I quite enjoy a head cold every once in a while. There’s a sweet nostalgia amidst the phlegm and aching bones which tends to send me into a rather reflective place. Perhaps this is what prompted my sudden urge to shut the world of Social Media out of my life for two weeks, at 4am this morning. Or maybe it’s because I had just started listening to Mel Robbin’s audiobook “The 5 Second Rule” yesterday. Robbins shares a highly effective tool which enables a person to cheat the brain out of procrastination and hesitation by simply counting down from five. It’s clever and it works.
Whatever it was, I was suddenly compelled to do the unthinkable, lying awake in my bed, blowing my nose raw and wishing I wasn’t looking at my bloody phone!
The first thing I noticed was a rush of panic! Swiftly followed by a list of irrational “what ifs”.
“What if someone amazing likes one one of my photos and I miss it?”
“What if that person was testing the waters to see if I would reciprocate, in which case they would commit to following me and I’ve just blown it?!”
“What if someone DM’s* me about a gig that could change my life and finally get my music out into the world on a global scale and all my dreams will come true over night and I’ve missed it because I deleted Facebook?!”
“What if no one notices I’m missing?”
“What if they all forget me…”
The last one sent a chill right through me.
Having done a lot of self development over the years including conventional therapy, life coaching, an anger management course, a group sexuality exploration course, and a week in California meditating amongst the Red Wood trees (which led to hugging the trees and eventually hugging a sandal wearing vegan who no longer believes in deodorant) I can safely say that the fear of being forgotten, is one of my core issues.
Is this why I have been so hooked on SM?* Have I simply been using it to distract myself from feeling my feelings? I’m sure I’m not alone in having this particular fear of course. Humans are social animals and to be forgotten about is to be neglected, which on a primal level means to eventually die. So when I deleted Instagram, Twitter and Facebook this morning, my animal brain had a genuine life or death response! I thought of the Pixar movie “Inside Out” and imagined the little people in the control centre of my brain running around screaming “RED ALERT, RED ALERT! WE’VE LOST CONNECTION!”
After eventually falling asleep, I awoke five hours later feeling very pleased with myself! Not dissimilar to the disproportionate sense of achievement you get when you’ve just started a diet and you’ve made it past breakfast without binging on chocolate cake. I felt instantly cleaner and arrogantly wholesome. I still feel that way to be honest and it’s just gone 9pm.
Nothing profound happened today. However, a couple of subtle yet significant behaviour shifts did occur. I took the day off “work” due to my cold. I feel ridiculous calling what I do work. Basically I make music most days and today I didn’t. So while I wasn’t making music today, I met my Dad for lunch. I often keep my phone in my bag when I eat, a habit I developed a long time ago to help me focus more on what I’m eating and on the person I’m eating with. However, the moment that person leaves the table to go to the toilet or pulls out their phone, I’m on my phone faster than you can say Steve Jobs! Today, when my Dad began replying to a text, I felt my mind command my arm to reach into my bag and collect its reward. Sweet relief, I can finally see what everyone else is having for lunch! Then I remembered, horrified… I’m not on SM today. I have blackened the windows looking out to the inside world. My left leg began to shake rapidly up and down like a junkie in need of a fix. The thumb on my right hand became frustrated like a severed phantom thumb receiving signals to move but unable to conduct them into action. I had no choice but to let go. I told my mind to tell my arm to tell my thumb to relax and rejoin the rest of my body in this present moment. My leg stopped shaking and my thumb reluctantly released into a resting position. I felt suspiciously calm for a moment. It was odd.
The second shift was quite beautiful. I often crave nature. Living in a busy city and an even busier mind, the stillness of nature can be a welcomed relief. Yet I rarely go to a park on my own. There are always a million other things I could or should be doing. In the past I’ve forced myself to go to a park even for just ten minutes to try and de-stress. In these times my anxiety worsened in protest of having been forced into do something against its will.
Today, after lunch, I found myself driving to Ken Wood, one of my favourite London locations full of beautiful trees, flowers and green hills. We used to go to Ken Wood with our parents as kids on the weekends. I always felt Connected and part of a community there, with my parents who seemed to know everyone and their dogs. Today I drove there as though this visit had been in my diary for weeks and I didn’t want to be late. I pulled into the car park, mystified by my nonchalant reaction to my own actions. I went for a little stroll. Not a fast paced walk as I usually do, but a stroll, a mode of moving I usually loath. I didn’t think about the number of steps I was adding to my daily total or whether my glutes were firing up and toning my butt. I just looked at the trees and listened to the birds and felt my feelings. I felt my feelings, all of them. I then sat down on a bench between a guy looking at his phone and a woman looking at her phone. For nearly ten minutes I just sat there and listened. I listened to everything I could hear, near and far. I looked at every colour and detail I could see. Without intending to, and for only a brief moment, I became completely mindful. With my mind out of my phone, my mind returned home. It was bliss.
*Social Media… Obviously!