I’m writing after almost a week of a light social media fast/vacation that I started in order to focus more on the spiritual aspect of this holiday season. I started on the 17th or 18th, and I intend to go til after the new year (if I can make it). If you’re wondering, I got the idea from Galina Krasskova.
I started recording my thoughts after only 4 days, and at that point, I think I was still in more of a “purge” part of the process. I feel like my thoughts were a little disorganized but I’m hoping they have been straightened out enough to share here, because I feel like there were some interesting observations about the place of technology in modern Life.
I say a ‘light’ fast because I am still using YouTube in the next few weeks, but I am going to try to keep the videos I watch to only spiritual subjects, or listening to music, as much as possible. The more hardcore version of this social media fast is actually shorter, from sundown Friday to sunup Monday, and it involves no phone whatever, not even texting (emergencies, of course, would be allowed. But if it was a true emergency, wouldn’t your loved one just call, instead of text?) That’s something I’m going to work my way up to at some point. That sounds extremely difficult, especially in our world where we want to be connected all the time. But the point is to cultivate connection with the Gods instead. I don’t know when I’ll try that one.
I logged out of Facebook and Instagram on my phone. The Reddit app was a little trickier, I am not the most technologically savvy person and I could not figure out how to log out. After playing with it for a while I was able to turn off all the notifications, so it won’t interrupt me and send me down a rabbit hole. There! Done.
So, after almost a week, how has it gone? I expected the less noise part of this endeavor – that was the goal. I also expected that it would be an adjustment, and I knew it would be hard. It’s a habit I am consciously trying to break, after all. I did not expect just now INTENSE the craving would be. Trying to force yourself to go without social media for a significant amount of time will make you realize that it *IS* an addiction – and what’s even more interesting, is that I never owned a smartphone until I was 29, and a friend bought one for me. These changes in my brain have taken place after only 3 short years. Now my phone is a fantastic tool, and honestly really DOES help me stay far more organized than I was before. I do value that, and it does help my life, it does help me be productive. But it can also be a distraction, not just from the Gods and sacred things but also from mindfulness of the precious moments as we are living them.
Sometimes I log into Facebook without thinking, out of habit, and have to force myself to log out. When there are small moments of nothing in my day to fill, when I would normally be scrolling, I have to find something else to do. When I need a break from too much peopleing at work (an empath in retail during holiday season is so much fun!!! *Sarcasm*), and I have to hide in the bathroom for 5 minutes or so, I have been meditating (with or without one of the stones I carry in my pockets) instead of scrolling. It made me realize that although I often crave (there is no other appropriate word for it than ‘crave’) the dopamine hit of “logging in” and scrolling feeds and seeing what is going on in the world, I am often more stressed out by it than anything else. I already avoid most news sources because my desire to be well-informed is at odds with wanting to stay sane. But stuff still filters through, of course, in the things that friends post that then shows up on my feed, or even certain political ads that play between YouTube videos. I have several friends who post articles about animal abuse, and while that’s important, seeing what some sicko did to an innocent dog or cat can ruin my whole day, especially if there are pictures. That’s the normal stuff. This time of year, seeing all the Christmas family togetherness stuff is difficult. My birth family was extremely abusive and I have very bad memories attached to the day of Christmas itself, although I have a found family of friends that I have chosen that make it more bearable.
Of course, working retail makes it even harder to disengage from the commercialized aspect of Christmas, and that’s much more complicated than just choosing to log out of social media. I still feel “poverty shame” – I feel badly that I didn’t buy extragent enough gifts for those I love this year. It’s better than last year – last year I bought a present for my SO and I gave Christmas cards. But that was it. I didn’t even have a tree. My holidays are usually sad and depressing. This year I have a tree, for the first time I can remember in maybe a decade, and I decorated my place, however meagerly. Dumping social media for a while helps. It means the comparison of my holiday to everyone else’s doesn’t follow me everywhere and for the most part I can leave it behind at work.
Without having that depressing competition factor to the holidays, or just the numbing out of time-wasting, I have been spending my extra “down time” mediating, reading, thinking about the Gods, planning my next projects, or *gasp* TALKING to my coworkers and engaging with other humans ((scandalous! Is that allowed??)). Okay, I’ll admit there is some time-wasting : ended up downloading two games to play, a mahjong and a block game. The brain does need some break from serious subjects, but the game gets boring about a while, where social media has a more endless quality (at least for me).
I have not written anything in months, really, other than the odd poem or two. That’s not to say that I have been entirely uncreative – I have put a lot of energy into my YouTube channel, and even more than that, I’m happy to report that I am painting again, after years of not doing it. Money issues, depression, criticism from an ex ringing in my ears, all of that took a toll on much of my art for several long years. The last 3 months since I moved I have been experiencing a resurgence of inspiration and motivation to paint, AND a friend gifted me a box of canvases and an easel, while my sister-in-law gave me a box of paints, so I took that as a sign to get going again. And I am very happy to be creating art. I feel like I have lost some of my skill, that I used to be better. Skills rust if you don’t use them. But, I am where I am and mourning for lost hours and years won’t magically get them back. So, I paint. I do. I create. (That’s the Leo motto, actually: “I Create”. It’s vital and integral to my soul.) I am painting for myself and the Gods, and not worrying about anyone else’s opinion.
I had thought that the reason I wasn’t writing was that maybe verbal and visual art were opposed somehow, that I could only activate and inspire one side of my brain at once. Yet, here I am, and after three days without social media and I had started this essay about the experience! You could argue about it’s quality, sure. But without social media numbing me into apathy, I finally wrote -SOMETHING-. I’m considering figuring out a way to regulate my social media intake in my day to day life. We will see how I feel after the new year, since I am aiming for two weeks of this thing. I admit it, I’ve broken a couple times already. A few times I opened my Reddit app and scrolled through my main page, and just an hour ago logged into Facebook again. Bad habits. I repreminded myself after a couple minutes and logged back out. If I ever do the hardcore no-phone-whatsoever Version of this, that’s going to be HARD. I will probably fail at a couple of attempts first. But I feel like I will have to do that at some point. Even though I haven’t stopped social media completely for the two weeks, I don’t feel like these trip-ups make this experiment a failure. This was always meant as a “light” fast, and it’s done what it was supposed to – reduced the amount of noise in my life, turned my attention towards what really matters, and already increased my creativity.
I’d call that a resounding success!