Does your life ever start to feel like this bag spill photo? Brightly colored and lovely, but happening on too many screens at once? Mine definitely does! I flatlayed this to capture allllllll the facets. Prior to starting grad school, and before I launched my blog and started using Instagram regularly, I would turn my phone and other electronics off for several days at a time. During these “technology fasting” periods I got so much done, and felt so rejuvenated. Now, that seems like a distant dream. But I do still need to take breaks.
In the post Destiny Lalane wrote for our collaboration on National Self Care Day, she makes some suggestions, including: keeping one’s phone on “night time/do not disturb” mode, using alarm clocks other than your mobile, and trying SelfControl App to limit social media use. I want to build on these excellent ideas by sharing a little of my experience, and offering the cognitive frames I use to guide my choices around self-care when it comes to the digital world.
First of all, I think of my time with social media as a relationship. This may at first seem like a strange way to conceptualize it if you aren’t used to the idea. But here is how it works for me… As with any relationship, I want to keep it healthy. I want to feel nourished by it, and balanced in how much I am giving and receiving. I want the boundaries to be clear, yet also flexible enough to allow for the flow of life.
I make sure I check in with myself before and after engaging digitally: am I fully present in my body? Do I feel inspired? or exhausted? Happy? Or stressed? Connected or isolated? Did my engagement shift those feelings in either direction? This process of discernment involves trusting my intuition. How conscious do you feel around your online time? Are your habits serving you? If you frame it as a relationship, what happens to your perception of it? If you and your favorite social media app were going to couples counseling, what would you have to say to one another?
The other piece I want to address, also about relationships, is the fear of losing audience and/or the fear of missing something. I see these two things, although separate, as being very similar. For some people who aren’t bloggers, it may be more the fear of missing out on great posts or information, whereas with bloggers or photographers or others who use online platforms publicly, it may be more the fear of losing followers if you take a break or take time off. I want to speak to that.
As a recently launched site, of course I think about numbers: do I have enough followers to pitch a collaboration with that big ol’ HypotheticalOrganicBrandXYZ I love so much? But every time I start to think that way, I have to stop myself. I don’t ever want to start thinking of people as numbers. My blog and my intention is all about creating joy and fostering safety for authentic connection. So, I prefer to think of everyone who engages with me (or my site or my Insta) as a friend, even if we haven’t corresponded directly. And that is the thing about friendships: they, too, like all relationships have ebbs and flows, ups and downs.
As in the non-digital world, I have to learn to trust that my natural rhythms, including self-care and resting time, can be held and supported. In fact, I can do a service to my online friends by modeling good self-care and resting time, so that I am not only encouraging it but also demonstrating it. I have to learn to trust that those friends with whom I am meant to remain in relationship will also make the effort, and I will be met in my attempts to connect. Just like IRL, if the relationship isn’t serving someone, I wouldn’t want them to keep following my IG or reading my blog anyway. I have to trust that there are plenty of people out there whom my efforts do serve.
And likewise, I have to trust that in all the multitudes of information, I will see what I need to see, and what is meant for me to see. All I have to do to let go of the fear of missing something is to relax into not knowing everything that exists in the world (insert wry smile here). And when I put it like that, I find it’s actually more simple than I thought. What about you?