When I gave up the screen-feed, my life woke up.
I was addicted to the constant eavesdropping into the lives of people I loved, envied and loathed. My days were a series of mini-searches for something salacious, inspiring, engaging, endearing or so stupid I would feel righteous I hadn't been the one to post it.
The more entrenched I became in the networks of social media I swam in, the less I had anything valuable to contribute. I was so busy living in other people's pseudo-lives, I had stopped living my real one.
If I was writing an article and got to a difficult sentence, I would switch over to Facebook, hoping for "inspiration" that would spiral into my son and me watching two otters cuddling -- then I would give up on my writing for the day.
If I was trying to decide what to wear for a night out with my husband, I'd go on Instagram to get outfit ideas and would end up scrolling months back on the BestVacations feed -- then I would be late to meet him.
If I was chewing on what to make for dinner, I would go on Pinterest for crafty ideas and end up scrolling through different ways to braid my hair -- then I would order pizza.
Social media was sucking the creating, thriving, doing, discovering, becoming, and socializing out of my life, and my son began getting upset every time I would be on my phone. Wake-up call.
I gave it up cold turkey for 30 days and felt so empty in the beginning. I was struck by how stagnant and uninspired my life had become.
I was bored. My husband always says, "If you're bored, you're boring." And he's right. The numbing effect of social media made me boring.
I had to delete the social media apps on my phone and turn off the Internet on my laptop to stop from unconsciously tapping and swiping.
I also felt really lonely during the first two weeks of my FIPT (Facebook-Instagram-Pinterest-Twitter) withdrawals. Because I had relied on social media feeds to connect me with the world, I had stopped making a regular mental and physical (and spiritual) effort to see real-life people.
In my initial voyages back into face-to-face interactions, I was really inept at conversation with people over the age of 3. I had become conditioned to have ample time to carefully craft responses, and was left with "talker's block" while engaging in a real talk. Wine helped a little.
There was also an undercurrent of anxiety that I would miss something important -- an engagement, peace in the Middle East, maybe a meme that held the wisdom to transform my life. I felt cut off from reality, when in fact I was living more fully in reality.
After two weeks my loneliness, boredom, social ineptitude and anxiety began to wear off. It was replaced with productivity, sparks of original ideas, new friends, conversations free of blank, uncomfortable stares, a renewed connection with the physical world, and a happier toddler.
But, after my 30-day social media blackout, I became weary of hearing the phrases:
"Oh, did you hear about ______?!"
"I just saw the craziest thing on F/I/P/T."
"You should check out the ________ Facebook page. Mindblowing."
So I started setting a one-hour timer every day, and would digi-scroll as fast as my little thumb (and humming brain) would allow. At the end of the hour, I would shut it down and go smoke a cigarette. Just kidding, I don't smoke. But I would take a deep breath and go eat some chocolate.
Social media cramming is intense.
Lately, I've heard of many writers shunning their "smartphones" for their less distracting cousin, the "dumb phone." I may also decide to dumb down my technology. But my iPhone gives me insta-email, and I'm still deeply entwined in that.
Giving up the stream of everyone else's consciousness allowed me to step back into my own. Listening to the weird, confusing and pretty wonderful pattering of my own mind felt like discovering a long-lost home.
And with my new free time, I make vision boards for all my friends -- with magazines, scissors, glue and my own musings.