Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What Happens When You Take A Social Media Break (Pt 1)

Hey, there. My hiatus is up.

And I have so many thoughts.

If you're wondering if 2 weeks without social media and blogs makes your head clearer - it doesn't. Not if you're like me, anyway. It removed some of the most unnecessary noise, for sure, but all that did was make room for my brain to shout more loudly.

I found myself mentally exhausted every single day. There's so much to process when you're not numbing your brain with delicious, cozy, effortless social media.

My daily tasks were completed more efficiently, and I was taking in a lot less negative influence. I also felt a lot less guilt because I didn't have to navigate around doing things I was asked to do. (I don't have a problem saying no, but that doesn't mean I don't feel bad when I do.) But no one was asking me much of anything over these two weeks. That was nice.

My thoughts would get poured into novel-length emails to a friend before the sun rose every morning. I'd made a habit of grabbing a giant mug of black coffee and sitting in my dimly lit office, illuminated only by my computer screen and a string of twinkle lights, and I'd tell her all my thoughts, recaps of my wild dreams, my struggles, my plans for the day, and how I felt about this interesting experience. She'd decided to join me on my unplugged journey, which was wonderful and amazing and I'm so grateful she did that. She did it for herself, naturally, but feeling like you're walking a different path with a friend along for the ride turns it into an adventure.

Those early morning emails became our journals. It was a daily processing of information that filled the void of blogging and of digesting what everyone else was doing. It helped us look inward while still being part of a community. A community of 2, but it was all we needed for this quiet, personal work.

Guys, I have so much to report. I don't even know how to organize it all or how to share it. I'm up to my eyeballs in worldly, social observations.

The first, I guess, is to share that taking this break garnered a very interesting reaction. If I didn't have my Matilda Jane business to run, I don't think I ever would have mentioned that I was taking a break. I just would have taken it. I plastered my plan everywhere, though, so that my customers would understand I was taking a proactive mental health break and not just being a crappy trunk keeper. I didn't want them to be disappointed, or held up waiting on anything, and so I shared my plan.

Doing this, however, sparked a lot of interest. I had people email me and text me on the day of my announcement to ask me if everything was okay. While this was sweet and touching and reminded me of the big hearts in the people I've collected as friends over the years, it also made me aware of a social behavior. When someone has grown up with the internet and spent a fair amount of time there, taking a break is just not normal. And if you do it, there must be something really wrong.

Maybe not everyone thought this....but many people did. Their concern spawned genuine conversations and I'm grateful for them. It was just not a reaction I was expecting. I didn't realize I'd be sending up any red flags...I just wanted to not be ruled by notifications from Facebook and dings from texts coming in at 1am.

I am not a flamboyantly dramatic person. I just had too much noise in my life.

I had a handful of people either tell me that I was brave, or that they're can't wait to take a break like mine. It's interesting how just a tiny deviation from what's normal can be seen as brave - but it is, because it's hard to do! It's hard to not pop over to Instagram when a random wonder crosses your awareness. It's hard not to click over when Facebook emails you and tells you that you have 98 notifications waiting for you. It's hard not to spontaneously text a friend when you stop at Home Goods with all your extra time and are disappointed by the lack of Rae Dunn there is to find. It's hard not to take an Instagram story of your kids being cute in the apple orchard for the year's first fall outing. I didn't even want to put my apps into the "don't touch it" folder because it was going to mess up the arrangement of my apps and I was actually going to have to look for things instead instinctively knowing where they were. Even that little change was daunting! It's hard to stop deeply ingrained impulses that we've been programming into our psyches for years and years.

And yet, it was all blissfully, beautifully quiet.

I have so much to say. So, so much to say. And I'm a bit torn on how to say it. I need to share my blog's community survey results with you so that you can understand my conflict. Some of you love to hear about this sort of thing, but most of you don't. You're here for the clothes and the impulsive Target one spot pieces that I sprinkle around my house. I love those things, too! I love that you love them and that you come here to see them. I just don't want to bore you to into a coma with the tales of my social-media-free adventure.

