As an unintentional social experiment, I have spent the last few months attempting to ignore any and every social media platform that my name was connected to. My social media hiatus was put on hold when Garrett and I announced our Engagement, and my birthday shortly followed, but for the most part, I have been doing my best to not be a slave to the blue notification light recently. If you have been ignored by me via the digital stratosphere at any point in the last few months, allow me to extend a most sincere apology.
I AM sorry.
However, let me be clear: I am not sorry for ignoring my social media.
I AM sorry that the only way you and I have been connecting recently is through the narrow hallways of Facebook or Instagram comments.
I could tell you that I had some insanely awesome reason to give you all nothing but radio-active silence recently, but I am in the truth-telling business these days.
The truth? I was tired. Woefully tired.
I was tired of the productivity of my day being measured by how many times I could type “sorry for the delayed response!” into the reply box. I was sick of the repetitive nature of my personal e-mail, the anger that Facebook seemed to perpetuate into my fellows, and the inauthenticity I was experiencing when I scrolled through Instagram. Does anyone use twitter anymore? (Anyone who isn’t a CNN or Fox reporter?)
Before my social media hiatus, I found myself contemplating society and the feedback loops that we have created. I wondered if these tools that we have implemented into our lives were not just tools, but also weapons? I was getting exhausted trying to navigate and respond to the misinformation, mistruth, and general intolerance of my “friends” and “followers” with any semblance of grace.
So, I disconnected. I unfollowed, uninstalled, and ceased as much participation in the digital world as I could. Here is what I learned:
1. am less anxious and less lonely when disconnected
Yes, social media CAN BE an amazing resource for connection. It can be used as a link between us and those that are far away, and if used appropriately it can make us feel as though we are a part of the lives of the people that we cannot be near physically. However, it is also a lush feeding ground for those “compare and despair” feelings that us as humans sometimes give-in to. I can scroll through Instagram and lose 15 minutes comparing my body to fitness models who take pictures of their asses for a living. “Why can’t my ass look like that?” At my very worst, I will spend a ridiculous amount of time looking at you all’s adorable babies and find myself wondering why I am not a mom yet. This attempt at cyber disconnection has given me an opportunity to take a step back and compare me to ME. I have come a LONG way in the last few years, and when I am my only competition, I am doing pretty damn well. Also, the people that I have within an arm’s reach of me daily are AMAZING and loving and funny and entertaining. It is a lot easier to experience their amazingness when my nose isn’t buried in my phone.
2. I can appreciate beauty and not post about it.
WHAT?! WE CAN SEE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL AND NOT POST A PICTURE?! Shocking, right?!
I’ve been to many beautiful places this month and done some very cool things, but you haven’t seen all of them. That’s okay. (Yes, you have seen pictures of Garrett and I celebrating our engagement. We are too excited not to share!) Just as you haven’t seen everything that I’ve been up to since September, I haven’t seen all of the cool places that you have been to recently either. BUT, I still believe that you went. Maybe some time we could exchange our pretty pictures in person?
I found that when I removed the pressure of getting the perfect picture for my Instagram feed every time that I (or my dog) did anything remotely interesting, I could be still, and experience the moment much easier. I knew that if I chose to take a picture of something, it was probably REALLY special, and I probably REALLY wanted to show my boyfriend, or mom, or co-worker what I had experienced, in person. I was able to be still in those beautiful moments much more frequently and feel gratitude and appreciation for the goodness that was surrounding me. TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF YOURSELVES, FOLKS.
3. My attention span has expanded.
When I was younger, I used to never understand when kids would say “I am bored”.
My brother and I weren’t really allowed to be “bored” in our house growing up. If I had a moment of courage and had the balls to say “I’m bored” with my out loud voice, my mom would immediately have me do chores. It was with this lesson that my ability to keep myself entertained was cultivated. My brother and I would play outside, practice basketball in the driveway, paint a picture, read a book, or listen to music. We were able to just BE with ourselves. As I have gotten older, as my life has gotten busier, and as social media platforms have become a foundation piece in our culture, I have found that my capacity to sit with myself has lessened. Even just years ago in my early twenties, I would always keep a book in my car. I was armed and ready with some piece of literature because the possibility that I would have to wait at a doctor’s office, mechanic, airport, etc. was very real. This habit has gone by the wayside as my phone has become a daily part of my wardrobe. Who needs a book when you can scroll through an entire article WITH PICTURES about how Kim Kardashians ass has evolved over time?
Recently, without he constant temptation to click the little F on my home screen the SECOND that I don’t know what to do with my hands, I have found that my appreciation for people watching, and observing the trees blowing in the wind has exponentially increased. Reading a book (with actual pages that you can flip) is not “boring”, it just doesn’t immediately release the dopamine response that a click-bait article does. It is not as immediately gratifying, but much more rewarding. SLOW BURN PEOPLE, SLOW BURN.
4. I became less informed, but more educated.
Trigger Warning: The next statement may hurt a bit.
The majority of the information being spread around the internet is complete and utter BULL SHIT and we must stop encouraging it.
Read it again.
I have always been a seeker of information, and have always enjoyed being “informed”. I like knowing what is going on in the political world, the sports world, and also in my community. However, that being said, one of my greatest motivations for minimizing my social media presence was my growing frustration and anxiety about the state of culture and general decency in our country.
I understand that people are deeply concerned about the current administration with valid reasoning, however, I believe that people expressing themselves in a disrespectful and aggressive manner does nothing but perpetuate and worsen the problem.
In my opinion, the most egregious part of this equation is the rampant spread of misinformation.
We are human beings and our nature is to gravitate to the easier thing. The easy thing is to forward on an article with a controversial headline that aligns with our beliefs.
The easy thing is not always the right thing.
The right thing takes just a little more time. The right thing would be to read the article in question in it’s entirety, check out the credentials of the author, and then check the authenticity of their sources. That is the hard thing. The majority of people do not do the hard thing.
Remember that the next time you decide to share a hateful article or image littered with “facts”. You are probably contributing to the garbage that you claim to dislike.
When I forced myself to disconnect, and without access to the quick opinions of my fellows about each breaking-news headline, I was forced to seek out my own sources if I wanted to stay as “informed” as I like to be.
This exercise forced me to seek out information from sources that I trusted, read, and listen to long-form discussions of people that were far more educated and informed on the topics that I was interested in than the “follower-next-door” and had the expertise to draw informed and insightful judgements about whatever it was that was going on.
So did I know EVERY SINGLE THING that Donald Trump was tweeting about? No. But did I feel confident that I was ingesting the information that I needed to? Yes.
In conclusion, it is SO EASY to get on to any social media platform and see the hate spewed from both sides of the aisle and believe that the world is a cold and cruel place. I understand. I felt the same way. It isn’t.
Go outside, talk to your neighbors. Talk to the fellow animal lover at the dog park. Talk to a fellow soccer mom while watching your daughters run around the field. People are more good than they are bad. Your worth is not determined by how many likes you receive. You are doing fine.
Try to disconnect. For a day. For a week. For a month. Forever. I promise you will be pleasantly surprised.