Saturday, August 11, 2018

Desperately Seeking Balance Balance

While I periodically cross post content from my school library blog, I have not written fresh content for this blog in over a year. It is not that I am short on things to write about. I did co-author a book, News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News last year. Yes, that kept me busy for a bit, but my co-author Jacquelyn Whiting and I wrapped that project up a while ago so that is no justification for not writing blog posts.

Gwyneth Jones once said that you should never apologize for not having posted to your blog. I agree - mostly because it seems presumptuous to assume that someone may have noticed the silence, but this is not an apology. I am not sorry. This is a reflection about time, media, and balance.

My hiatus extended to Twitter and Facebook. As of this morning I was still trying to sort out why. Originally, I explained that being on those platforms made me feel as though I was not doing enough. Given that I was doing as much as I could, I withdrew. But I watched Manoush Zomorodi’s 2017 TED talk about boredom and brilliance today, and that may have given me deeper insight into why I checked out of Facebook and Twitter. It was a brilliant talk, by the way. I posted it below. I’ve been a Manoush fan for years. I found her through her Note to Self podcast (formerly know as New Tech City) out of WNYC, New York’s National Public Radio station. Now she is co-authoring a captivating narrative podcast with Jen Poyant called ZigZag. It is outstanding. I binge-listened to the first five episodes yesterday.

That brings me to another point. Podcasts... they are cannibalizing my ear time. This would be fine if I was not a school librarian, but I am so it is not okay. When I say cannibalize, I mean it. My ear time used to be dedicated to staying on top of my reading. Because of my work, I try to read 50 books a year. Ask me how many books I read this summer. Go ahead, ask me. NONE! That’s how many.

You may be wondering why I don’t read with my eyes. I used to do that all the time, but I lost the time/ability/focus/all-of-the-above to do that with any regularity a decade ago. Reading a print book is now a luxury in which I only indulge during beach time which, as of this summer, is now consumed by paddling (SUP and kayak). So yeah. Now I am not even reading at the beach.

Do you see where I am going?

The ear time battle actually started when Audible introduced Channels to subscribers. My book consumption started to dwindle once I was able to get the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal read-by-a-real-live-human every day. That was a couple of years ago. My daily papers are delivered to me by Keith Sellon-Wright, Kristy Burns, and Sam Scholl, among others.

I once rationalized that I did not read with my eyes because I had more ear time than eye time. Now it seems as though I don’t have enough of either. Did I mention podcasts? I’ve spend my summer (when not on a paddle board) with Anna Sale and Marc Maron accompanied by the host (no pun intended) of comics, actors, authors and artists he interviews. I only have another 800 or so WTF podcasts to go before I am caught up.

Cable television and streaming video producers, such as Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc., downright scare me. My blood pressure rises when someone tells me about a new great show to watch. I (generally) trust the recommendation. It is, in all likelihood, indeed a great show. I just don’t know how to fit it in. It is always a relief when I discover that a recommended program is several seasons along. It gives me a pass. There is no way to catch up on that!

After unwisely accepting a challenging line up of commitments last fall, I have given time management quite a bit of thought this year. I am trying to develop strategies, set boundaries, prioritize. I keep thinking that this should come easy to a librarian, but it doesn’t - at least not to this librarian.

I cannot count the times I have seen, heard or read something worth sharing, picked up my phone, start to open Twitter, then close it and put the phone away. I cannot bring myself to restart the conversation. This is the opposite of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). This is FOBO - Fear of Being Overwhelmed.

The irony of course is that my dog has a very active Instagram account and I have the capacity to squander a full 40 minutes looking at all the adorable doodles "he" follows (doodles are poodle hybrids, in case you are not a dog person). I suppose I should give that up. I rationalize that it is a harmless guilty pleasure but it is accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame once I snap out of an “episode” and calculate the lost minutes. They matter, those minutes. I have a lot to do in real life.

So that’s it. I have no solutions. I have nothing to offer but a very frank account of my struggle to find balance while bombarded with an abundance of really terrific media content, the pressure to re-engage with my social media accounts (and relinquish my dog’s), and the need to be fully present in my real life. And read. And blog. And... no. I will stop there.

There is one thing I know for sure. I am not alone.

PS If you are wondering where I found the time to write this, I missed my O’Hare connection on the way home from a professional development gig in Florida. Once I was rebooked and my initial frustration subsided, I experienced a vague sense of relief. Four free hours? Wow!  I started to write a post about using student data to inform instruction, but it turned into this. 😳


  1. Great post, Michelle!

    IMHO: Keep your Doodle Insta! It's fun, stress-free, (allow it be guilt-free, too) and putting that cute doggy face out to the world is a positive good thing!

    I've felt FOBO, too! That's why I've taken a break with ISTE, ALA, & AASL and basically only going to those EdTech & Librarian conferences that invite me to keynote. That's a bonus, I get to speak, share, meet our PLN peeps & my followers, AND learn from amazing colleagues! (I've also bought a beachy Coastal Cottage and have been spending as much time there as I can!) So, that's why you haven't seen me in oh about 4 years! LOL

    I try never to give anyone Social Media guilt trips, so start back when you feel like it or never. Life is precious, time is fleeting, spend it where your passions take you!

    Best wishes and Cheers!

  2. I struggle with these pulls too...I just started reading ‘Balance Like a Pirate’. I'm hoping it’s wisdom provides me some clarity.

    I totally feel your pain. I’m not burned out at all, I am just overwhelmed and each summer I realize how much I miss my family.


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