While I work out exactly how I'd like to share the rest of my story, I'll leave you with a list of things that stood out to me, made me happy, and really made this trial adventure something special.

  • Our sick cat has made a miraculous recovery. He is not healed, but he is wildly improved and no longer scaring the crap out of us. We had a tearful evening at the start of my hiatus that involved us saying goodbye to him as a family, and since then we've had 2 weeks of improvement and blessed extra time with him that is nothing short of a miracle. This situation also brought us all closer together, and helped Matt and I learn more about the true nature of our children. (I didn't think we could love them more, but we do!)

  • With my eyes not trained on my phone, I made a point to smile at more strangers. When faced with the decision to acknowledge people and not, I usually chose not to because I'm a private person and didn't want to invite any unnecessary socializing. (I know that sounds terrible, but as a textbook introvert, every interaction drains the battery a bit more. I need to save lots and lots of battery life for my kids.) I made the decision to acknowledge people instead so I handed out smiles like I never have before, and I had the privilege of watching some people with scowls or RBF transform their faces into a lustrous return grin. I felt it right in the heart chakra every time.

  • On the first day of my hiatus, I received a sweet email from a wonderful blog reader that I truly treasure! It even had a book recommendation in it (be still my bookish heart) that immediately made it onto my GoodReads list. It was unexpected, and kind, and sweet, and I adored it. You know who you are - thank you :)

  • I spent a full 3 hours writing in a Starbucks one day on my break, and for once, it wasn't for my blog! I got to write for fun, and to play with a story that had been floating around my head, and I loved every second of it. I loved the people watching, too, and I made friends with a sweet old man who needed help with his phone. When he left he said, "you have a great day now, and an even better one tomorrow." I adored his little catch phrase and the sincerity of it, and I will carry it with me always.

  • Maybe it was the fact that social media had actually left me enough social energy to interact with actual humans, but I gathered the social courage to make amends with someone that I felt mom shamed me recently. I found a time to talk to her privately, and not only was it a great conversation, but I've run into her a couple times since, and she's more friendly with me than ever before.

  • My daily emails with my friend who unplugged with me were my favorite. Though it was electronic, it felt like opening a handcrafted letter from the mail every day. There's more time and thought and consideration in an email than anywhere else on the internet (except for maybe blogs, but these are not single-person-focused the way an email is). They were like little gifts every day, and the most exciting thing in my inbox.

  • I got through SO many podcasts, and they felt cosmically aligned. One of the few apps I allowed myself during the break was the podcast app, but I only used it while doing mindless or daunting chores. The interesting thing was, most of the podcasts that played (and I was playing them in order, not picking and choosing) were centered around social media, technology, and mindfulness. It was like I was being given research and data to support what I was doing without even having to seek it out. I was so aware and connected during this time, too, that something would pop up, and the very next podcast would discuss it. For example, our oldest son is really struggling with homework. He whines and moans through it the entire time, and we've tried explaining to him that whining makes it harder and take longer. I put on my podcasts while I was making dinner that evening, and it was one by Stuff To Blow Your Mind about the science of whining! They even discussed a study where people tried to complete math problems while listening to one of six sounds, one being whining, and it was shown to slow people down the most and cause them to create the most errors. TWICE as many as people listening to the sound of a saw!! I had our son listen to that part of the podcast, and it helped! It was weird how aligned things were!

Now that I'm back, I have some major changes to implement. I'm going to work on that today while I prepare for the next Matilda Jane release and try to get my post-hiatus life in order. I'll be back with more this week, and in the mean time, if you haven't filled out my blog community survey, I'd love it if you did. The data is helping me make a big decision that I will share next time. Thank you!!

I've missed you!

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1 comment:

  1. Welcome back! You did it. You took a break, and everyone else in your life survived. Sounds like it was thought provoking and was just what you needed.