Free at Last / Day 3 of 365

When I announced this project, I posted what I was doing on my Facebook account. I told my friends and family what I was up to and why my account was about to suddenly go dark. I didn’t stick around for comments or a quick scroll down the Newsfeed. Instead, I immediately logged out.

I left the post up for a few days to allow the message to spread and today I went in to deactivate my accounts. Facebook was easy – I just went in and deactivated without too much thought. When I logged into Instagram, though, the top post on the page (I didn’t scroll, I swear guys!) was someone I’ve been following religiously for the last year and a half. The ease of deactivating Facebook, contrasted sharply with the FOMO I feel with deactivating Instagram.

Everything isn’t gray, sad, and lonely though. It’s been three days since this project has began and I already feel like I have more free time in the day.

I’ve wanted to learn how to juggle for about 6 months now – and about a month ago I bought some racquetballs to practice with. Without too much thought, I put them upstairs on the counter. Now, whenever I have a free moment, I find myself reaching for juggling balls rather than for my phone.

It wasn’t an intentional substitute – but it’s been working great! Here’s a really short video of my terrible juggling (I’m up to 64 juggles!) –

Hope y’all are having a wonderful start to the week!

3/365

(as a reminder, I don’t intend on posting daily throughout this project. The goal is to take a digital fast from social media for 365 days!)

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Going Dark / Day 1 of 365

I have an unhealthy relationship with social media.

Using social media should be simple; login, use it for what it was designed for, and logout. The difficulty is that I don’t logout anymore – mentally or digitally.

I’ve never considered myself a heavy user of social media. I only pull out my phone a couple times a day, I don’t have any games installed, and I don’t even have Facebook downloaded.

Despite this conviction, I almost always collapse on my bed and open Instagram when I get home from work. It’s usually followed by Facebook. Then sometimes I meander to Reddit or YouTube – and an hour or two disappears.

Responsibility

I started to notice the personal impacts of social media when I moved across the country in 2013. I used Facebook to stay in touch with my long-distance friends. Over time, I realized that I was spending too much time online – I’d scroll so far through Facebook that I would arrive at posts I’d already seen. Despite this, I’d continue to scroll through the content again to see if there was anything new (there wasn’t).

A couple times, I deleted all social media apps from my phone until I felt comfortable without them. To avoid push notifications, I tried only opening the social media through Google Chrome. I’ve even fasted from my phone by turning it off for a week. Each time I’ve always gone back to using the apps.

It’s both fortunate and unfortunate that I’m the only one responsible for this. It’s easy to say, “just have enough will-power to stop” or “if it’s that bad for you, delete them and move on”. I have the power to do that – but for some reason I can’t make that leap, nor do I want to in the long term.

Big Picture

Social media has ingrained itself so deep within our culture that despite privacy concerns, known associated psychological health issues, and the visible obsession we have with this technology – we still use it.

Though, the point isn’t to escape like a hermit into the mountains. The internet has revolutionized communication, and we shouldn’t step back from innovation. But when the innovation has become so addictive, and the technology so psychologically manipulative, we need to take a step back and evaluate where we are going.

Psychological Warfare

Leaving social media isn’t difficult from a technical standpoint – most websites only take a few clicks if you know where to look. Instead, these sites focus on manipulating you into using their flashy apps and they make themselves appear as though they are the only way that friends can stay in contact.

Take Facebook for example; prior to deactivating your account, you are brought to a page displaying 5 profile pictures of your friends. The screen reads: “Are you sure you want to deactivate your account?” Below that, it says “Your __ friends will no longer be able to keep in touch with you”. Then, above each friends picture, “_(name of friend)_ will miss you”.

Other sites remove features if you don’t use their dedicated app. Instagram doesn’t allow users to view “liked” images in a browser. Facebook doesn’t allow you to view messages on mobile in browser – you must download their Facebook Messenger app.

A whole blog post could be dedicated to the ways that these sites psychologically manipulate you. The point is; you can live without them, despite what they say.

Starting a Project

For the next year, I’m deactivating my social media accounts and abstaining from using social media and similar websites.

Although there are other strategies to lessen use of social media, I feel like I’ve exhausted many of them. I’ve removed the apps from my phone. I’ve taken weeks off and left my phone at home. I’m used apps like “Offtime” to monitor my app usage. Every time I come back to the addiction.

My intention is to spend more time “Going Dark”. I’ve borrowed this expression, which loosely means, “To disappear; to become suddenly unavailable or digitally out of reach” (source). I’ll use this express to describe completely disconnecting (i.e. turning my phone off or leaving it at home, being unable to be reached).

My hope is to develop a healthier relationship with social technologies. During the fast, I want to focus on other aspects of my life that have been neglected – I have a stack of books I need to catch up on, my photography has taken the back burner in the last few years, and even my writing is… well, it needs work.

