The end of summer is approaching. It always feels as if it goes by faster than any other season, doesn’t it? Whether that’s because of the heat, the fun, or the vacation time, it goes. So much to get done in what feels like so little time. Especially now, in 2015, where we live in the future that so many people predicted in science fiction movies.
“One day, you’ll be able to have porn playing in your hand.” A substitute teacher of mine in 5th grade predicted this to my classroom in 2001 and today we have iPhones with that capability and more. Back in my grandmother’s days, phones were a novel and new thing. You memorized folks’ numbers, and would have to be lucky to catch them at home. Today I can call any number of people I know, and people I don’t know – from all over our big beautiful blue planet at the drop of a hat.
This extreme connectivity comes with pros and cons. The pros are numerous – networking, finding new things and people you like, being able to keep in touch with minimal effort on everyone’s parts, creating communities and discussions all over the world digitally, giving so many access to knowledge and education that they otherwise might not have. The cons are ironically closely related to the pros – feelings of disconnectedness with others, and ourselves, having distractions at our fingertips at any moment, and possibly many more we have not yet fully understood.
Feeling overwhelmed last week, I left LA for a hot minute. How do you get out of LA for a day? Drive up the HWY 2, all of it. Blast some tunes and let the wind blow in your hair, breathe in the fresh air deeply, and let all the noise and clutter go. I turned my phone off – after a couple necessary “I’m in the mountains” snapchats, and then pulled into Wrightwood (a little town at the end of the HWY 2) and had a great classic breakfast at their local diner.
During this blissful three hours without a phone and deep in the natural element, it hit me. I needed a break. Not a vacation – I have been lucky to have a handful of weekend getaways so far this summer. No, I needed a break from social media.
You can’t blame social media though, it’s not a person, it’s not a being with a consciousness in the way that it is purposefully making our lives any which way. No, the only person I could blame was myself. I was abusing an otherwise helpful, entertaining, and sometimes powerful tool in a way that people can abuse any substance or habit when you do too much of it. The constant “porn in my hand” – distractions, escapes, easy ways to procrastinate and defocus was causing me to feel anxious and overwhelmed.
When I returned to Los Angeles proper, I publically posted – in a hope to keep myself true to my needed abstinence – that I was taking a week off. I didn’t even check my post a few hours after for likes or comments on my funny self-experiment. I moved my Instagram and Facebook into my mindfulness folder on my phone, and that was that.
Initially, it was a little tough. I found myself pulling my phone out and as soon as I looked at the screen – I’d remember – NOPE…can’t do that. Suddenly, pulling out my phone became this funny tick I noticed I had, at any slow moving moment. Waiting in line somewhere, at a stoplight (not recommended), on the john, bored or uncomfortable at a bar. Let’s be real, I’m not alone. Our cellphones have become constant companions. In our fast paced day to day it is necessary, especially for business. . . but not 24/7.
After day one though, it clicked. Instead of laying in bed catching up on everyone’s posts the night before – I started only checking my phone when I needed to. I was getting up, making breakfast, checking my to–do list, and then looking at my emails…but that was it! Suddenly all this time that I thought I had lost, was there. The to-do lists got done, and the stress or worry of not being able to do everything washed away.
Not only was my work becoming more productive – my relationships were. This past week calling and texting people has been so refreshing. I had to ask “How are you? What’s new?” because I hadn’t seen their posts anywhere. I got the real stories too, not the public view of: “it better be nice and pretty so everyone likes it“. When I saw my friends or at parties I was PRESENT and focused on our conversations, interactions, and energies. I met so many people this past week that I otherwise wouldn’t have – because when my friend would go to the bathroom at the bar – I’d be on my phone usually rather than engaging with those around me. I know I’m not alone in these previous habits because I saw many people engaging them when I wasn’t.
It wasn’t all-positive though. There we’re two things that fuddled my experiment. Social media has become such an important tool – I had to break my vow and go on Facebook a couple of times. I put on art and music events each month, and it’s the only way to communicate with everyone…not only that, but some people I talk to only talk to me on Facebook!
The second, was that sometimes you need an escape. Look, I don’t have TV. I do watch Netflix, and I did binge watch Sense 8 (it gets really good, hang in until like episode 4 and you’ll be hooked), but Instagram for me is my prime get away. I LOVE photography, especially that of my friends’ lives and travels, so being without it made me a little sad. On the flipside though, it also forced me to really have time with myself, and I worked out a lot of goals, aspirations, and feelings I needed to reflect on.
Overall, this past week (well, almost week) was AMAZING. I buckled and scrolled Instagram a day earlier than I was meant to – no one is perfect. I am so glad I did this experiment though. It has taught me so much that I have written about here. I now have a new lease on my social media life:
– To use it as the tool it is meant to be.
– To schedule it into my life just like everything else rather than an automatic filler.
– To be critical but open about technology – allowing it to further and improve my life and not hinder or hurt it.
– Recognizing that if something is unbalanced, it’s probably something I can fix.
I hope this article inspires you to try a week without social media too! If you are feeling a little haphazard and all over the place, it might be just what you need! It definitely was for me. I’d love to hear your experiences if you have tried this before or decide too!