Opinion

I am a social media addict. How can I repair my life?

Lucy Sweet says it's time to reconnect with all the creative things she did before social media took over

Jay Blades of The Repair Shop in his workshop

Jay Blades of The Repair Shop could help to inspire those of us addicted to doomscrolling. Image: BBC/Ricochet/Guy Levy

If, like me, you’re addicted to that shiny, hideous capitalist machine they call social media, it’s hard to get the time or headspace to indulge in real-life pursuits. I’m not talking washing up, cleaning, ironing and cooking – amazingly there always seems to be plenty of time for those – I mean fun hobbies that aren’t on a screen. 

Before social media engulfed my life, I had a lot of spare time, and I would sometimes use it to customise clothes badly and paint furniture badly (this is now optimistically known as upcycling). Or I would make cards for friends with cartoons of their faces on them and write letters and put stickers on the envelopes. I was also a prolific writer of mesmerising diary entries like ‘Went to the pub with (name of person I can’t remember) and (name of other person I can’t remember) and got pissed. It was good haha.’ 

Put simply, I used to Do Stuff. It wasn’t stuff to be monetised or bragged about online. I produced stuff in the real world, that was conjured slowly into existence by my hands and brain and heart over a period of time. It wasn’t always great, but at least it had some kind of meaning and a vague sense of achievement attached to it. 

And in theory it was stuff that could be treasured forever, if you were completely mad and liked collecting wonky drawings of Nik Kershaw and illegible page-a-day diaries from WH Smith.

Now, though, my hands are too busy scrolling the social media feeds of boring influencers I can’t even remember the names of, showing me their perfect living room/pergola makeover or how to make pesto out of wild garlic, or how to wear a white T-shirt 82 different ways. These people have a desperate look in their eyes – we all have a desperate look in our eyes these days – and I am unable to turn away for fear I might miss an update about CBD menopause supplements or an ad for shampoo that comes in a massive plastic bag and promises to give you back your natural waves. 

The upshot of all this is that I rubberneck other people’s lives and neglect my own. My hands are like claws, my neck is curved downwards like a tortoise trying to pick a bit of lettuce out of its cleavage, and my spare time is wasted. What’s more, despite being constantly stimulated and entertained, I am also completely and utterly bored.

Actually, when I write this down (with my claw hands, in my iPhone notes folder, as my increasingly baggy double chin rests on my sternum), it sounds like a tragedy doesn’t it? What a loss! To have become so disconnected from the physical world that I can’t even get round to making a card for a friend.

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I know things have to change, but it’s not as simple as just putting down my phone and getting on with it – I have to ease myself in slowly with another screen: the TV. To help my re-entry into the real world, in between Instagram reels I’ve been watching The Repair Shop, which is testament to the power of beautiful things and complex motor skills.

I am always amazed at the patience and care that’s taken over fixing these precious objects that are filled with minute, fiddly bits. It’s a world away from my clumsy swipe, pinch, zoom fingers, and the results are always genuinely delightful in a way that an internet archive of Aunty Doris’s Facebook posts could never be. And as soon as I stop crying, I’ll log out of the apps and draw a terrible picture of Nik Kershaw to be passed on to generations to come. 

Lucy Sweet is a freelance journalist

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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