August 9, 2020

Mindfulness 101: 3 Steps to Reclaim our Lives from Social Media.

This isn’t the first time I have felt compelled to uninstall that colorful little square from my iPhone.

There is actually nothing more maddening than to realize that our willful subjugation to a near-constant stream of bombarded information might actually be the root cause of the persistent anxiety we all experience in trying to keep up with the impossibly curated and artfully articulated lives of those we follow—a deeply troubling and yet all-too-prescient scenario that burnout or exhaustion inevitably follows.

There are many benefits to our ever-connected technological lives, for sure, but lately, I have found myself arriving at the conclusion that it is a rare privilege to be companionable and familiar with someone, and to have 24/7 access to one’s every mood, whim, and movement, as detailed on social media, deflates any illusion of mystery or intrigue—that which I find to draw me to individuals in the first place.

This is also why I adore abstract works of art; they appeal to our mind’s ability to fill in the missing pieces of what isn’t actually there, playing on our inherent and shared creative desire to conceive and imagine a reality that exists uniquely within our mind’s eye.

When Instagram was first developed, it was purely an artistic device to share that which inspires—a vase of flowers in the right light, perhaps, or a cleverly captured pattern of waves rippling across a surface of water. Little snapshots of daily life, shared without overthinking, and without unnecessary arrangement or posturing to enforce their impact. It is without regret that I reminisce about the past account I deleted in a time of mingled frustrations, fed up with the constant stream of too-curated content and self-branding that our generation has taken to the absolute extreme.

Is it not enough to remain in anonymity forever, creating for our heart’s desire alone? Does it really matter how many followers we manage to amass if our real lives pale in frail and wanton comparison?

True liberation is found when I realize I am completely okay without sharing every meal I am eating or a moody and filtered throwback picture that perfectly encapsulates a #mood. I much prefer getting lost in the real moments of my life. Lately, all it takes to remain truly present is to simply think to myself how grateful I am to enjoy such a graciously prepared meal, not necessarily needing to take a picture of my plate and share it with the world.

How severely these social applications/extensions of expectation are affecting us remains to be fully understood. I am quite certain there are at least several developmental psychologists who are currently engaged in rigorous testing and studies to better help us navigate a responsible amount of time with technological engagement moving forward, fortunately, however, I am wise enough to know myself—when “IG” becomes a problem veering toward addiction, I know when to get off of it and recalibrate myself.

Real life is far more delicious and interesting compared to the tunnel-vision of endlessly scrolling through a seemingly infinite cache of inspiring imagery. Yes, I do sometimes miss the messaging and connection found on there with my genuine friends, but making a pact with myself to call said friends and see them in real life has me looking forward to days spent savoring each and every moment of this precious life.

There were times when I would spend close to an hour finessing the caption of a photo that felt forced to begin with, battling the voice inside my head warning me of what others may think. Now, I enjoy extra hours of real creative enjoyment.

There are so many parts of my life that I enjoy keeping to myself, it doesn’t matter at all whether anyone else “likes” them or wishes to provide commentary. Perhaps I will return to social media someday, with a renewed perspective or more mindful attitude, but for now, it’s not worth obsessing about what happens on Instagram anymore. In fact, I hope this inspires someone else to take the leap—may we all be brave enough to hop off our devices from time to time, and rediscover the things that truly make our hearts feel full.

The benefits of a life “offline” are truly endless when we consider the implications of heightened anxiety in our lives, needless comparison with others, competing with curated web feeds versus integrity embodied in real life—these are just a few examples of how the shadow side of social platforms can twist even the most well-intentioned person into a shell of themselves.

Humans are not brands, and corporations are not people, no matter what the constitution says. There is never an appropriate time to appropriate ourselves for the sake of a sale, even if the glorified influencer-dom makes that seem okay.

If it all seems like chaos now—the amount of pressure we are putting on ourselves, curating an identity in alignment with what we hope to project to the world—that’s because it is.

I suggest:

>> Spend a day away from the tunnel-vision that is social media and realize the addictiveness that it is.

>> Enjoy a week away from all social feeds and realize how many possibilities exist in life offline—instead of 14 hours of our life spent with our nose glued to a screen (the average person spends at least two hours a day on social media), we could add more exercise, time in nature, learn new recipes or languages, maybe read exciting books (or write them).

>> Finally, after a month away from it all, we might think it sounds crazier to come back than it did to ever leave in the first place.



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