If you don’t know the feeling of sinking into social media, YouTube, or any other form of modern and simple entertainment, you might find this blog post a little alienating.
The title does a pretty good job of describing what this post is about: how consumerism affects my relationship with myself. The thing is, I am spending several weeks in a place where there is very little to consume and a lot of time to kill, most of it alone. In this blog, I want to explore how that affects me. I also want to invite you to think about your relationship with consumption and how it affects the time you spend with yourself.
I am used to spending lots of time alone at home. I often fill this time with some entertainment that today’s world offers me. In my case, this often ends up being one of my favourite channels on YouTube or a bicicle-themed blog. This is, in one way or another, consumption. I’m consuming things at that moment to entertain myself; I’m not doing anything on my own, I’m interacting with something that another person has produced, and so I externalise my desire not to be bored and let someone else provide my entertainment. The only thing I have to contribute is to unlock my phone and tap an app on the small screen. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s much easier than spending time with myself.
This can be wonderful. We don’t always have the energy to play music, meditate, do yoga, dance in the shower or read a book (even if it is produced and consumed by an author, it still requires us imagine things, and therefore reading cannot be compared to the pure consumption that the digital and visual world offers – at least that’s my opinion). In such situations, when you have done all the tasks of the day, it is sometimes very relaxing to watch a series and just let the rest of the day pass. But then again, now that I’m here, I wonder: what did people do before TV and the internet when they had to spend a lot of time alone?
The historical aspect of the question is not really relevant here. I’m sure that all the people who lived without television and the internet found ways to entertain themselves. But if you ask yourself the question, in this day and age, it strikes me as intriguing: If you didn’t have the internet or television, what would you do with those hours at home in comfort that you want to fill?
In my case, the answer is not entirely clear. Although I have very limited internet access in my cabin, because I bought the cheapest prepaid SIM plan in Madrid before coming here, I have unlimited WIFI in the upper part of the property. There I have occasionally spent an hour or two watching videos (and some of them in English, too bad). However, there are many hours a day when I have a lot of time to think and be with myself. I walk the dogs, feed the donkeys, cook food, chop wood and much more. But almost every day there are also some hours when there is not much to do; and it is these hours that I find difficult. I have found that it is much easier to dismantle and repair bicycles than to meditate or take a nap. I have a brain that likes to be stimulated and has got used to not having to put in a lot of effort to do it. So I always look for easy stimulation. When it’s sunny and the chairs next to the vegetable garden invite you to linger, I start learning vocabulary (because there’s no WIFI there for YouTube or the like). When the dogs want to cuddle and I’m done with the chores, I already think about what I want to do in the evening and prepare something. When I’m done with dinner, the fire is burning and it’s only nine o’clock, I start writing this blog. It’s not easy for me to sit down and meditate and listen to what’s going on in my head. So my answer to the question of how I get by without easy entertainment is that I look for other stimuli that also don’t require a lot of creativity, or ones that I know well and that I like.
Moreover, the unlimited WIFI has tempted me, over the course of the last two weeks, to spend some very relaxing, but not very satisfying, afternoons watching YouTube videos and browsing social media. With so much time on my hands, the temptation is very strong to bridge it with simple entertainment.
Overall, I am sure that my habit of consuming a lot of digital entertainment has conditioned me to seek instant gratification. Hence, I am very grateful for this stay at ARREA and for the time this place has given me to explore and perhaps change some habits. While it is possible to use your own will and discipline to change your habits, it is often more effective and easier to remove the possibility of getting in touch with your habits in the first place.
How about you? What’s going through your mind now? If you like, you can comment on your own experience of “enjoying” loneliness.