September 8, 2013

The Relative Merits & Discomforts of a Social Media Fast. ~ Carrie Bloomston

My Great #Unplug of 2013

I unplugged from all social media for exactly one month, after being inspired by an article in Fast Company by Baratunde Thurston. Thurston describes himself as “the world’s most connected man.” I am so not, but I am managing a family and wearing a lot of hats, including social media marketing for my little creativity brand.

The most ironic thing is to broadcast the contents of my #unplug month via social media. So here’s to irony! My excerpted notes from my social media fast:

Day 1: Oh, holy hell. I have already come unraveled. My engagement in social media has masked and veiled so much. Am I using it to self-medicate? Am I addicted? Am I already in a rather embarrassing and clichéd depression? Crap. But, I feel more calm and present, relieved by the lack of artificial pressure of “how much I have to do.”

I am spinning plates. I am present with my kids. No need to spin those plates.

Day 2: Am I the plate or the spinner of the plate? In a most interesting day of traffic school this summer I learned about my ranking in a scale based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. My highest score is in the category of “love and belonging.” I scored a 78 percent in love and belonging. Not crazy high, but way higher than all the other scores. This is the best worst kind of a driver to be—too cautious, courteous, and slow—too mindful of others. So, I am wired to find love and belonging on social media. Shit. Without social media there is nothing to distract me from my feelings of discomfort or mask them. And then there is the narcissism of falling in love with our social media reflection.

Day 3: House arrest.

Marital spat.

#Unplugging sucks.

Love and belonging sucks.

Confounded relationship to social media.

One hundred hours in and my inbox is cleaner. More is getting done. I’ve been on three bike rides and a run. Am I escaping?

Day 5: Life feels a little sadder and a little quieter, but I am totally present with my family and with what’s around me. Social media is sort of like a forest of cicadas. We stand in that forest and we don’t even know they’re buzzing. When we turn it off, it’s so quiet and so much more still.

Day 6: Much better. I am plugged in to my family, my life, my yoga practice. The farther away I get from it, the less I want it, need it or care. My life has sparkles and magic in it. It is OK to not share mine and to not look at the lives of others. I’m paying attention to the moments. Reading books, talking to my husband, inhaling my kids, building a tree fort in the backyard. I actually got on my bike and rode to a local cafe to write.

I sought out real connection during the exact time of day and in the same manner that I would normally check in on Facebook. I didn’t speak to anyone, but it felt good to be among them. I like people. The virtual and the real social arenas both hold the possibility of connection—the possibility of bumping into someone or being inspired by something or informed.

Both realms hold promise.

Additionally, I am now officially, acutely and irrevocably aware that the stream of information we see looks absolutely like the cascading waterfall of green streaming data in the Matrix.

Day 8: The craving has mostly subsided—I feel way more present in my life. Normally, when things get too intense with my life, work or family, I hit the eject button and escape for a few minutes into social media.

Day 11: I am aware that Facebook and Instagram are consumed so quickly. The motion is churning. It is rapid and frenetic—frenzied. Inherent in the medium is the inability to self-regulate because it is so fast and so hungry for more. Also, I am no longer distracted by my devices.

Day 13: Social media isn’t the problem, I am.

I feel my life hugging in around me. I am wearing my life like a coat and I like it. I am aware of so much, all the little stuff, because I am mindful and present—the love, the connection, the planning, the back-to-school shopping.

It isn’t a picnic, though. I feel a whole range of emotions, including frustration and anger, but I don’t escape into social media to deal with them. I take a bike ride, eat a salad, sit with my feelings and talk about them.

Day 15: Who cares? I am free! I don’t care about my phone. I don’t care about my texts or emails—I never know where my phone is. This #unplug is nice. I feel my flesh around my bones. I feel it all.

Day 16: It feels really good right here, right now.

Day 17: I do miss my blog, though. I would like to blog about our tree house because it is stellar.

Last day: I had no idea until the last day that I would realize that even offline, even outside the realm of clicks and likes, I have been hiding. The thought just washed over me through blubbering back-to-school tears—that I have been hiding in my family, in my life. It has been so precious. So stressful. So crazy. My kids have been wondrous and amazing and awful and parenting them this summer has been largely blissful, and by turns I have felt like a total failure as a mom because of their nutsy behavior.

Parenting is the most beautiful hard work.

And here it is, this cracking realization that even unplugged, even plugged-in to my family and my life, I find ways to cope, handle and deal with it all.

And it is wonderful.

And so with that awareness it is much easier to tumble from the wardrobe of Narnia, and back into the world. We four left our coats in the wardrobe, just like Susan, Peter, Edmund and Lucy did in the book. But here we are back again. And we have a kick ass tree fort. And it is OK. I know more than I knew before.

Surprising realizations of my #unplug:

1. I get my news in large part through social media. My consistent news source is from someone’s post of the thing they shared from their friend from Huffington Post. OMG.

2. The extent of my self-medication came as a complete shock.

3. Life is peaceful and quiet and good when you inhabit it like we lived just 14 years ago in 1999—only email, nothing else.

My self-prescribed rules and regulations for healthy social media engagement:

1. Create and maintain healthy boundaries and limits.

2. Take a weekend “Technology Shabbat.”

3. No Facebook on my phone. Be present wherever I go. Take my mindfulness with me.

4. Only post something if I actually have something meaningful to contribute.

5. Limited, measured doses of time spent and no compulsive checking (we OCD people need that one).

6. No mistaking that social media is “work” even when I am marketing and branding with it.

7. No hiding in social media.

8. A newfound Pleasure Principle:

Accept that I am a beautiful child of God with flaws and desires and compulsions and anxieties and that it is OK to take sips of the stream of social media because I like it and it feels good. I like people and I like myself. I like sharing my life and sharing the lives of my friends. I like sharing my work and inspiring people creatively on my business pages. I feel nourished by connection—the connection in my real, flesh life and the connections I get though the Matrix-like cascade of information from my friends and inspiring websites and news sources.

I look forward to hitting the “publish” button once again. And so here I go….click. In.

And so here I go….click.


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Assist Ed: Amy Cushing/Ed: Sara Crolick

{Photo by Carrie Bloomston}

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