Last year I went “off grid” for the month of August. I wasn’t really off-grid. I had access to WiFi and all the luxuries of modern life, but I deleted my social media apps from my phone and tried to restrain myself from going on social media. Last February, I did the same thing, except in February, I deactivated all my social media accounts. I had hoped to go off social media for good. While I was off, life was great. I had more clarity and better focus. I was writing more, sleeping better, feeling better. That desire to connect with others as well as the desire to share what I was creating and writing pulled me back in.
“I need social media to self-promote.”
“I won’t have any way of connecting with people I’ve met and who’s friendship has been meaningful to me if I go offline completely.”
“I’ll just check-in occasionally. It won’t get out of hand.”
It’s hard to know if these are just the thoughts of a rationalizing addict or well, thought out and balanced observations on the reality of how social media has become part of our lives. We wouldn’t think of going without electricity, we are so used to the conveniences and comforts it brings. Social media has become just as important a part of our lives.
I wouldn’t know about activities at my kids schools without Facebook. For some reason, end of school parties, sports try outs, spirit days and other important events are communicated far more frequently on social media than on email or by phone. It’s not just a fear of missing out, I know for a fact that if I did not keep a Facebook account attached to school pages, my book club, my artists group and local events, I would have no idea what was going on and trying to stay on top of things would actually become more stressful.
I know this because I’ve scaled back my social media consumption lately and as a result, my kids missed fall try outs for sports. It was only posted online and I didn’t get the message. Now they will not be in sports during the fall season. Major bummer.
Where is the line between where social media is a productive tool and where it is a time-wasting, mind-numbing, waste of time?
Also, is that line the same for all of us? And further, are there some of us who just can’t walk that line?
I quit drinking in January. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up with a hangover thinking, “I really shouldn’t drink that much.” Or times I’ve felt that the fun of inebriation didn’t make up for the sluggish, unproductive day after. For years, I devised little behaviors to help me drink “in moderation.” I counted my drinks. I avoided liquor. I avoided wine. Then when that didn’t work, I planned out a day of leisure after a night of drinking. It was necessary. I knew myself well enough to know that I was going to go out, I was going to go all out. That’s just who I was.
I loved having a good time and going out with friends and was never irresponsible. I always had a ride or an uber or a cab lined up. It was a lot of fun and the hangovers, it seemed, were just part of getting older.
In all my attempts to moderate my drinking or rearrange my responsibilities to accommodate a night out, it never occurred to me that I could just stop drinking altogether. So much of our modern social lives revolve around drinking. If I stopped drinking, would anyone still invite me out? Would I even have fun?
Then in January, I decided to just quit for the month. Just one month. No big deal.
Quitting completely was much easier than “tapering back.” One drink led to several, every time.
At the end of January, I decided to continue. I was finding ways to fill my time and socialize without alcohol. I drank flavored seltzer water in a wine glass at parties. I brought my own beverages. I woke up early. I slept great. I felt better and had more time to do the things I enjoyed, which didn’t include “sleeping it off.”
I’ve tried many times to “cut back” on social media. I’ve tried to just post in the morning, or just post at night. Maybe if I just post on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or on Saturdays? I’ve had as many bright ideas to accomodate my desire to connect online and justify feeding the habit as I used to have strategies for moderating my alcohol consumption.
I’m just not the kind of person to “have one drink.”
And maybe I’m also not the kind of person to “check in for 30 minutes a day online.”
One post leads to hours of scrolling and checking notifications and clicking and reading. I can’t tell you how many times I click to an article and start reading and mid way through I think, “Not in a million years would I ever be interested in seeking out this information, why the heck am I reading this?”
Maybe you feel like this right now! HA! I hope not, but really, were you looking for this or did you stumble on it?
Is that how we should be living our lives? Stumbling without intention?
There’s beauty in the accidental discovery, but I’ve had so many accidental discoveries I’m afraid I’m losing the discipline for intentional creation.
It’s time for me to create new habits. I want to be addicted to the thrill of creation instead of the comfort of consumption.
I’ve got to change.
I’ve changed so many things in my life in the past few years, all of them very important.
I’ve been sleeping more.
Two years ago, I bought a fit bit and found out I was getting, on average, 3-4 hours of sleep a night. Now I’m getting between 5-6 with the occassional 8-9. I feel great.
I’ve been getting more exercise.
That fitbit also let me know that my desk job, working from home and having a hobby that kept me in front of the computer was making me almost completely sedentary. I would get on average, 3,000 steps a day. Now I get between 7-8,000 plus I get 60 minutes of cardio 3 times a week. I could barely walk/jog a mile in 2017 and last week I ran 4 miles without stopping. I run a 12 minute mile, which I’m completely satisfied with. If I keep this routine up for the rest of my life, I will have no complaints.
I quit drinking.
I said this before, but it’s worth listing. It’s been 8 months since I had a sip of alcohol of any kind. I won’t disclose how much I drank before, or how often, but I will say that this has been a huge lifestyle change and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.
Quitting drinking was incredibly easy compared to quitting social media. With all these successes under my belt, it’s time to try again. My goals are to:
- Write “morning pages” daily for 15 minutes by hand.
- Read paper books.
- Stay off social media for a month
I will post essays and fiction on this blog. I will love it if you comment and share the posts, but I will understand if you don’t. After all, if I write something and do not post it on social media, does it even exist?