Much like severing an artery

June 1, 2017   ·   0 Comments

A few weeks ago I wrote about how social media seems to have taken over our lives. I mentioned at the end that I would be attempting a hiatus from having such a deep connection to it to see what would happen.

It wasn’t a big thing – for three weeks, I had no access to Facebook or Twitter on my phone. I only used Instagram to update photos, rather than to scroll. The time with it disconnected was surprisingly freeing.

At first, it felt a little strange, not being in the know every minute of the day. By day three, however, I found my need to check my phone had died down. Bed time became when I went to bed instead of 45 minutes later, following that curse of endless scrolling. It also started making me less inclined to get into pointless arguments when I was on Facebook, something I’m sure my husband was happy with, as he no longer had to put up with my frustrated rants.

My creativity also began to return, and I found myself having more time for evening projects than I normally do.

Despite the positives I encountered from stepping away, I experienced a growing sense of disconnect from the people and world I live in. That feeling of severing myself from people didn’t come from not seeing my newsfeed or not knowing what was going on with friends directly on my list. Rather, it was the disconnect I felt from not checking in on the many communities I am a part of online.

Along with several support groups for some of my medical conditions, there are many I am a part of where the people there have become a close circle of friends for me.

In those few weeks, the times I was online felt overwhelming, trying to catch up with the hundreds of posts, comments, pictures, debates, and links shared. There was so much missed that when I did set aside time specifically for Facebook, it was simply too much for me really try to catch up on. It also limited my ability to engage in these groups, as my time online was spent simply trying to take it all in.

At times, I would discover nearly a day later a request someone had made for help or advice, or their attempt to reach out during a devastating situation.

Although my experience certainly does not speak for every person, for someone whose deepest connections have been with people online, severing that tie is much like severing an artery.

I know many people who have never understood this. For them, the idea that the people closest to you are merely screen-names on a computer is something they cannot fathom. For those of us who aren’t very good at making connections with people around us – at making connections with people who don’t understand us – the internet creates a space to find others like ourselves.

Social media has provided a far easier medium for this – rather than having to venture into the depths of chat rooms, message boards, or fan-sites, it cultivates a spirit of community where you can find just about anyone.

Cutting myself off from Facebook wasn’t working in my best interest. There were certainly positives to it, but ultimately, it didn’t have an overwhelming, life-changing impact on me. What it did was reiterate the need for clear boundaries between myself and my devices.

While everyone reading this may not understand my link to community through things like Facebook, I believe everyone needs to have some kind of line drawn between what is and isn’t too much for themselves.

As I wrote in last week’s column on perfection, social media can be an amazing tool. It can bring people together and allow us to share our lives with friends and relatives who we are unable to see frequently. It can open up job opportunities, link people together under a single cause, or create inspiration for any number of things.

But, like everything else in this world, there is such a thing as too much. Being connected all the time can be beneficial. It means when a friend is in need, or a last-minute event happens, you can be in the know.

We have to be willing to draw those lines where it makes the most sense for each of us. There is no real need for me to check Facebook before bed, or during dinner, or when I’m supposed to be writing an article or doing laundry. The real world around me is busy enough that in the five minutes I’m waiting for my coffee, it’s not necessary to know what is going on in my newsfeed.

Most importantly, even though those connections online are important and are a real part of some of our lives, we need to remember that taking a break for our own sake is okay. Being inundated with bad news, or with everyone’s good news when things are bad for you can drag us down.

It’s okay to disconnect for a while, leave your phone in another room, and focus on simply being in your present.

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