I remember a time before social media, or at least before it was hugely popular, where I didn’t feel all over the place. I could sit and read a book for 6 hours and not notice the time. I could lay in the sun without needing a distraction for my brain to keep me still and content. I could spend one on one time with friends and never think about reaching for my phone – because it was only used to text friends… and those friends were right in front of me. I didn’t feel the need to take pictures of anything unless I wanted the photo just for me, for my memories. I remember a time where I didn’t feel so connected to the world for 14 out of every 24 hours a day that I was too mentally exhausted to want to be social. I remember when being social was natural, not forced as it often can feel now. I remember a time where I didn’t question what I was doing based off of what I saw others doing. I remember being creative.
My screens have connected me to the outside world so much that it takes an unnatural amount of effort to connect to myself and to real life friends. I’m so connected to everyone and everything with the touch of my finger, that I so rarely feel the need to be face to face with friends. I’m so conditioned to interacting with screens, that I’ve lost so much of my natural instincts for interacting with real life humans. I have so much information about what everyone else is doing and creating, that I’ve lost my own sense of creativity, my own desires to follow my own dreams, because I’ve lost what my dreams are. I lost who I was because I was so busy taking in who millions of other people were, that I slowly became a composition of them instead of myself, never really feeling at home, never really knowing what I actually wanted.
For about 6 months or so, I’ve felt the pull to disconnect. To delete social media apps, to turn my phone off and only use it when necessary or for limited periods of time. For most of that time, I rejected the pull. I argued that I liked being so connected, while ignoring the knowing that I would never receive the answers to the questions I had been long asking until I did it. Questions like,
“What do I even want to do?”
“What do I even really enjoy anymore? Why do I so rarely find joy in the things I do? I’m not depressed, I just don’t seem to like these things.”
“What kind of mother do I want to be? How do I raise my children to be strong, resilient and sure of themselves?”
“How do I want to change so that I can be better for them? What keeps holding me back?”
“What’s keeping me stuck where I am? Why can’t I get past xyz no matter how much I want to, no matter how much work I seem to be putting in to it?”
“What do I even believe in anymore? If I reject most of the classic church teachings, but appreciate and love the church I go to, even when I disagree with them, what does that make me? Who does that make me? What does that mean I believe? Is there even a name for it? And what do I teach my kids? Listen to the church, but also not really because sometimes I think they get it wrong… not that God is wrong, but that we’re humans and we’re fallible, and we’re never going to get it totally right… so just do your best, but don’t take it as 100% truth 100% of the time? No.. that’s too much for them to process.”
And so many more.
For months I continued to grapple with myself, not really sure why I was so resistant, why I was so afraid to accept what I was being told and sit with the silence. Why I was so afraid to sit with the discomfort and create the space I needed to hear the answers to my never ending questions, and then a new series started at church called, Perpetual Cycles of Distraction. And it felt like I was being yelled at. It felt like, ‘If you won’t listen to me, no matter how deeply in your soul you’re feeling my direction, then maybe you’ll listen to this. Maybe you’ll finally listen to me.’
And I knew I had to do it. I knew I had to silence the noise. Silence the distraction. Silence the millions of people that crowded my everyday thoughts and decisions, and sit with myself and learn how to listen to myself and to God again.
I’m very good at ignoring when I’m being pulled in directions that are unknown. I’m good at choosing to stay where I am because it’s familiar and predictable. I’m good at being okay with the dissatisfaction that comes from staying where you’re not meant to be because it’s less scary than going somewhere unpredictable and foreign. Disconnecting from social media/tv/the internet is not scary, but the place it would lead me to was. For all of the work I’ve done to heal my relationship with myself and my body, the work that has forced me to deal with my past and learn how to feel my emotions and process them, I still avoided the quiet. I still avoided being left with myself for extended periods of time because I was still afraid of where that might take me. Afraid that there was more darkness, worse than before, that was waiting to be confronted. I was also afraid that I wouldn’t like who I turned out to be, that I’d discover that I was in the exact wrong place and doing the wrong things.
So I’m here, in this space of uncertainty. It wasn’t long before I started receiving answers to questions. It wasn’t long before more memories came up, things I’d long forgotten and needed to come to peace with. It wasn’t long before I did find peace and acceptance. It wasn’t long before I started feeling massive waves of relief in my brain for the chance to slow things down and truly rest – not necessarily physically, but mentally. It wasn’t long before I started remembering what does bring me joy. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was okay to stay uncertain. I was okay to not know everything and to not be able to anticipate what will come next. I was okay with things changing, that what was true today, could change tomorrow.
It’s easier now, to notice the addictive qualities of the internet. But it’s also easier to see the difference in myself when I’m connected and when I’m not, and I prefer the brain space that comes with not. There’s more clarity, more ease with hearing myself and my God. There’s more connection with the people in front of my face.
I don’t want my children growing up with screens in their faces. I don’t want my phone always pointing that them for pictures for the internet. I don’t want my children accustomed to being on a device 14 out of every 24 hours a day. I don’t want them to have to compete with a device for my attention and I don’t want to compete with a device for theirs. I want them to play and interact with real humans and I want them to retain their natural ability to connect with humans in real life, instead of losing it to technology.
There’s a time and a place for technology. I’m writing here, to you, on the internet. There are thoughtful pieces, funny pieces, informative pieces, and useful things to read on the internet. I use my website and other food sites for recipes multiple times a week. I read articles everyday. Our devices are how we are able to speak to friends/family that live in different places or that we simply haven’t seen in a while because we haven’t been able to. I think it’s useful and important to have these resources at our disposal, but I also think we’ve taken it too far and continue to take it too far, and for me and my family, it ends now.