We’re all just stories in the end
Yesterday, I temporarily broke up with social media. All those apps got deleted from my phone, and I’m making friends with a new one (QualityTime, which you’ll be unsurprised to hear is helping me focus on what is in front of me by restricting access to things on my phone). All accounts were logged out of on my computer and, where possible, removed from favourites or frequently visited links.
What could inspire such drastic action? 2017 has so far been filled with a big source of stress for me. Actually, I like to word it another way – a huge opportunity for learning and growth that is proving fundamental to how I run my life. Through making a big decision to remove that source of stress, it became apparent to me that I was using some bad crutches to distract myself from the underlying problem. The big one was mindlessly, anxiously, scrolling through social media feeds, an activity with no hope of actually resolving the underlying issue.
Being aware of this bad habit, I downloaded a copy of Dallas Hartwig’s More Social Less Media programme. Having been a huge fan of his previous work, It Starts With Food & the Whole30 (a nutritional reset), I had a feeling this next offering from him was going to be as enlightening and transformative for my habits as the last. MSLM involves two stages – initially minimising your use of your phone and social media while also increasing your social life, then a two week bout of abstinence from both social media and digital entertainment (goodbye Netflix!) while you exclusively focus on your interactions with the world around you. I’m currently in week three, so the first part of the clean break.
To be clear – I don’t think social media or online streaming services are the source of all evil (or the best thing to ever happen to us). They are a tool, a way to communicate and its our individual way of relating to the tool that determines whether its a successful relationship, not the tool itself. I opened my first social media account a decade ago when I was about to commence my final year of my degree on exchange in Canada, where more of my fellow students had Facebook accounts than mobile phones. Being able to message someone on Facebook was of greater importance than having their phone number, and in such a social environment, it was key to be able to connect with my new student cohort, as has sustaining those relationships over the past decade with both local (at the time) Canadians and friends from all around the world who were also on exchange. Not to mention, the relationships in the bleeding disorder community that I’ve been able to start and nurture over the years have assisted me in making that monumental change in my care a couple of years ago and allowed me to assist others in becoming better advocates for themselves and their communities. These are not experiences or behaviours I see myself changing any time soon.
I certainly support Dallas’s conclusions that mindless interaction with technology is causing problems in people’s relationships with the people and world around them, however over the first half of this programme, its been a very different relationship I’ve noticed has been suffering the most – the one with myself. Over the past few weeks, with my awareness being drawn to my terrible mindless scrolling habit as its been reduced, I’ve noticed the gap that habit has filled has been pushing out a number of other pastimes I haven’t been engaging in for years. Hobbies, that as a younger woman and even a child I have loved, that have made me happy and a better person to be around. One of these habits has been my longstanding love affair with words – ones I write, and those from other people.
It might sound bizarre to you, reading this on my blog, but over the course of a few years (particularly the last one) I’d seen my two favourite passions, reading and writing, being pushed aside for a bad habit. The past couple of weeks have seen me re-engage with both. I’ve begun filling notebooks with my thoughts, and filling my brain with the words of others, specifically Marge Pierce, Neil Gaiman & Lauren Graham, with a bunch of others in my ‘un-read’ pile, awaiting discovery. Most of my own writing has so far been in the format of journalling, but this time and space has also allowed me to remember how much I like fiction. In recently reading some great fiction, I reminded myself how much I used to enjoy creating it, too.
While this hasn’t been direct intra-personal relating over energy-draining social media scrolling, I have been taking some other principles from the programme and applying it to the reigniting of these habits – mindfulness, rather than passive, reflexive activity, staying put in the physical world with pen, paper & hard copy books, and using what I’m discovering to enhance my relationships, rather than just keeping it all locked in my head.
Not that all this writing is just for fun. The space I’ve created by minimising mindless activity has also reminded me how much I love writing professionally. One of my goals for the year will be to find more ways to write for a living.
As I mentioned, I’m currently only just in week 3 of my social media cleanse – there will undoubtedly be more to share in a fortnight, but my biggest take-away so far? When you give yourself more space (which cutting out mindless distractions always does), you have a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with that which matters most for you. So here’s to another 2 weeks of choosing the things that matter the most.
I’d love to hear form you –
Have you ever done a social media cleanse?
What long-forgotten habits do you have a yearning to reignite?