#SOL17: Digital Life, Post-Concussion
I 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.
So, Twitter. Facebook. Inoreader. Goodreads. 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:
- What do I want to get out of using ____________(fill in your choice of social media platform)? Am I getting that?
- 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
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