Too long; didn’t read (or conclusion)

I have an unhealthy relationship with how I use social media. Sometimes I spend hours scrolling through memes and old content when I should be doing other things.

Social media can be psychologically manipulative. Just try to leave it and you’ll see the passive-aggressive nature of some of these sites.

Although social media has potentially harmful risks associated with it, ultimately I’m responsible for correctly using it.

To work on my relationship with social media, I’m abstaining from using it for one year. I’ll continue to blog (without a schedule, definitely not daily). Though, I plan on ‘going dark’ (disconnecting completely, leaving my phone at home and turned off) every now and then.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I’m working on building this website. If you have any questions or want to say “hi”, feel free to drop a comment below (no WordPress account necessary).

Are you sure you want to deactivate your account?

Yes.

1/365

December 15./ Figs and Lost Opportunities

Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Fig Tree” has haunted me for years. It speaks of a woman sitting at the foot of a giant fig tree. As she looks up, she sees a different life represented by each fig. In one fig, she’s a stay-at-home mother. In another she’s a CEO of a large company. She sees herself as a world traveler, a teacher, a lover. But she couldn’t pick which fig she wanted because if she picked one, it would mean that she would lose the others. Instead, she sits starving at this tree and watches as the fig shrivel and fall to the ground.

Sometimes I see myself sitting at the bottom of that fig tree. I gaze up at the different directions I could choose to go in life and, instead of choosing, watch the opportunities disappear.

There are so many things that I want to do in my life. I’d love to travel the world, study horticulture, live in Europe, work in the NPS – you know, the average bucket list. But unfortunately I don’t have a long enough life to do everything.

Last week, my co-worker was telling me about her little sister. She’s like 6 or 7 and Christmas is still a ~new~ holiday to her. Anyways, my co-worker was telling me how her little sister spends hours on YouTube watching toy reviews to see what she wants for Christmas. Instead of playing with toys that she has, she spends hours looking at new toys.

At first, it seemed a little strange. I never thought about toy reviews on YouTube. It seemed sad that kids would spend so much time watching reviews of toys, envisioning if they wanted that particular one.

But then I thought about myself and my own life. I haven’t been reading as much as I usually do. I’ve been spending a lot more time on Instagram and Amazon. Instead of going out and traveling, I’m living vicariously through famous Instragramers and travel blogs. Instead of going to the gym, I’ve been looking at gymspiration.

It’s so easy to fixate and obsess over a particular lifestyle or thing that you want. Lately, I’ve been guilty of buying things to support this mental fixation. I’ve bought gym equipment that tends to gather dust faster than I use it. I’ve bought extra kitchen supplies that are unnecessary because I’m enamored by what I could do with them. I even bought a zafu for meditating and it’s completely wonderful but I don’t meditate every day like I thought I would.

It takes little energy to lay around in bed and daydream. It takes effort to get outside and build the lifestyle that you want. It’s easy to stay inside and imagine these lives you could lead without actually pursing them. If you pursue them, you may have to give up other lifestyles that you want. If I pursue meditation, maybe I won’t have enough time for working out. Unfortunately there are only so many hours in each day.

This is a first world problem. Not really of much substance. But I think that it causes a lot of suffering. By imagining these lifestyles rather than leading them, we skip over the learning process. We skip all the failure on the way to greatness. So much of our lives is learning from mistakes and genuinely trying new things. We derive satisfaction from effort and overcoming difficulty.

I’m not trying to bash YouTube or Instagram but rather comment on how I’ve noticed my life change in the last few years. I work full time and only have a few hours when I get home each night. Instead of spending that time doing things that I love – mustering up the energy to get out there – I instead lay on my bed and watch others pursue things I’m interested in. I’m so fixated that I don’t notices all the figs falling around me.

Hey, Zen Pencils has a wonderful illustration of the poem I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I highly recommend that you check it out. Click this link to view it: Zen Pencils – The Fig Tree

 

December 10./ Ready to Go

Alrighty… well… I think everything is back up. 7 years worth of blogs. Hard to believe that much time has already gone by. It hasn’t been consistent but it’s always been there. If you feel like gandering through, there’s a lot of miscellaneous content. My first blog was a dream journal. Then it turned into a travel blog while I was staying in Europe. Then it became a blog about… well… anything that was on my mind. If there’s anything I’ve been consistent in, it’s definitely inconsistency.

That being said, it’s the end of the year and I’ve feel like writing again. I haven’t really written since joining the military. Or well, I haven’t really written with any mention of having joined. I’m sure there’ll be a post about that later.

It’s a shame too. I live in the tropical state of Hawaii with my beautiful boyfriend Cory. I’ve been fortunate in the last couple years to have had the opportunity to travel. I’ve spent a lot of time hiking around the island and exploring. Most of which has been undocumented.

Oh well, I guess it’s just another opportunity to get started. Here are few pictures from the last few months:

 

 

December 10./ #getyourassintonature

2017-04-01 10.21.23Six months ago, I participated in the #getyourassintonature tag on Instagram. I’ve had a lot of different feelings about participating – but I’m glad that I did.

