I embrace emerging experience.
I participate in discovery.
I am a butterfly.
I am not a butterfly collector.
I want the experience of the butterfly.
― William Stafford
Many of the things I have associated with freedom in the past are not possible right now: traveling, cultural festivals, fine arts performances, visiting family and friends around the globe, and the list continues.
Many years ago, when I gave up New Year’s Resolutions, I decided that on the 4th of July every year, I would commit to one new thing that made me feel a heightened sense of freedom in my life. These commitments have ranged from buying houses to selling all my belongings to flying on a trapeze! When I got married in 2001, I knew it would be over the 4th of July weekend because I knew our partnership would represent the freedom and adventure of a lifetime.
Since we said our vows, we have traveled around the world with three kids in tow, living in over 30 countries. This past 4th of July marked the 5th month of the “Sheltering in Place” order and, like many people, I wasn’t feeling very free. I knew it was time to stop feeling trapped and focus on what was possible versus spending time on the mounting obstacles in our country and our world. I knew in order to stop focusing on the problem, the number one way to free myself was to log out of all of my social media accounts. On the 4th of July, I did exactly that. More than two months later, I feel liberated, excited, and more importantly hopeful about our future and the possibilities for our world.
4 Things Gained from Logging Off
An Abundance of Time
By becoming anti-social on-line and logging out of my accounts, I found my social butterfly wings again. I spent more socially-distanced time with my parents and extended family. I found the time I once felt I lacked to meet friends at the lake every week so our kids could swim and connect with others safely outdoors. I had so much more energy for true connection, whether it be calling my sister in New Zealand, writing a letter to a friend in Italy, or baking cobbler for a neighbor, I had social energy I hadn’t felt in a long time.
An Abundance of Satisfaction
I found more satisfaction where I am currently planted versus stomping my feet because I can’t leave due to travel restrictions. This was probably the most profound awakening for me during this break from social media. Looking at photos of places I have been or others are currently, has the potential to create dissatisfaction with the present. I have learned that to the extent I can look at my own posts, and the posts of others and feel excited anticipation, I will stay on. When I feel even a twinge of, “this moment would be better if I were there … or wearing that… or experiencing what they are …or achieving what they do …” it is time to not just put it down, but shut it off. This feeling that where I am currently standing is “not enough” can be exacerbated by the use of social media and I didn’t know how deeply that could shift my present moment experience until I took a long break.
An Abundance of Inspiration
By blocking out a lot of the distracting imagery and thoughts that are in my social media feed, I was able to gain new momentum in the direction of the future for my family. Long walks with my husband and children between work meetings and mealtimes have breathed new life into what we want from the next chapter. While social media has the ability to inspire new paths and new ideas, it is hard to control the imagery and information in a feed and therefore it becomes a slippery slope.
I do use social media for work so I anticipated a loss of income but the opposite happened. I found new ways to connect with clients on a more personal level and my bottom line improved versus declined. Go figure!
An Abundance of Freedom
When someone asks you why you are on your phone, have you ever said any of the following:
- I am just checking something for work.
- I am making sure my kids haven’t texted.
- I leave notifications on for business purposes.
- I want to see pictures of my family that I don’t see every day.
- I am checking the weather.
While all of these things may be true, the number of detours possible once we pick up the device, make paying attention to the present moment impossible. Sometimes it is worth the payoff but many times it is not. When I logged out, the need to excuse myself from those around me diminished completely and my relationships improved almost immediately. As Mary Oliver penned, “This is the first, the wisest and the wildest thing I know, that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”
Social media has its place and it is complicated. It is not possible to understand some things fully. Some things require a certain level of acceptance for the unknown and social media is one of those things. Even the experts haven’t been able to give me a straight answer because there isn’t one answer.
Technology is moving so quickly that when I think I have grasped it, it is no longer true. What I have learned during my Anti-Social Summer Experiment is that it is within my control to be more intentional about the time I spend logged in. I truly believe only then will the potential of these platforms reveal themselves to me. Only then will I know what is possible versus feeling like I am being sucked into a scrolling black hole.
7 Social Media Commandments Learned During my Anti-Social Summer
- I hope I have the strength to remember, as I navigate this daunting realm, that words like follower, invitation, story, and friend mean something profound to me.
- I hope I have the strength to remember that nothing is more important than presence and to the extent that social media enhances presence it is helpful.
- I hope I have the strength to remember that every time I connect on-line or in person, my children are watching and learning about what matters most and there is only a short window where they are a captive audience.
- I hope I have the strength to remember that living a deliberate life may sometimes mean not connecting on-line in order to stay true to the moment.
- I hope to have the strength to remember that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and All are tools to facilitate connection. They are not a replacement or escape from looking up and having the courage to be with those that matter most, even if it means being alone with my thoughts.
- I hope to have the strength to remember to appreciate that these very platforms are supporting my ability to live the life of my dreams from any corner of the globe and that in itself inspires awe in me.
- I hope to have the strength to remember to embrace this maze of social media without getting lost, or losing myself.
This NY Post article states that the average adult will spend 44 years of their life looking at a screen. This independent article quotes, 34 years of our lives will be spent looking at a screen.
Of course, these numbers vary between cultures and lifestyles. I know for certain, however, if I was given even 10 of these years left to live, it would be naive to say I would never rely on technology, but it is safe to say, I would rely on it a lot less.
The butterfly collectors are on-line, but to have the experience of the butterfly, sometimes logging off is the perfect way to take flight and taste freedom, even for a moment, perhaps for a lifetime, definitely for a summer …