I want to step back into the flow, but what platforms, how much? Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself:

  1. What do I want to get out of using ____________(fill in your choice of social media platform)? Am I getting that?
  2. What is ________________ contributing to the quality of my life? What is _______________ is taking away?

Here are some alternatives to the second question, above.

In what ways does _______________ add to my personal or professional life? In what ways does _____________ get in the way of me being or living in a way that matters to me? (This could be as simple as the amount of time devoted to it.)

As I’ve meandered back into my social media haunts, these have become valuable questions. They’ve led me to others:

  • Some of my use of social media is simple FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I’ve always wanted to be one of the cool kids, so why would it be any different with social media? Is that a solid reason in light of what matters most to me in my life?
  • Research on the way youth use social media suggests that an important use is accessing connections to people and interests not otherwise available. Maybe living in a new city has filled in some gaps I wasn’t aware of?
  • At the same time, I’ve read much more since the concussion, for pleasure and professionally. Granted, soon after the concussion, I wasn’t reading anything too intellectual, but so what? I had time for it every day. How reading feeds me!
  • Living takes time. I’ve joked that in my second line of work as a finder-and-manager-of-house-repairs, I have learned the importance of ‘visiting,’ the casual but real connection to the person who’s bidding on a job or doing earthquake retrofitting (which is happening as we speak) or selling me rock for one of my outdoor projects. People make time for each other here and often, life is richer for it. How does that happen on __________________?
  • I need time in my day without language. To be quiet. To watch my thoughts roll around and see what comes of them. Who knew?

I want to devise a series of questions youth could answer to help them clarify their own use of social media. What they expect, what they get, what adds to their lives, what is maybe overshadowed or drowned out. Terms like “digital footprint” and “addiction” aren’t helpful when it comes to determining the kind of life they want and what role social media will play in it.


As for me,  I’m starting slowly. I just spent some time looking at the blogs I follow. I will winnow the list. I’ll make decisions about other places, too. Because now there are new tradeoffs to consider. I guess there always were. I just never stopped to think about it.




All images CC0 via https://pixabay.com

Slice of Life is the weekly Story Challenge on Two Writing Teachers. Come write along with us!

12 responses to “#SOL17: Digital Life, Post-Concussion”

  1. Welcome back. Those are excellent questions.

  2. elsie says:

    Wow! Concussions are serious business, I’m glad you are following doctor’s recommendations for recovering. We all need to take a step back and analyze just what is important in life. Hope you continue to heal. Happy holidays to you!

  3. Connie Knapp says:

    Great things to think about while reflecting on 2017 and as we head into 2018.
    Glad you’re back–I missed you!

  4. Reflection that you’re doing in this slice certainly suggests that your brain is increasingly firing more of its cylinders 🙂 Sounds like the crash was a harrowing moment, perhaps one that will offer silver linings in setting subsequent priorities. Thanks for sharing your stories and thinking, Karen!

    • Karen says:

      It’s amusing– sort of– to think of what it takes for some people to pay attention. Thanks for your optimistic reading of things. 🙂

  5. You know I’ve missed you … and have been thinking about you since we chatted about your accident and its after-effects on you before 4T … so I am happy to see you being able to write again, and then to use to the writing space to remind us about evaluating why we social media-ize, and maybe think about downsizing. I do use the term “digital footprint” with my students because it can be a useful analogy, but you are right to say, it is not enough, and giving students tools to evaluate their presence, their need, and more is a key.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you, Kevin. I appreciate that you’ve missed me and look forward to “seeing” more of you as I ease back in to this crazy online world. I appreciate even more that we’ve made an offline connection too.

      You are so conscientious about the work you do with your kids. The “digital footprint” is a useful concept; I’m certain you’re not one of those teachers who uses it to inspire students with fear. I prefer the idea of creating a digital persona– there’s so much more agency implied in that term.

      I hope you refresh and rejuvenate during the holiday break ahead.

  6. Tania Sheko says:

    Karen, Kevin Hodgson shared your post on Twitter, and I read it. Firstly, I’m so sorry this happened to you – although you are philosophical about the positive aspects of your quieter life. I’ve really enjoyed reading your thoughts, and take them on as someone whose advanced age compels reflection and evaluation of all things including time spent on social media. I do enjoy it, and admit to the fomo bit. But in the last several months I had to admit that I wasn’t enjoying the online interactions as much as I used to. It took a while to accept that, and still I feel I’m missing out. But I was missing out on everyday things in the offline world, and finally I decided to let go – a lot.

    I hope you feel much better in all ways very soon.

    As you say, living takes time. I hope we all find the time to balance the things we love to do, including our time online and offline.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks so much for this thoughtful response. It moved me deeply. It’s not surprising that I applaud your decision to assess and adjust your online life, but there’s a pang to letting go. Thank you for your good wishes. I wish you well as you continue to assess and adjust.

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