3.18.2017

A Social Media Break, Cats in Hats, and the Importance of Being Here

I'm on a social media fast. It's for Lent, but honestly, this was a longtime coming.

I have a lot of reasons. Let's start with this one. Author and speaker Rob Bell has a great theory that we're getting an avalanche of information in our various feeds, most of which is completely unrelated to each other in both importance and relatability. Take my feed on any given day. Scrolling down my Facebook wall, I see:

(1) A pregnancy announcement from a woman I used to work with seven years ago
(2) What one of my best friends ate for breakfast
(3) An article on Trump's travel ban
(4) A cat wearing a sombrero

You see how all these things have nothing to do with each other and have varying levels of importance? I care about them all, but not to the same degree and certainly not in a way where my brain logically absorbs the information when laid out one right after the other. That's what Bell points out. We really weren't meant to communicate this way.

Even if you separate these posts out, still something doesn't work. For example, the natural selection of how our social circles used to work would have weeded the woman from #1 out of my life a long time ago. Not by any fault of hers or mine. I happen to find her delightful, but I can't say I've seen her in person in years. I wouldn't know anything going on with her if we weren't friends on Facebook. Something is just off about that, am I right?

Or let's look at #2. I still actively communicate with my dearest friends. However, do I really need to know what they eat? (And yes, I get the irony of this because I was a food blogger who used to have a Facebook album dedicated to my meals, but stay with me). It's an innocuous item of information from someone I love, but it's just not something I need to know.

Hopefully, you see my point. The way we get information these days is all over the place. That can't be healthy.

And let's not even dig too deep into what the election did for our social media connections. Again, I love my friends. But I had to unfollow (note: I didn't unfriend anyone, just removed their updates) at least 50% of my friends in the last year, because their outspoken political beliefs were raising my blood pressure. By inauguration day, my Facebook feed was down to five to six friends, a few family members, and most of my favorite sandwich shops. It's not that I wanted to silence people who think differently than me. It's that I could not read some of the idealistically optimistic (and at times, flat-out wrong) views of certain candidates without desperately wanting to engage in pointless arguments. I found myself reading Facebook, screaming at the screen, "How are you a college-educated person/woman/rational human being who really believes that?! Am I in the Twilight Zone?!"

Ultimately, it just wasn't fun any more. Makes you kinda missed those cat photo days.



All this aside, one of the biggest reasons for wanting to take a hiatus from social media was that I was disengaging from real life... on purpose. Rather than practice yoga or color with my toddler, I would be on Twitter sharing whatever random thoughts came into my head, secretly longing for that "like" or retweet (I'm legit embarrassed at how happy I got when a star from This Is Us thanked me for praising his work).

Why do I do these things? It's like I'm constantly trying to step back from reality. It's a bad habit I developed during my worst days with depression. I dive into activity that mentally takes me away from where I am. I mean, I believe that imagination is God-given. It helps us see more than what's in front of us. But when you use that gift excessively just because you can't deal with the unpleasantness of life, then you've got a problem. It's time to unplug. It's time to re-engage.

It's only been a few weeks, but I realized quickly how many different escape hatches I utilize. In no time, I found myself cutting even more out. Now I'm at the point where I cannot keep googling random questions that come to mind if they don't pertain to my present situation. When I'm sitting on the couch and suddenly wonder what the exact lyrics are to Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman," it's okay to just let that thought catch and release.

I'd love to tell you that during this season of unplugging, I've become an extraordinary human. I'm now the greatest, most attentive mom. I am the kindest wife who has totally gotten her sexy back. All my friends find me compelling and supportive. Life is a garden of puppies and double rainbows.

Yeah, not even.

Actually I struggle now more than I ever have. I'm painfully aware of even the slightest stressor or bump in the road. The Novocain has worn off and I feel everything! Throw on top of it all being pregnant so I see life through the lens of surging hormones. Truth is, I'm not terribly happy most of the time.

But I'm here. I mean, really here, for the first time in a while. I'm learning how not to hide. I confront bad attitudes and the beliefs that fuel them. And, best of all, I am intentional with my friendships. I call or text you directly when I'm genuinely thinking of you. I strive for real connection rather than liking a post about how you went to your cousin's wedding last weekend. I'm seeing the difference between those in the inner circle, those just outside of it, and truly wonderful people whose memories I need to cherish rather than clinging to current splices of a mediated life.

It's not pretty, but it's me.

The frank reality is that I'll post this blog and no one will read it because I haven't linked it to any social media accounts. So it's not like I can go off the grid completely. I'm a writer. I enjoy people reading my work. I'm chained to social media, for better or worse. But I can avoid letting it lessen my presence in my messy, but very beautiful life.

So, if you're reading this, which you probably aren't, finish these last few sentences, close your laptop, and go outside. Feel the sun on your face. Kiss someone you love. And as Jim Elliot says "Be all there." That's what I'm going to do.

~jennifer.

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