My Two Week Social Media Cleanse #5

Day 13

Here endeth the cleanse…

What an interesting ride it has been. My biggest fear upon entering this cleanse was that I would feel isolated and disconnected. The opposite has been true. I feel more Connected now than I have in a long time. There are people everywhere around me, good, kind people, all over the city. When we look up from our phones, we see each other. It’s a simple thing and an important one to make a habit of and to remember.

Another important thing I’d like to share is that I am no longer having heart palpitations. This is huge. I had been getting palpitations most nights and sometimes during the day, for months. I tried cutting out caffeine, deep breathing, magnesium, you name it, I tried it. Nothing worked. I come off social media and within days, my heart beats at a normal, healthy rate. Let’s please look at this for ourselves and then check in with the younger generations. How are their stress levels? Are they anxious and if so, why and how much of a part is SM playing?

A real challenge for me during this process has been facing the addictive nature to my relationship with social media. As with any addictive behaviour, there are uncomfortable truths lurking beneath the surface desperately clambering for acknowledgement. By removing SM, a constant source of distraction in my life, my suppressed feelings naturally rose to the surface.

I’m a 35-year-old single woman, currently living by myself. Although I have thoroughly enjoyed the perks of being single for a long time now, I am very much done! I’m ready to be in a loving relationship and living with a partner. Over these past two weeks, on the nights where I haven’t gone out with friends or family, I’ve chosen to sit in the discomfort of my own feelings of loneliness. It’s been tough. I’m aware as I’m typing, I feel a little embarrassed sharing this. To feel lonely is a natural human experience. So why am I embarrassed to admit to feeling it? Where’s the shame? Is this something I have put upon myself, or have we as a society created a taboo around feeling lonely? I am absolutely certain that feeling lonely is not something reserved only for the 30 something single woman. I’m sure there are mothers, wives, husbands and grandparents out there who also feel lonely at times. Could this shame be linked to why we’ve allowed technology to make us more and more visible and less and less private? Is privacy still a thing…?! Are we all just desperately trying to prove we’re busy and popular out of fear of being seen as anything else?

Sitting with my feelings and my truths during the past two weeks has been a transformative practice for which I am truly grateful. I have reconnected with myself at a deep level. I have remembered how to listen, trust and honour myself. I’m not going to pretend that it’s been a bundle of laughs, it hasn’t! However, it has been real and that’s where true joy begins. True love, true inspiration and true connection can only come from truth. These things don’t exist anywhere else, so we must begin with our own truths in order to access them. Personally, I would rather dive into the depths of the messy, in order to become brand spankingly clean and new, than to avoid the mess, stay put and gather dust. In other words, let’s be brave and face ourselves a little more.

The obvious question now is, will I be going back on social media tomorrow morning…? Yes, I will. I didn’t delete my accounts, I just deleted the apps. So I will reload them onto my phone. I will indulge in the “likes” and comments I have missed over the last two weeks. I’m excited to look over the photos my closest friends have been posting. Others I’m less interested in seeing. In fact most people’s photos I won’t even bother looking through. I am very keen to observe how my body reacts. Will I be hit by a dopamine tidal wave? Or will I feel tense and irritated by people’s loud opinions and mundane, useless crap? We’ll see…

I have promises myself that if I feel even slightly anxious, I will remove the apps from my phone and only check in with SM on mylaptop a couple of times a day.

I’ve also decided to continue blogging! I have really enjoyed writing and consider this blog to be a gift to myself, from myself, for having completed this challenge!

 

 

 

 

My Two Week Social Media Cleanse #4

Day 9

I’m beginning to miss my friends overseas. Instagram, in particular, made them all appear so much closer. Now I’m aware of the distance. The beauty in this, of course, is the reminder of how wonderful it is to have people to miss.

Because I am currently unable to plug my friends and their brilliant work on my usual platforms right now, I shall be adding links to their work on this blog. You’re welcome!

A few days ago, friends of mine released an EP. They are a Nashville based band called Steel Union. Myself and Ariel Lask were driving in London, blasting the EP with the windows down. I desperately wanted to share the moment on internet world and felt genuinely frustrated that I couldn’t. What would I have done in this situation before SM existed? Would I have simply been satisfied with a car full of music and a heart full of pride? I’d like to think so. I’d have wanted to congratulate them of course, so I would have called them. How terribly old fashioned that now seems!

So what is this desire to share our lives on SM really about? This is no new question I realise. Aziz Ansari and Ed Sheeran have both publicly spoken about removing SM from their daily lives. I doubt SM is going away anytime soon, but people are definitely beginning to look at their own attachments to it.

