I took an extended break from social media this year. It was conscious choice, something that felt natural and needed. I was becoming weary of the selfie-culture and the habit of scrolling timelines. I stayed off of Twitter and Instagram for the majority of my 2015–16 season overseas. Facebook was kept in rotation mainly for stayng in contact with people who don’t have my cell or email, and the occasional uplifting or amusing video. I deleted Instagram off both my cell phone and iPod—it has an insidious tendency to tempt me to scroll and scroll…and scroll. I attempted to be in the moment rather than distract myself in a situation that required me to wait.
“Being in the moment” is a trendy catchphrase in the mindfulness movement; but in this case, the trendiness lends itself to positive change. There are trends that are frivolous and there are trends that are helpful. Fringe in the fashion industry, for example, is not a necessary component of life, but it continues make rounds as a fad. On the other hand, the “fit lifestyle” is popular right now and—besides its tendency to focus too much on physical appearance rather than physical health—it is a positive trend.
So, I chose to follow the trend of mindfulness and focus on the present moment. By removing a few distractions, I was able to carve out more time for beneficial activities such as practicing my French (a useful skill to have as I spend the majority of each year in southern France). I was also able to write more and spend more time stretching. Stretching seems like a random activity, but in my line of work it is highly beneficial. In fact, it’s beneficial for everyone, regardless of profession.
I will admit, Netflix has nudged its way in as another distraction. There is such a plethora of shows to choose from! I try to keep it to documentaries, or philosophy-driven/social-consciousness–type shows (think: the British mind-bender, Black Mirror). But the occasional casual show sneaks in there (Jane Fonda’s show, Grace & Frankie, which turns out to contain quite a few life lessons too). Pinterest is also alluring when you’re attempting to decorate your apartment in a sleek, yet homey, Scandinavian style while retaining a certain Bohemian edge (all of those key words have been used as search criteria).
I find it’s all about balance. I’m not trying to dissent from all forms of social media, although I certainly understand the sentiment of those who do. I recognize the usefulness of such a platform for businesses, grassroots organizations, social uprisings, and beyond. “Balance” has been and will continue to be the mantra of my life. I’ve found that very rarely is anything completely bad or completely good. It’s about critically appraising something, finding its value or lack thereof, and proceeding from there. Often it’s not a one-and-done decision, either. It’s a process of evaluating and re-evaluating.
This is my re-evaluation and re-entry into the interwebs with an overhaul of my personal website (much needed), and a cautious re-emergence into Twitter and Instagram (less needed). I can’t promise I will use either of them much. I don’t often see the need as far as my personal life is concerned. However, this summer is an exciting one with the Olympics approaching and some moments will be shared! Stay tuned, or not. If you want to take your own retreat from the Internet, more power to you.