Defining My Relationship with Social Media
My anxiety has been high, and for what reasons that are worth all the nail-biting? There are some, but probably fewer than what it feels like. The world is a nut job right now, and yes, neighborhood crime seems to be creeping closer to our house, and sure, we juggle all the things like every darn person juggles all the things. But these nerves? They can’t be completely realistic.
“Put yuh phone down, mama,” my two year old pleaded recently just half a second before my heart shattered into a hundred shameful pieces. Something in my life has needed to be taken out behind the woodshed and given a stern talking to. Here’s what that’s about . . .
In the personality typing world, I have consistently tested as an Enneagram Seven (the Enthusiast), despite my doubtful retesting every six months. For me, this accounts for the years I have thrown all my eggs into the baskets of acquiring new experiences and keeping things rather playful. A “joyful determination” is what the interwebz says we sevens possess. Oh, but also possessed is a deep fear that we will never really find what we want in life, which is fun. This worry, coupled with the chief motivation of avoiding an in-correctable emotional pain, can make for quite the busy bee who packs her shifting environment with ideas and options that will hopefully prevent her from ever, ever, ever being trapped. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? I’m working on it (shout out to grief, meditation, and staying put–you guys are the real MVP right now).
It’s important for you to know this first before I talk about Twitter, and Facebook, and beautiful Instagram (Snapchat, who? What is Venmo? Is it Social Media? Tell me now . . . ). It’s important because I think that it exposes some of the incentives for the scrolling that is wearing me slap-dab out. The scrolling that has needed a DTR for a minute.
I love and hate that I live during the era of Social Media. I love it because it keeps me up-to-date, informed, and in touch with inspiring people across the globe. I hate it because it makes me feel like I can never fully catch up, like I’m frequently missing out and therefore overwhelmed, and like I’m obligated to have and press a fleeting-yet-crucial-text-opinion about every global occurrence (for which, by the way, I’m never doing quite enough). But it’s there, and I continue to dance with it all because if I didn’t, then I might have to forego the constantly stimulating distractions for my own hiddenly anxious heart. Or I might miss out on a connection, an occurrence, or an opportunity to self-confirm my faithfulness as a human or as a Christian in a limited assortment of characters.
The catch is rough, though. It is only making me more anxious. And I believe that it’s often also causing me to miss connections and occurrences and opportunities for faithfulness within my actual, extra-digital life.
So I pulled Social Media to the side the other day–who, by the way was super hard to pin down for a conversation because she is scattered as hell–and I said, “Hey, can we talk?”
And she said something about horrendous injustices and a GIF about Oprah and then she made sure a post of mine was retweeted by a celebrity who made me blush. Still, I pressed, “I like you a lot, but I think I’m using you for some odd reasons–pseudo relationships and actions and ego validation and such. Can we take a step back?” At this moment, her eyes widened and she launched into a spiel about platforms and something pertaining to the things I would miss out on regarding writing and activism and friendships if I did what I was suggesting.
“Don’t I give you all of this,” she pushed with sincerity.
“Yes, but my son. And my real life. And the nervous and unrealistic drive that churns in my subconscious to keep up with the people and their happenings. And my bruised relationships that may or may not have been worth the fist-bumps I’ve had with the like-minded. And my time, Good Lord my time.”
“Fine,” she spit, not needing me, “I’ve got to go stir up a conversation that you now won’t be a part of anyway . . . ”
Resolved, this week I started a new personal campaign called #socialmediaonlyinthemornings and #disconnectingtoconnect (funny that they’re hashtags, no?) which looked like building a (temporary? maybe not) fence around when I consume and contribute online. At first, I limited it to the mornings in those 30ish minutes before I write which are in the 60ish minutes before the rest of my day starts. But then I realized this fact: I have nothing to say at 6am. So I’m giving myself a little more room and shifting to #socialmediaonceaday , trying to pick one time a day when I’m not with in-the-flesh folks to peak in on the rest of the world.
And here is what I’ve experienced so far: I am perusing more informed and less opinionated news sources throughout the day, my battery isn’t dead by the time I start cooking supper, I’ve almost finished reading a book just in the minutes of waiting that I used to fill up with *liking,* and I can already imagine how this could offer some salve to my anxious chest. But most importantly, I think it’s reminding me of this general reality: the world–including mine–goes on just fine without me ingesting everyone’s commentary about it 24/7. What a relief.
Now granted, what I’ve also found is that I have quite the addiction to my phone. And at several points, I have gotten six posts in before I sober up and say what am I doing!? before closing out the app again. I also notice a drop in hour-by-hour stimulation without it where I’m taping feet and fingers wondering if I’m supposed to be doing something right now. But I hear habits are broken in three week’s time. Hopefully I’ll get to see if that’s true.
Nevertheless, it’s made me feel energized, like I could get out in my real world and take someone some cookies, or go play with my kid in his water table, or take notes in a notebook instead of in an app, or serve in our neighborhood food pantry, or send snail-mail because it’s special, or write an actual letter to my Senator (jk with this one, resistbot forever). You see what I’m saying though? My vision’s feels like it can be less blurry when I’m not living in the screen; and thank God, because there’s a lot of substantial stuff swirling around me at any given moment of the day.
Shauna Niequist (a fellow 7), in an interview with Jen Hatmaker on her “For the Love” Podcast, recently said this about the best advice she had ever received: “Well, this is not necessarily advice, but a quote and I believe it’s E.M. Forster, a novelist, from ages ago but there was a quote that just captured me so much and it said, ‘Only Connect.'”
This has stuck with me, especially as it pertains to maintaining an online presence. If it is not helping us connect, what are we doing?
So you may not share in my same unhealthy avoidance motives or my fears of missing out when it comes to consuming or contributing. But–not considering our generally healthy desires to share and relate–you may find that you scroll in order to know all the things, or to press your ever-right and enlightened agenda, or to feel the safest you can feel, or to be seen and heard and liked, or to invest in your uniqueness, or to challenge the imbeciles, or to infuse the world with feel-good puppy videos that you hope will cushion disparity, or to be the one to solve all the problems, or to build your frustratingly brief brand. It would be my guess that these efforts are adding to the exact opposite.
Who knows. But whatever the case, I stand by this: We are here to connect. Social Media is a tool of which we are in control. If it is not working for us, we have the power to sit its frazzled self down and give it some guidelines that might add to the goodness of our honest-to-God lives.
If you find yourself trying out any experiments in disconnecting to connect, please share them with me! Better yet, send me a letter about it: 403 Dalzell St., Shreveport, LA 71104.