At the time I took this, I felt like others in my life had started to put me into a box. People were treating me like I was reserved or quiet but I’ve never felt that that those word described me. I never wanted those words to describe me.

In struggling with those ideas, I felt the need to do something different. Something that challenged my internal perception of who I was.

I saw the movement and felt the need to participate. I needed to show myself that I was free to move beyond the constraints that I felt society had placed on me. People always speak about nudity and liberation but I didn’t feel the freedom came from shedding clothes. It came from leaving self-perceptions behind.

I felt like that no matter how I molded myself, I could always change. I felt that my life was my own and I could move in the ways that I willed.

It didn’t come from the nudity or doing something taboo. The breeze on my balls didn’t change who I was. It was the will to challenge who I saw myself as. I was afraid of becoming quiet or boring. And this was an act to say that that doesn’t have to be so.

January 23./ Leaving Social Media (again)

Staying off social media has been an interesting change in my life lately. A couple weeks ago I decided to deactivate my Facebook account and remove SnapChat, Instagram, and a couple other apps from my phone. The motivation for this decision was a bit blurry and undefined.

A few times each year I get frustrated at something. I struggle to define what it is exactly. Not only in communicating this to others but I struggle to understand what it is within myself. Sometimes it feels like loneliness, other times it feels like a desire to retreat from others.

There were various reasons for this withdrawal; social media’s inability to duplicate one-on-one relationships with other people, how distracting it can be to wonder if I have any notifications (or that I can neurotically check them at any moment), the onslaught of memes that deliver humor but lack substance, or finally how blindly this can consume large pockets of my life.

Perhaps it’s out of nostalgia but MySpace will always feel like the original social media to me. It didn’t have an instant messenger and there was no infinite NewsFeed to scroll through. Although it supplemented relationships, it never felt like it was replacing them.

With live video on Facebook, Messenger installed for texting, and customized NewsFeeds, it feels like Facebook has deeply ingrained itself in how I maintain relationships with my friends and family. Leaving social media has felt like I’ve hacked away at those relationships.

One relationship that’s particularly damaged at the moment is the one that I have with myself. Empty moments where normally nothing demands my attention have disappeared. Between tasks, I pull out my phone and check for updates. It’s not that I’m desiring news but that I’m filling periods where I’d normally be doing nothing.

For example, when I wake up I silence my alarm and check my phone. When I go to the bathroom, I’m scrolling through a newsfeed. If there isn’t a conversation going on in the car with friends, I probably have my phone out. Sometimes when I’m walking I’m looking at Facebook more than I’m looking at my environment.

What am I looking for? I’m not sure exactly. Exciting news? To cover moments that I would feel bored? To stay ‘connected’? Maybe a mixture, I haven’t really figure it out. What I do know is that the cost of looking for these things is my attention. And my attention, unfortunately, is limited.

The content of social media is mostly white noise. My Facebook NewsFeed consisted of  only a couple stories relevant to my friends and family when I left. It was mostly memes, politics, recipes, lots of ads, and irrelevent short videos. There was no central substance or social expression of my friends other than sharing someone else’s content.

Don’t get me wrong, this content can be interesting and expresses what a person likes – but it does not foster social connection in a way that justifies how much time I spend using it.

It isn’t like binging a TV show on Netflix where you finish a season of your favorite show and wonder where the weekend has gone. It’s so much more subtle than that. Those empty moments I spoke about before; rolling over in bed in the morning, riding in the car with friends, even walking down the street; they’re valuable.

It’s hard to define their worth because these moments are empty. Normally we would be doing nothing in their absence. But emptiness itself is valuable. It’s filled with possibility and needed transition time.

In the car with friends, maybe I’ve missed conversation because I’ve been on my phone. Or maybe there’s a bond that happens when multiple people are together, not distantly looking at Facebook, even if nothing is said. When I’m out walking and looking at my phone, maybe I’m too zoned out from what’s actually happening around me. Maybe I need to let my mind idle for a few minutes before I get where I’m going.

I just know that I’ve felt restless and unable to define why. I’ve felt busy, though I’ve accomplished nothing. I’ve felt lonely, though I’m connected to many people. I struggle to balance this and I know that many other people feel the same way and perhaps they don’t understand it either.

So disconnecting myself hasn’t ultimately changed my life. I still wake up and go to work each day. I’m not filled with tranquility or any other emotion. But I do notice the empty moments now.

When I sit at work and everyone around me is on their phone, I open my eyes and look around. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I stretch in my bed and begin the day without taking on the burden of knowing what’s happening somewhere else. I can sit down with my breakfast and gaze out the window at the bustling world – knowing that ultimately I’m here. There’s no notification, no urge to fill the empty moments with empty content, no reason to neurotically try to strengthen relationships with others. Just here and now.