The loneliness of unshared experience

Fir treeI’ve spent the best part of the last four days offline. It’s been eye-opening.

A family wedding on one side of the country, an unexpected hospital admission (not me), followed by an eventual 8 hour journey and anxious waiting, has meant work – and the Internet has had to take a back seat this week.

Until Sunday night, this wasn’t going to be the case. It was only when I actually managed to get online and tried to figure out the logistics of doing the work I needed to do, without access to the Internet, that I realised I had to take a step back. Actually, another wise person made me realise it. I believe the actual words were: “Take the week off. There are more important things than the Internet.” (Told you they were wise words.)

It was one of those “epiphany moments”. In a flash, I understood that so much of my life depends on being online and being “connected” that when other things get in the way (someone I love falling ill, being in hospital, being in a place with no Internet, etc etc) I can’t cope. I’m ashamed that it took someone else to remind me about the important things, to help me gain a bit of perspective.

Thing is, not only do I hate letting people down – be they clients, friends, blog readers – but I hate feeling like I’m missing out.

I’ve become so used to taking a quick pic and bunging it on Instagram if I’m doing something mildly interesting (drinking a glass of wine / eating chocolate / being drawn on by my child) that the thought of not doing that was how I imagine a smoker may feel about giving up cigarettes.

I was reading a piece in The Guardian by Stuart Heritage recently about going without TV for two days a week. He discovered he suffers from “FOMO” – Fear Of Missing Out. And it’s something I realised I suffer from too. What’s Twitter talking about? What’s my Facebook feed look like today? Who’s eating what on Instagram? I have a serious social media FOMO problem.

It’s not just that though. There’s something more.

When I finally arrived at my parents’ place in Devon (more house stuff to sort – don’t ask) the first thing I wanted to do was take a picture of the view outside the window and put it on Facebook. It was like I couldn’t properly enjoy it without sharing it with the rest of the world. That’s when something my dad said in jest rang true: “There’s nothing like the loneliness of unshared experience”. It’s a quote, apparently. But oh – what a brilliant quote it is.

Perhaps if you blog, use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, this is something that strikes a chord with you too. When was the last time you were doing something really lovely, or your kid said something funny, or you were eating a tasty pudding, or just looking at a beautiful view – and you didn’t share it online?

I can tell you when mine was: today. But that’s only because I couldn’t get online.

So tell me, are experiences as good if you can’t share them?


  1. says

    I get many of the same thoughts – I’m sure a lot of us do.

    I purposely keep some of my thoughts and experiences just between me and my family – like little secrets, that are all my own.

    Partly, I’ll admit it’s because putting things online seems on a bad day to open them up to wilful misinterpretation and judgement and perhaps I’m not strong enough to expose every part of my soul to that sort of scrutiny, knowing what I do about the Internet.

    But mostly it’s because there’s a joy in keeping those experiences unshared and sharing them later, with people you love.

    It’s about showing your Mum the photo of the view you took on your phone, without the story being third hand because it’s already been on Instagram. Or telling your child that really funny story about falling over into the bin* and enjoying her laughter more because people didn’t already write LOL at the same story on Twitter. Those stories, shared with real people who you love and spend time with, become a part of your shared history together, and I think there’s something tremendously powerful about that.

    * Not a true example. Cough.

  2. says

    I take a fair amount of time off – did you notice?
    Nope, no one notices!
    Sometimes it takes a pile of crap for your realise your priorities and take a step back.
    The internet is nice but real life matters more.

    Now get off the flipping internet and go for a walk in the sunshine. You are needed elsewhere right now.

  3. says

    Having an intermittently dodgy internet connection and a tendency to spend chunks of time in remote mountain areas in a campervan I often have enforced periods offline. At first it makes me feel a little ‘itchy’ but once I accept it it feels downright refreshing. Balance is just so difficult to achieve in all areas of life, not just social media!

  4. says

    Yes, yes, yes (don’t worry, not going all When Sally Met Harry here…) I was on family hols last week and I disabled my phone from receiving emails and then I turned my phone OFF. For a whole week there was no internet, no iPhone, the only iPad action was my daughter playing App games. It. Was. Bliss. It made me realise how much time I spent faffing around online and how addictive it can be, because the urge was still there for the first couple of days – the Instagram urge and the Twitter urge and then ‘just check my emails’ urge. The extra time I had in my day to simply be, to read books and most importantly, to put all my focus on my daughter and my husband for a week was a real wake up call for me. Almost a week back in Blighty and I’ve toned down my digital usage and so far so good… I’m even thinking of having tech-free Fridays… starting next week, ahem.

  5. Kate says

    For me, it depends what the moment was……

    If one of my Girls has said/done something, be it a moment that makes me uber proud or laugh till I wee myself, I will likely share it with the world (particularly if it’s hilarious as it would be mean to not share the laughs……)

    If I have suffered an EPIC parenting fail, I will DEFINITELY share it because it is VERY important to let others know that these things happen and it really isn’t the end of the world if you are having to Hairdryer clean pants for EVERYONE because you totally forgot to take them out of the Washing machine the night before……

    But if it’s small, personal to me, event or victory, I will probably just keep it to myself and jump round the house quietly in celebration for fear of people thinking I was a self absorbed big head, even though they probably wouldn’t and would actually enjoy jumping round in celebration with me!! But that’s just a little, personal insecurity of mine……..


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