For the past few years, I’ve taken a voluntary break from social media over the Christmas holidays as a way to reflect, recharge, and refocus. I’ve found it to be a very beneficial practice. So much so that this year I decided to raise the bar a bit.
First, I started at Thanksgiving this year. From Thanksgiving through yesterday morning, I have enjoyed a self-imposed exile from Facebook (the only social media I have left). Furthermore, I refused to check email from the start of my Christmas break (the 17th) until New Years. And I greatly limited my internet use (mostly to checking on Steelers scores, tracking Christmas packages, and IMDB, which, let’s face it, has become an essential companion to movie-watching).
Today I’m back, and frankly, I don’t like it. At all. I’ve been on Facebook a half-dozen times since yesterday, for only a few minutes at a time, which is all I can stand before I have to shut it down and retreat to the peace and quiet.
Here’s the thing – for the past three weeks, I haven’t thought much about politics, and somehow I’ve been okay. Surprisingly, I’ve not suffered the shakes without my hourly infusion of memes. And miraculously, it’s actually been okay not knowing what all of my friends are doing on a minute-by-minute basis.
My son and I took a hike last week with my brother while we were at his place in northern Virginia, and actually ended up someplace out of cell service. When I realized it, the first impulse I felt – no kidding – was exhilaration. For about an hour, I was totally unreachable by anyone. The rest of the world would have to manage without me for a while. And it felt great! I was reminded of Ye Olden Dayes when folks had to rely on handwritten letters delivered by postmen. It might be months before you heard from a long-distance relative. And somehow we all managed. Now we think we all need to be reachable every minute of every day . . . by EVERYONE. Surely most of us aren’t THAT important.
Over the past three weeks, I checked out. And it’s been great! I’ve had the time and brainspace to focus on the people and things in my immediate proximity without being distracted by what’s going on around the country or on the other side of the world. And I’ve learned that my life is much simpler (and way more sane) without geopolitics and the daily dose of complaints, criticism, and OPT (Other People’s Tragedies) served up to me by the media and some of my hand-wringing acquaintances.
I’ve been more contemplative, more creative, and more peaceful. I’ve had time to address some of the bigger issues of life that I’ve been neglecting (because I’ve been reading the latest political rant or sharing the next in an endless parade of memes). Things like my family. My future. And my faith. I’m fifty years old now. Half my life (or more) is in the past. What do I want the remainder of my life to look like? These are important things, surely more important than the noise.
Away from the noise, I’ve become more purposeful. And one of the things I’ve purposed is to not go back.
So here I sit trying to decide what to do now. How do I proceed? Do I cancel my Facebook account altogether? Unsubscribe to all of the email lists that I subscribe to? Cut back on my commitments? Whatever I do, I’m fairly sure that I need to do some pruning of my life and the things I give my attention to.
I started to close this post with the words, “Stay tuned,” as I have in the past. But then I thought better of it. Because you’ve surely got better things to focus on than waiting breathlessly for another post from me. So I won’t say, “Stay tuned.” Instead, maybe this better fits the spirit of the post:
I’ll see you when I see you.