For me, the reason behind wanting to post something varies depending on the subject matter. I’ve realised, through this cleanse process, that I have a specific person or people in mind when I post a photo or Tweet a statement. More often than not, these people are my close friends and family. For example, when I post a photo of an outfit I’m particularly proud of having put together, I immediately imagine Lucie Silvas’ reaction. I get excited anticipating her inevitable enthusiastic reply and celebratory emoji! When I post a black and white artsy shot with great lighting, I eagerly await the virtual thumbs up from Sonya Jasinski. When I write something I consider to be deep and profound on Facebook, and I’ll think of my “spiritual” friends and imagine their yogic nods of agreement and prayer hand emojis. I’m amazed that my desire to photograph, filter and post the perfect cappuccino has not diminished at all over these past nine days. What the hell is that about? Seriously, who gives a shit about my coffee?! Am I just wanting to show off? I’m a Leo and an artist so showing off comes extremely naturally to me. I do really enjoy it! Yet surely there is more to SM than just showing off?

It seems I have assigned people to be sources of approval for specific areas of my personality and lifestyle. Whomever I consider to be the authority on a specific subject, it’s their “like” I get excited about. It’s their “like” that gives me a little hit of dopamine which lifts me and sends me gliding through my day until my the next post. This all comes down to validation. We all crave it and we all look for it. I think this is human nature. Or is it the modern day human condition?

Surprisingly, I’ve not missed the small hits of dopamine sprinkled throughout my day. I’m not really missing social media in fact. However, I am missing the joy of sharing certain moments with specific friends. So perhaps underneath the constant outsourcing for validation, is a more authentic desire for Connection. 

 

My Two Week Social Media Cleanse #3

Day 5

I’m a born and bred Londoner but I walk like a New Yorker. I lived in NYC for two years. Over there, if you don’t keep up with the stampede, you get trampled on and die! This pace of walking has since become my default, regardless of the walkings purpose. It doesn’t matter if I’m just walking to the supermarket on a leisurely Sunday evening, I will march there as though I have an important meeting to get to and I’m already ten minutes late!

Over the past few weeks, my fast walk has been forced to a halt, as I’ve found myself frequently getting stuck behind some very slow moving elderly people. It’s the strangest thing! It’s been happening multiple times a day and has really gotten my attention. I’ll be walking to the gym* in the morning with a tightly planned schedule to stick to and suddenly, I’m trapped in a narrow construction pathway behind Mrs Shuffle and her zimmer frame! When I first became aware of these now regular interruptions, all my compassion went out the window. I’d get the sensation of a tight red knot in the pit of my stomach, spinning rapidly, growing in size and intensifying in colour. It was rage and it was excruciating. I began experimenting with various breathing exercises to try and calm myself down during these moments. The breathing helped a little but I was still getting a strong sense of urgency and panic running through me whenever I was caught behind a pensioner who was unintentionally holding up my day.

I believe that our external world is a reflection of our internal world. We are experiencing a mirrored reality, constantly informing us of where our awareness is in every given moment. If this is the case, which for me it absolutely is, then perhaps there is something within myself which is being reflected back to me through these elderly messengers, who have been triggering my struggle with the art of patience. Have these random recurrences actually been disguised opportunities for me to finally learn how to move beyond my impatience and into a more accepting and peaceful place?

It’s day 5 of my cleanse and something profound is happening. Slowly but surely my attention span is growing. My ability to focus is getting stronger and as a result, I am beginning to feel more comfortable in myself and in many areas of my life. That underlying sense of urgency is starting to cool down. This afternoon, I once again found myself caught behind a very slow moving elderly lady. This time, instead of wanting to scream “bitch get out my way!” I simply slowed my pace, willing. I genuinely wanted to offer her my arm so she could have someone to lean on. I wish I had done that in fact. I felt calm and warm towards her. I imaged her family and how they must love her. I thought about the stories she might have to share and the legacy she’ll one day leave behind. There was no hurry, I had all the time in the world. Can this be a result of taking distracting and perhaps destructive apps off my phone?

Another great thing I’ve found on this cleansing journey is how much less energy I spend in the day comparing myself to others. This was a BIG one for me. Mostly prompted by scrolling through Instagram. It is already significantly easier for me to feel genuine gratitude and satisfaction with all that I do have, and all that I am doing in my life right now. My ambition hasn’t changed, I still have desires and goals I am working towards achieving. Yet I no longer have a nagging feeling that others are getting it “right” and I’m not. This is a profound shift and I’m very excited about it!

