Under the Bodhi Tree

This year off social media has been great. Sometimes I like to think of it as a long fast. During the beginning, I thought that after the year was finished, I would leave social media more permanently. As time has progressed, I feel that I’ll return to social media but with a different mindset.

Part of that mindset is how I view social media. It feels almost like a sort of candy. Something pleasurable and delicious but will upset the stomach if ingested uncontrollably. I suppose the point isn’t really control though, it’s more about awareness.

Social media is built to be addictive. It’s designed to make you ingest more and more of it. It notifies you when someone likes your content. It reminds you of birthdays. It suggests friends and what it thinks you’ll like. It connects you with others – that, after all, is why most of us use it.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with social media to me. It’s candy – sweet, delicious, of little nutritional value, filled with a lot of fluff – though I often crave it and ingest too much of it. If used in the right way, it can lead to meaningful connection. At it’s worst, it alienates and degrades connection.

I’m not here to rail too much on social media. After all, I’m writing on a blog. Society has benefitted greatly from social technologies. I’ve been able to connect with friends all over the world and stay in touch with family as I’ve moved around the country.

But sometimes I feel eccentric and want to run away to the mountains. A little hut with a simple diet and a lot of meditation. Just more escapism, I suppose.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a hut or a mountain to live on. And I have a job to pay bills and to keep the cat fed. Running away to the mountains isn’t really an option and maybe that isn’t a bad thing. But I still want to do something. Call it a “project-within-a-project”. Now is the time – now now now.

Although I don’t use any accounts, I still browse the web. Most of the web is a variety of social media. So the “Going Dark” project wasn’t really aimed at getting completely off social media, it was focused on minimizing ingestion of content. I don’t have a Facebook or Snapchat or Instagram – but I do use YouTube and I still look at porn. Like I said, I still use the web and the web is almost completely a myriad of social media.

For the next month, I want to focus on a sort of modern asceticism. Not the starving-oneself, but more of a fasting-to-focus-on-myself. I’m going to focus on these three values:

  1. Awareness
    • An hour of meditation upon waking and before heading to bed
  2. Health
    • Daily exercise, whether it be a short walk or a long run
  3. Simplicity
    • I’ll go vegetarian for the month and reduce my diet to simple grains and vegetables
    • I will reduce to no added sweeteners, spices, or coffee
    • No pornography, or well, sex (self, or otherwise) (NOBNOM revival anyone?)
    • No music, movies, TV, video games, or visiting Last.FM for the month

These goals may seem peculiar or like nonsense but I really feel the need to try something new. I’ve been having a lot go on in my life and, when I grieve, I have a tendency to reach for the candy.

I won’t go into each item specifically (this is a long enough post) but maybe I’ll hit on them if someone leaves a question below or if it tickles my fancy for a future post. Hope all is well for y’all and here’s to some good old fasting.

Under the Bodhi Tree 0/30 days

The Death of Creativity / Day 39 of 365

Back in 2012, I was a creative super-machine. I finished a 365 project the year prior and had just bought my dream camera. It seemed like every week I was doing something crazy and new. I regularly dragged friends into frozen creeks, through stinging nettles, and into the wild recesses of my world. My camera lived on my shoulder and, like my mind, it was always fully charged.

I vividly remember having a late night conversation with Jake back then. He was one of the first artists that I was close to – and the one who really pushed me to create, no matter what crazy ideas I had. Our conversations usually centered around critiquing art that the other had made.

On this particular night, I was really pushing Jake to start blogging. Beyond consuming my life with photography, I had bloomed into blogging. It was almost October and I was participating in an annual ‘Blogtober’. I’ll never forget what Jake said to me that night;

“There’s so much stuff already out there already – I don’t want to contribute to the noise.”

Jake is about 5 years my senior and, unlike me, had been creating across every medium. I knew him as a photographer, a sculptor, a painter – one of the first interactions I had with him was at a church over-nighter. We went bowling and I spent the night talking with him. As we talked, he took out his sketchbook and drew a charcoal picture of me.

I think that artists typically remember their birth into art. This was the beginning for me.

When Jake said he didn’t want to contribute to the noise anymore, it was although I had woken up even though I was already awake. Suddenly I saw noise everywhere. There was too much information out in the world and I became self-conscious.

That was my death.

A weed was planted that night and I’ve spent the last 5 years pulling them up. “Is what I’m creating worth being put out there?” sprung up from the corner of my beautifully cultivated garden. Soon thereafter, “Am I really contributing or just creating junk?”. I wasn’t quick enough to pull these weeds out. I was in deep trouble when the “Am I bothering people by putting my art in front of their faces?” arrived.

Soon the weeds overtook the garden, and although I plant new flowers occasionally, they’re dwarfed by self-consciousness. At 18 years old, I didn’t have the capacity to understand this. I only saw that I was ‘making noise’. That was my creative death.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/Ifit6xW8UCY?rel=0

39/365

 

 

Hiking at Waimano Valley / Day 22 of 365

Today I went out hiking with Sarah and Kevin at Waimano Valley!

It was a pretty quick 2 hour hike. The mountains were full of rain and clouds but the trees kept us dry. It was nice to have some cloud coverage; Hawaii has been really hot lately. There were 4 or 5 caves along the trail that were pretty cool to look at. They just went alongside the trail for about 100 feet each time. No idea why they exist.

Overall, it was a nice time to get away and spend some time with friends and the trees. No big fancy words today, just a few pictures. Hope you are all having a wonderful start to your week!

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Still Alive / Day 12 of 365

I’m happy to say that this transition away from social media has been with relative ease. That is to say, it’s been without drama. I’ve done week breaks here and there, I’ve even done a couple months off before – but there’s always been an anticipation to return. This time feels different; I don’t really feel like I’m missing out. I don’t even have the urge to go back.

I haven’t come to post words, though. Today I want to post a few pictures. I went out for a work “going-away” / “get together” last weekend. Despite the usual drag of going to work-related events, the boyfriend and I had a great time seeing everyone. Our office split up a few weeks ago, as people are moving away or moving to new offices, and it was nice to see everyone together in the same place. I didn’t get many photos, unfortunately, but here are the few that I did manage to snag:

 

Also, side-note, I’ve actually been carry my camera around with me somewhat often. In the past month, I’ve taken it out at least half a dozen times. I don’t think I’ve used my camera that much in the last 3 years. Woot, woot! More pictures to come!

I have to cut this post short though – it’s waaaaay past my bed time.

Again, as a reminder, I’m not posting daily for this project. The goal is to abstain from social media for 365 days and document my life and experiences as I slowly chug along. That being said, I hopefully will get another post out before the end of the weekend. Hopefully talking about some booooooooooooks. Annnnyyyyyways, long words mean I’m sleepy.

Goodnight y’all.

12 / 365

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!)

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.

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