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Unintentional Social (Media) Experiment

Maybe you like malls? The one-stop shopping, the embedded food court, and all the people watching? For me, after high school, if I ever wanted to feel wildly overwhelmed, the mall was the perfect spot for me. I might step into one every December looking for a gift, but other than that, I steer clear. The numerous people bent over, looking at their phones walking semi-aimlessly from store to store. The overpowering smell of Cinnabon and those roasted nut companies, bath bombs, Ax Body Spray, and people doing their job peddling unnecessary products from center-aisle kiosks.

Around December, that’s how social media started to feel for me. I felt like I was walking through a mall and everyone was shouting at me to remember this mantra, to do this cold plunge, or remember this sentiment. I found myself lamenting, “I just want to see people sharing what’s cool in their lives!” So here I am ironically (or hypocritically) sharing my experience when I decided to take an unannounced break.

My longing for connection and community kept me wanting to stay in the social-media loop. My stronger longing for some stillness and quiet took precedence heading into January.

We live in some strange times. The very tool that’s helped me connect with so many new people, so many vibrant communities is also the tool that contributes to anxiety-inducing, ego-feeding behaviors like comparison, distraction, and disassociation.

I have no ground-breaking growth or insights to offer. Just a few observations that feel nice to share:

  • It freed up time.

I spent less time on my screen (and slightly embarrassingly, less time in the bathroom.) I substituted the time with more Bullet Journaling, using audible credits, and finding new music.

  • My soul’s voice had less competition.

I felt like I was able to listen to, and discern what I wanted to gain from every situation. In other words, I felt much more present. I wasn’t doing things based on what I could post, or share. It was all for me. I even took way fewer photos and saw the world through my eyes and not my screen’s.

  • I felt disconnected.

This has two sides to the same coin. Going into the woods or climbing a mountain peak in solitude is my idea of a recharge. A break from social media felt similar. I also have so many people I care about, and I no longer knew what was going on in their lives. Social media has become the main way we broadcast what’s happening in our lives and there is something nice about knowing what people are up to. I even missed a UMC men’s circle date and one of my friend Taylor’s Drum Circles because I wasn’t aware of the date that was clearly posted there.

  • I re-pattered a compulsion.

The only way I’ve found to rewire myself out of a bad habit is to bring awareness to it and substitute the undesired behavior for a preferred one. When I was turning on my phone to look at text messages or an email, I noticed I was unconsciously clicking on social media. It reminded me of waiting for something to come in the mail and checking the mailbox every 10.2 minutes until the thing showed up. Deliberately going off social media helped reset my relationship with my phone. My screen time dropped nearly two hours a day. Not that I was spending that much time on social media, but checking social media inevitably led me to do other things on my phone. It’s a little like going to the grocery store for milk (almond variety) and coming back with 19 non-essentials.

  • I notice I still experience scarcity.

I want my coaching business to thrive, and it somehow feels necessary to stay on social media to make that grow. But it also feels inauthentic. I’ve asked myself almost daily if I trust that there is a place where I can simultaneously follow what my heart wants and let go of what my heart doesn’t.

  • And the grand lesson: The power of tools.

Fire is both potent and dangerous all at once. Left uncontrolled, it can burn down houses and millions of forest acreage. Harnessed, it heats homes, cooks our food, brings light to the world, ignites gasoline in our cars. Many of the world’s most potent tools have the same capability. Misused or unbridled, they can cause massive destruction. Harnessed, they become potent for our growth and expansion. The power is in the wielder, not the tool. So my next step becomes, how do I continue to master my relationship with social media, and not let it ever become the master of me.

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