“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
~ Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
These days seem to move quickly in my middle age and, like many of us, they are filled with life’s tasks and to-dos.
To complicate matters, I am a procrastinating, pleasure-seeking animal (among other things). In this, I know I am not alone. But Mary Oliver’s poem—the last two lines always get me.
I find myself wondering, where does the time go? While statistics on the internet vary slightly, most agree that adults these days are spending an average of two hours a day on social media.
Two hours a day? Doing what? If you’re like me, it probably varies.
My drug of choice is Facebook, but I’ve tried to be a bit more current by dabbling in Instagram. Typically, I “use” as a check-out. I scroll to kill the boredom, to calm the anxiety, to look busy, and to fill the silence. Sometimes I pick up my phone because—well, that’s what everyone else is doing. The rapid delivery of information constructed to entertain me temporarily fills something I feel is missing in my current moment.
There are highs and lows on social media that range from the dopamine hit to my brain that accompanies being liked to self-judgement and near depression at the comparison of my actual life to the highlight reel of my supposed friends or the thing you all went to and I didn’t.
Yes, I have stalked exes and their currents and my currents and their exes. You get it. I have “friends” that are most certainly not friends and have experienced the false sense of intimacy and familiarity that only a chat on messenger can bring.
As for me, I am like most people: either scrolling mindlessly, or bragging about my kids while they look photogenic making awesome basketball shots or ripping guitar solos, usually self-justified as “sharing with loved ones far away.” Maybe I read some news, maybe I read some crap. In general, this kind of relationship with social media has left me feeling empty, alone, and kind of lame.
And, well, since I am not a person who wants to spend her wild and precious life feeling empty, alone, or lame, I have been taking a deeper look at how I can use my time, voice, and friend list for good.
If you’re like me and looking to clean up your relationship with social media, here are a few ideas that have been working for me:
Get schooled. Learn something.
By taking a class with Elephant Journal on social media, I learned more about the inner workings of Facebook and other platforms I use. There is a method to the madness and it has helped me navigate how and when I post, what it means when I “like” something, how to reach a wider audience for my business or my cause, and why being discerning is more important than ever. If we are spending time doing this thing, learning about how and why it works may be a useful way to start.
Be responsible. Slow your scroll.
I’ve changed my habits from being a scroll-and-like girl to actually not liking, posting, or reposting anything I don’t care about enough to have opened and read. Fancy titles and sexy images aren’t enough anymore. I am holding myself to a higher standard of authenticity by being genuinely interested in what I am taking in and putting out. We have the opportunity here to walk our talk.
Do good. Be of benefit.
Posting selfies with my friends doing what I love most has become an opportunity for a large and growing community of awesome ladies to mountain bike together on a trip that spans our entire state. Spreading one positive message on a Facebook page I manage for Elephant Journal reached nearly one million people and 6,000 of them shared it. That’s a lot of sunshine. Maybe your cause is political, educational, or a call to act. Maybe mine is girls on bikes and making you smile. Either way, we can use our words and images to make the world a little better with every post.
Be brave. Cull the list.
I’m thinking it’s time I take a good, hard look at that friend list. If the statistics are even close to true, we will spend an average of five years of our lives on social media. Compare that to the equivalent of one year spent socializing in person. One year. If we don’t have a real connection or an intention to create one, maybe it’s time we stop wasting each other’s time. If we stay friends, you may still see photos of the kids, but that’s cool because you hang out with them in real life, too.
Things are always moving forward, and our lives and how they intersect with technology and social media are no exception. When we take a moment or more to mindfully consider how we are using our time and how we feel about that time spent, we may see our choices more clearly.
By being more educated about what I am really doing with my time on social media, filling that time with people and information that I truly care about, and by focusing my message with a mind to always be of service, I feel different about my time spent scrolling. I feel abundant, in cheerful company, and much more like I’m being my better self—which is exactly the opposite of empty, alone, and lame.
Realizing we have the ability to build connection in our communities with people we actually want to spend time with offline, and with millions of people all over the world, creates endless opportunities. How can we use social media to educate ourselves and others, slow down, spread thoughtful messages, investigate truth, serve, and truly connect?
What will you do with your two hours—or with your one wild and precious life?
Who made the world
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
~ Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
Author: Leah Gartner
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Sara Kärpänen