I’m not suggesting social media is solely responsible for causing me anxiety, impatience and feelings of dissatisfaction. However, I do believe social media has become a breeding ground for unhealthy comparisons, ultimately resulting in negative self-talk. Negative self-talk leads to anger and frustration which make compassion toward others very difficult to access. We can only give that which we give to ourselves. Therefore, the more we decide that our lives are less perfect in comparison to others, the less kind we become towards each other. This is not a world I want to leave for the next generation. Acts of kindness and compassion need to be prioritised and this can only happen once we address how we speak to ourselves. Then we can effectively lead by example and show the next generation/s how to speak kindly to themselves and ultimately, how to treat each other.

 

*In the spirit of calling my own bullshit, I am fully aware that I mentioned the gym! Forgive me. I’m currently withdrawing from multiple sources of constant validation and mentioning that I go to the gym kind of takes the edge off.

 

 

My Two Week Social Media Cleanse #2

Day 3

Growing up I wasn’t really interested in the news. I figured my parents would let me know when something important was happening and Capital Fm Radio would fill me in on the rest. I had little to no interest in politics, which I was later shamed for by some of my more “intellectual” peers. While I had posters of Robbie Williams and Michael  Jackson on my bedroom wall, they had Jarvis Cocker and Che Guevara. The truth is, as much as I was genuinely in love with Robbie’s cheeky face and bleached blond hair, I was actually indulging my teenage angst by listening to Joni Mitchell, Carol King and James Taylor in private. I had no idea which crowd I was supposed to try and fit in with, let alone what my political stance was on anything! I didn’t care. I just wanted to learn how to write lyrics like Dylan and sing them like Barbara (Streisand not Windsor).

So it came as quite a surprise to me yesterday when I found myself standing in the Waitrose checkout queue, honing in on the newspaper headlines. They were suddenly so alive to me! I’ve stood in that queue hundreds of times before and never once noticed the newspapers strategically placed in arms reach of the last minute purchaser. The free coffee has caught my attention a few times, the cooking magazines with Heston Blumenthal’s latest recipes glistening on the front cover have often turned my head, but the news headline? Never! So why now? Why on day two of a social media cleanse is my subconscious hunting for news? I took a mental note and thought little of it again until this morning.

The first thing I did this morning after I mindfully brushed my teeth (a new habit I’m forming, it’s great, try it) was check the news headlines. Who have I become?! Interestingly, I checked for the headlines on my phone. I’d like to say I chose to check the headlines on my phone but choice had little to do with this impulsive act. I have the BBC News and Sky News apps leftover from when Brexit talks first kicked off and I was well and truly sucked in with the rest of the world. I opened both apps and flicked from one to the other, scrolling up and down, absorbing the pictures and the largest words on the screen. In complete contrast to the Connected tooth brushing experience I had just had, I was practically a zombie in this moment. I was half perched at the end of my bed, mouth slightly open, hunched over and wrapped in a towel with the shower running, impatiently waiting for me to get in it. I wasn’t really taking in anything either. I honestly couldn’t tell you a single headline I read this morning. I can tell you what my toothpaste tasted like and the temperature of the water as I swirled it around my mouth before I ceremoniously spat it out. I can tell you how my feet felt on the floor and the pace of my breath going in and out as I wiped my face. Yet I don’t remember anything about how I felt or who I was as I read those headlines. I was lost. Vanished into a world of manipulated, bias misinformation. So why did I do it..?

I’d like to stress here that I absolutely do care about what is going on in the world. I care very deeply in fact. More so now than I ever have and I expect this caring will only deepen the further I delve into my own spiritual self. However, how and where I go to be informed about what is going on in the world has become frustratingly complex and at times, overwhelming. The alarming thing about the zombie-like state I found myself in this morning is that it had little to do with updating myself on world events. I didn’t embody that hunched over posture to educate myself on where best to focus my energy today in order to help those in need. No! I did it to keep up with everyone else so that I can stay relevant. I inhaled those headlines and images so that I could quieten my underlying fear that I would become irrelevant and forgotten about if I didn’t, and I did all of this unconsciously. Why? Because social media has been bombarding my brain with conflicting versions of so-called “news” and even worse, people’s fear-based opinions about it, for years.

It both pains me and liberates me to realise that I  have allowed myself to be conditioned to believe that I give a shit about things I actually don’t give a shit about! If this resonates at all with anyone out there in blog land, I hope that it brings you the same sense of freedom it has just gifted me, in this very moment.

 

My Two Week Social Media Cleanse

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!

Day one

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!

and

*Direct message/messaging