At the exact moment of writing this I’m relaxing on vacation with my family. The view out the window is of a pristine golf course surrounded by scrub brush and palm trees. Dessert mountains in the distance with snow-topped peeks hidden in the clouds complete the scene. The temperature of the air is exactly what you would want in paradise and the pool water is not shocking on your skin as you wade into the shallow end.
It’s all exactly as it should be. Except that we have to leave and return to our normal lives.
As our time here draws to an end it’s hard not to think about the responsibilities at home waiting for us. School and work are unforgiving task masters that cannot be ignored.
There are other trappings that add to the beat down of everyday life that can be ignored but I often invite them into my life anyway.
News that regurgitates the same vitriol over and over in different ways in order to strike fear in the hearts of it’s viewers. Online forums that create an echo chamber of righteous opinion and villianizes opposing or diverse thought. Social media that allows for the ability to share images and information and that was never meant for public consumption. Social media activity that is not necessarily bad or evil content, but promotes mindlessness and becomes an addictive time waster.
All of these online trappings have become so commonplace in our lives that we don’t notice the hold that they have created. Like the frog in the pot on top of the stove, we are slowly boiling ourselves to death without even noticing.
So how do I live my life with sanity and still allow this necessary evil?
It does feel like a necessary evil, doesn’t it? How else would I promote the good work of the charity I volunteer for and get more people involved in making a difference in my community? How else would I share the joy and fun of making and eating bizarre retro recipes on my YouTube channel? How else would I connect with other writers across the country?
All of those things are good and enjoyable endeavors. The problem lies in the fact that social media is designed to suck the user in and draw their attention deeper and deeper into the platform. How do I utilize it’s positive aspects without succumbing to it’s negative and addictive thrall?
In the few minutes it has taken you to read this far, several days have passed for me. My mind has ruminated on the idea of being a part of the online world but not being a slave to it. My conclusion; it is a very difficult task.
It takes constant vigilance and self-control to not get pulled into the mind numbing scroll. My goal: to read a book when I’m tempted to scroll for more than a minute through Facebook or Instagram. If I can waste half an hour scrolling Facebook, then I can afford half an hour to read an actual book.
It takes vigilance and self-control to not become involved (either by actually commenting and engaging or simply reading other’s comments) in frustrating and fruitless back and forth exchanges in online forums. These places, which probably started out as a way to share information, have become toxic and a danger to my mental well being. My goal: to remove myself from online groups where uncivil commentary and exchanges are taking place. I almost never comment so what is the point in lurking?
It takes vigilance and self-control to not become obsessed with the 24-hour news cycle. My goal: only get my local, national, and world news from a daily newspaper. Scan the headlines, read through it once in the morning and then recycle. There is no point in rehashing the same news all day, every day.
It takes vigilance and self-control to not turn to the internet in general when I feel board, am waiting in line at the grocery store or doctor’s office, or am experiencing an unsettled feeling. My goal: keep a book in my purse for those time when I find I have a few minutes to kill. For those times of feeling unsettled or ill at ease, examine what is really going on. There is something deeper happening in my soul when those feelings crop up. While I should probably see a professional about that, journaling helps as does reading spiritual devotions (I like She Reads Truth) or non-fiction by my favorite authors (Emily P. Freeman and Rachel Held Evans are my go-to right now).
I’m not saying it is easy to extract oneself from the trappings of social media and the online world. It’s hard. Really hard. That is why I keep reminding myself to stay vigilant; like some sort of WWII air raid look out. Otherwise, it can sneak up on you and before you know it you’re bombarded with negative news, trolls who are looking for a fight, or sucked into mindless scrolling.
How do you keep the vacation going?