Once Upon A Time, There Were Only Blogs…

We don’t think a lot about it. But we have to remind ourselves how potentially dangerous spending too much time in front of screens may be. By midday Friday, I found myself developing a terrible headache.

Too much time writing and staring at my Microsoft Surface in recent days had probably been the main culprit. I do try to take breaks when I’m at the screen for a long time. “Ten minutes” every hour at least.

Yet the odd thing is such breaks may not be what they seem to be. Sometimes, I go from the PC to my iPad. That’s hardly a “break” from a screen, really, of course.

I’m always on guard when it comes to headache pain because I never know. When I was younger, I used to suffer from the most excruciating headaches and never quite knew where they came from. I tried all manner of treatments. Some seemed to provide some relief, but usually nothing but the passage of time and rest cleared them up. I remember my doctor shrugging when I mentioned one in my early twenties and being prescribed some extra-strong painkillers. I used them once, and they made me feel so “ga-ga,” and did not even treat the headache, that after that I gave up.

Another example of writing what you know. As you may know, I “gave” them to one of my characters in the Atlantic Lives novels pretty much as I experienced them. Fortunately, it has been some years since I have really suffered from one at its worst.

But I do know that the instant I feel headache pain coming on that it’s time to rest. I read as little as possible. I stop using the net. I even try to sleep if I can.

Aside from a bad Friday night and much of Saturday, this one passed mostly by Sunday morning; and it was not too bad. The upside to one – if there could be said to be one – is that usually afterwards I feel like I could do just about anything. It’s as if the darkest of dark clouds have suddenly parted and the world is all a gorgeous light again. Odd that, isn’t it?

I remember years ago reading of how Harold Macmillan (of Macmillan Publishing, as well as being Britain’s one-time prime minister) had in retirement come to extra-cherish his personal library. (Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice was one of his favorites.) In his final years, though, his eyesight deteriorated so badly that even reading with glasses was extremely difficult. His family noted he became utterly miserable when he could no longer read for pleasure as he’d always done.

When I mostly stayed away from the screen for those few days, I got a small taste of what that must feel like. I didn’t know what to do with myself. No, you can’t read that, I reminded myself. No, you can’t write that. No, you can’t scroll Instagram and “like” pals’ photos…

Sunday morning I gave in – briefly. I saw Louise Brady’s blog post on her planned February visit again here to “rainy” London. I couldn’t resist: I snapped a photo of our rainy back garden table and chairs and stuck it up on Instagram and tagged her:

As Sunday moved on, I “liked” some more photos. And I read some more. I felt better.

* * *

Yet sometimes you also may find you’re holding your head for entirely different reasons. Case in point, FOX 11 L.A.’s Zohreen Adamjee shared this overnight:

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

A Cal Newport, the author of that NYT piece with which she says she disagrees, asserts that “social media” is dangerous to one’s career for a… variety of reasons. In it, he does make some reasonable points. He is obviously also seeking to convey how wildly successful he is “without it”:

Screen capture of the New York Times.
Screen capture of the New York Times.

In his opening paragraph, he is forthright about himself:

I’m a millennial computer scientist who also writes books and runs a blog. Demographically speaking I should be a heavy social media user, but that is not the case. I’ve never had a social media account.

And as President Harry Truman once said: It’s what you learn after you know it all that matters.

First, he states he’s a “millennial.” I like millennials, and not only because many of you who read my books and follow me here and elsewhere are in that age group. Simply put, I don’t think – as many others older than you seem to – that you are, as a “generation”, uh, not all you could be. On the contrary, I find many of you are shockingly smart and wise beyond your years.

But no generation is perfect, of course. That he also tells us he is a computer scientist and an academic is actually unsettling. For that piece is openly based on a definitional inexactitude one would not expect from an academic in any age group.

Re-read his first paragraph. See it? Clearly, he doesn’t.

He “runs a blog.” Well, a personal blog – like this here you are now reading – is interactive. Therefore it constitutes a “social media” presence.

For blogs are where “social media” as we now understand it was essentially “born” in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It began with sites like, uh, “Blogger.” On them, anyone could write about anything and post photographs.

Some years later, yes, came Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, etc. Those newer platforms have merely expanded the “social media” mix. They are NOT a different life form.

Anyway, I’m going back to “1794” now. Have a good day, wherever you are in the “social media” world. 🙂