Getting Connected…by Disconnecting

A little over a year ago I wrote a blog post about social media where I discussed my misguided hate toward social media. Here’s a link to it to refresh your memory.

Since then, I’m willing to admit, that if anything, my addiction to social media has deepened. Instagram and Facebook being the biggest culprits of my wasted time. After sitting and scrolling through Instagram pictures or reading Facebook posts for a half hour or so, I’ll have that moment of realization that I got lost in the feed, and put my phone down. My eyes readjust to the real world around me, and I often feel a strange mental exhaustion after putting my phone down.

A few minutes later I then find myself instinctively reaching for my phone again.

Some people are perfectly content spending their time this way. Many people who spend lots of time on social media or other technology and entertainment (it could be videogames, watching YouTube or Twitch, streaming sites, etc.) feel they have a healthy relationship with technology and feel more connected to people, and if you feel this way, more power to you.

For me, when I fall into these periods where I spend a lot of time with social media or other technology, I feel hazier and more disconnected than ever. I start feeling more discontent as well with the things I don’t have (and 99% of the time, don’t need), and my need for instant gratification is heightened. It causes me more unhappiness than happiness.20180604_144340.jpg

On the other hand, when I read a book, meditate, spend time outside, or do something else that enriches my life, I feel the opposite. I feel relaxed, rejuvenated, and my stress levels fall. For example, my favorite part of every day is going to the top of Terrell Library on my lunch break, staring off at Kamiak Butte and Moscow Mountain for a few minutes, then reading a good book for the rest of my break, feeling the soft Palouse breeze and the warmth from the sun. It’s consistently one of the most relaxing and therapeutic times of my day.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy, or need, technology. I enjoy having things like Facebook to stay connected to people I care about, or having Netflix at my disposal where I can watch shows and movies that I enjoy. If consumed in moderation, I think these can be very positive things in people’s lives.

And, I need technology in the sense that I rely on it so heavily in my job, and probably will for my whole career, regardless of the industry I end up in long term.

Technological advancements of the past several decades have debatably provided some of the largest impacts on human civilization ever. Both for better and for worse. But there have undoubtedly been great positive impacts to mankind through the technological revolution of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Nonetheless, for myself, when it comes to technology, and certainly social media, there can certainly be too much of a good (bad?) thing. That’s why over the past few weeks I’ve been slowly working at weening myself off social media, while meditating more, and trying to incorporate the practice of mindfulness into my daily routine.20180527_072541.jpg

I have removed the Instagram and Facebook apps from my phone, and I may delete my Snapchat account as well. At some point, I may fully delete my Instagram account, but I have mixed emotions about that, considering I do have an interest in amateur photography, and I feel I’ve gotten pretty good with my Galaxy (I’d really like a legitimate camera and a GoPro someday…oh, and on a totally unrelated note, my birthday is June 23rd…). I like to share the pictures I take on Instagram, but getting drawn into the feed can be very distracting, breed discontentment, and ultimately become a massive waste of time. So for now, I’ve taken the app off my phone, but I can still access my account from my computer.

Facebook is going to be the most difficult to distance myself from, considering this is how I stay in touch with so many of my friends and family members. The other wrinkle with Facebook is that it is my best, and almost only, way for me to advertise my blog. So if I were to disable my account completely, I would be solely relying on word-of-mouth and my mailing list to hopefully pass my posts along, which is not a great way to promote a blog and gain followers unless you already have a large and established following.

Nonetheless, I do plan to greatly reduce my time spent on Facebook, as it probably eats up more time than any of the others, even though I would say my greatest nemesis is Instagram. Facebook does admittedly offer a little more value than Instagram in the sense of connecting with people I know, and occasionally seeing worthwhile videos and articles.

For my meditation, I utilize a guided meditation video, typically something I find on YouTube. My favorite so far has been a YouTube channel by The Honest Guys, however there is lots of other good stuff out there that is completely free as well. There are also mobile apps like Headspace (which I have tried the free trial of, and it’s pretty great!) that cost money, but can offer a little more continual advancement than the free guides.

I’ve got a fairly small sample size so far, but in the past three weeks I can honestly say that I’ve noticed three main changes:

  • First, I’ve been noticeably more content, particularly on days I meditate. And my increased contentment is not to be confused with complacency. I’ve felt more content in the sense that little things (particularly things I have no control over) aren’t bothering me so much, and I’ve felt more confident in myself and my decisions, and doing what’s best for Amber and myself.20180601_183644.jpg
  • Second, to further refute any notion that meditation leads to complacency, I’ve been much more productive in terms of my writing over the past three weeks. I’ve been averaging writing about three times per week since then, nearly meeting my New Year’s Resolution of writing four times per week, and I’ve started my first short story since last fall. I’ve felt a renewed focus, and instead of dwelling on things I have no control over, being discontent, and my struggle with the need for instant gratification, I’ve been able to more successfully let those thoughts pass without judgment, and focus on what I do have control over, my work.
  • Lastly, I’ve gained a renewed appreciation for the incredible woman that I’m lucky enough to be with. Over the past several months I’ve taken her for granted at times, and not appreciated her in the way she should be appreciated, and since slowing down and focusing on my own mindfulness, I’ve realized how lucky I am to be with such an incredible, forgiving, hardworking, and understanding woman.

With that being said, I challenge you to do something to connect yourself with the real world around you, and disconnect a little from social media and technology. Not completely disconnect, just try to balance yourself, and see how it makes you feel. Go outside with a good book and just read for an hour in the sunshine, or go for a quiet walk in the woods. You may be surprised at how good it makes you feel.

Lastly, if I suddenly drop off the face of the social media world at some point, don’t be alarmed. I’m probably just off reading a book, typing away, walking the dog, or sitting in the grass somewhere, thinking about absolutely nothing.


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