There’s such a negative connotation to “New Year, New Me”, and I must admit I once did a major eye roll when I noticed someone declaring the popular motto each December. I’d see a friend known for continuous weight loss failure post it proudly on Instagram, only to be sharing photos of her triple pounder from Five Guys a mere five weeks later. Or a different friend boasting of their January beginning to a renewed relationship with God and a series of “woe is me” posts when that faith had dwindled to almost nothing. We all see it and we’ve all laughed under our breath when someone we call a friend has failed at their resolutions, but (for me) this year is a bit different.
I was very unhappy in 2015. The truth is, I really can’t pinpoint what has caused me to feel lifeless and drone over the past year. After much reflection I thought I had narrowed it down to a few of the expected culprits, such as the inability to lose weight or how I just don’t feel fulfilled in my career (or lack of) and especially the fact that I feel so absent in my daughter’s life. I have even considered finishing my degree, moving across the country, and pursuing another career path, but I finally decided to try something much less drastic before diving head first into such a major change.
I decided to unplug.
It seems like such a simple task, right? I thought I’d just put my phone down and that would be it, but after doing it for a few days I discovered I had a very addictive problem. Recently I had a few friends of mine share a photo of a small, quaint cabin in the woods with the caption, “Could you live here for two months with no internet for $1,000,000?” I read it and thought, “Are you freakin’ kidding me? People can’t unplug that long?” I eye rolled once again, only to realize after a few days of unplugging that it really is that hard.
Each morning when I wake up, I check social media. I scroll through my news feed on Instagram and Facebook, checking my notifications and responding to my friends with a “Sorry for the delay!” before I start my day, as if it’s a must that I should apologize for sleeping or having a life outside of social media. God forbid I am not on Facebook for 25 minutes while I give my daughter a bath, or for 45 minutes while I cook dinner for my family, or especially for almost two hours as my husband and I snuggle on the couch and watch a movie.
Social media took a hold of my life, my happiness, and my soul before I realized it. It was my cocaine, my alcohol, my cold hard cash- something that I just couldn’t go without.
After Christmas, I made a major effort to put my phone down. I told myself I’d only pick it up once in the morning and once at night, if that. The first day I did this, I noticed a negative change in my mood after I scrolled through my Facebook news feed. I had no idea what I had read that had festered this anger and unhappiness, but I went the rest of the day in a sour mood. Had this been happening every day and I just didn’t notice it? Who knows.
The next several days were an experiment of sorts. I was much more aware of my surroundings, especially as I rode shotgun with my husband, taking in the beauty of Alabama that I had scoured over in the past. Architectural elements glared out at me as we drove through downtown. The kindness of strangers was visible as I watched a teenager helping an elderly gentleman load his groceries into his vehicle. Even a cool breeze on my face while running felt like more than just a change in weather; it was a magnification of a sense I had looked over as I focused on what I needed to do next, and do it quickly.
A few days without my phone made me see my life in an entirely different way. It sounds so gooberish and cliche, but I can honestly say I am instantly happier just by putting my phone down. I’ve spent time and made memories with friends and family instead of just staring at a screen during a text conversation. We’ve shared smiles, laughs, and stories like I did with my girlfriends in the early 90’s when texting was limited (like, literally, to only 200 texts per month). I’ve forced myself to come out of my shell of anxiety and tell my friends and family how much I love them, because when I finally put my phone down, I realized that I only have a limited amount of time to share with a human being- something that can’t just be recharged or upgraded.
When I put my phone down, I learned that I have so much to be thankful for. I don’t focus on what others have. I’ve learned that I have a weak relationship with God, though I know I need to work on that. I’ve learned I have a pretty amazing husband and family, and that I am blessed beyond measure. I’ve learned what my true passions in life are, and none of them are on social media.
Most of all, I’ve learned it isn’t a bad thing to have an online presence, but it is a terrible thing to have an offline absence.