I know many people have spoken on this topic. The reason I know is because I have read the work of many folk who have lived some version of this experience themselves and have written or spoken of it to others in the hope of helping those who are also suffering.
Isn’t that the way it goes?
We suffer, we find a way through and we want to share our experience with others that we might make a difference, a positive impact on someone else’s life.
You know what else often happens?
We absorb the information, store it safely away for future reference and never actually implement it. The helpful, and often profound information remains nestled away in our archives of things to remember, taking up space at best, and making us feel shitty for not acting on it, at worst.
At least, this is oftentimes me. Can you relate?
The fact that I have more knowledge than I know what to do with is another story for another time. Today I want to talk about the consumptin of media and how it is ruining my life.
Maybe it is ruining yours too?
How paradoxical of us both.
I am here telling a cautionary tale about consuming the stories of others… via my own story which I am hoping you will consume in order to help you to… stop… consuming… the stories… of others…? Does that make sense?
Let me get on with it.
I have seen so many people suggest, complete and talk about taking breaks from social media. A day, a week, a month or more. Mostly these breaks stem from a desire to take better care of one’s mental health, either because the content is too much or their content is creating too much feedback. Either way, some kind of overstimulation, or overhwlem of information is occuring.
I have considered partaking in such a break myself, but have always used the excuse of using my platform of choice (IG) for work, and so I couldn’t possibly disengage for any length of time. The very fact that I haven’t posted on my buisness IG for literal months doesn’t matter when it comes to this reasoning. What if I suddenly get the urge to post? What if I am overwhelmed by inspiration? What if my break causes me to give up on my business account forever????? And so I give in to this hella flawed, fear based reasoning, keep consuming content and entirely miss the point.
I am addicted to consuming other people’s stories.
When I got to the 4th week of “The Artist’s Way” and found the main goal of this week was a media deprivation, half of me was totally relaxed about it. No sweat, she told me, we can ace this. Sure, we just got a new kindle and are just getting into a new book. Sure, you just got back into planning and followed a whole bunch of inspiring accounts on IG. Sure, you just started a new season a Rick and Morty on Netflix. The Universe has a pretty good sense of humour and we’re going to play along because SOMETHING AMAZING is waiting for us in this experience and we are going to be the BEST at not consuming media that there ever was! (For real, I am super competitive when it comes to made up competitions that no one else knows about. It’s a sure way for me to lose and win safely.)
While that super confident part of me was laughing heartily at the way the Universe had lined this up for me, a nervous part of me was biting her nails. WTF are we going to do with our time? How will we occupy our mind? Will we just get even more anxious? What will we miss out on? Maybe something big will happen and we won’t even know about it? Maybe we shouldn’t turn off notifications or delete the app, just in case we NEED it for something. You never know.
I listened to both and decided we’d take it one day at a time.
I lasted a day and a half before I ended up back on IG with some ridiculous excuse. Saving things I wanted to share with my husband, instead of sharing them right away, so he wouldn’t know I was on IG at that moment in time and I could pretend I’d found these cool posts when my week was up.
Me? Addicted? Never!
In all seriousness, I can now see just how harmful my relationship with all media, but particularly with IG, truly is.
On an intellecual level, I understand how TV & film keep us occupied, keep us busy, keep us small. I understand how social media does this and the job of adverstising, even when there are no ads. I am both a psychology graduate and a huge sceptic, after all.
However, emotionally, I believed I was getting a good deal. That my addiction to social media was giving me a fantastic pay off. Not ony did I not have to engage with other sources of media to stay up to date with the goings on in the world, I was getting regular dopamine hits for very little energy output and most enticingly of all, my faithful worshipping at the altar of those little squares would ultimately reward me with the key to a better life.
WTF are you talking about Maria???
Well, I don’t know about you, but I have learned a SHIT TONNE from social media. I have not only become better versed in social issues, politics and how I play a part in the world (whether I like it or not), I have learned about new hobbies, new music and new artisits that have enriched my life. I have also learned a LOT of self compassion and tools for helping me with my mental and physical health challenges. But, I am not talking about any of these when I talk about the “key” I am in search for, or rather the “key” I am afraid of missing out on.
My nature is that I am always seeking new knowledge and the belief this search is based on is that one day I will find *the* piece of knowledge that will change my life irrevocably for the better. The key to a better life.
The upshot is, that I KNOW this key doesn’t exist. A happier life filled with ease, joy, love and peace is made up of countless, consistent, changes; each and every one of them a magic key, a piece of the puzzle of what I want my life to look and feel like.
This belief in the one, true key that will turn my life around, was formed somewhere in my early childhood and just as with all those core beliefs, it isn’t going to give up it’s hold on me that easily.
That, coupled with the fact that I have learned MANY life changing things from the folks putting out fantastic content on social media creates a huge fear in me.
The Fear Of Missing Out.
FOMO is huge for me. I was left out of a lot of things as a child, so I am always aware of what I am missing out on. Or, rather what my fear tells me I am missing out on and media FOMO is no different.
I have become convinced, on a deep, irrational level, that if I give up consuming other people’s stories – mainly on IG – that I am going to MISS OUT on my one, true key; the piece of imformation that is going to turn my life around.
How do you contend with a fear like that?
You delete the fucking app.
As I was writing about this revelation in my morning pages I realised that while I give actual HOURS of my life to this soul sucking app each and every day, you know what I am actually missing out on?
I am literally missing out on my OWN LIFE.
I am missing out on sun on my skin, wind through my hair, laughing with friends, ice cream in the evening, boardgames and chit chat and rejoicing or comiserating with human beings who actually know me, not just the IG version of me. I am missing out on hopes and dreams and being a part of my real life, local community. I am missing out on touching and smelling and interacting with the world beyond 2 of my senses and 5 inch screen. I am missing out on possibility.
Instead I am dissociating, numbing, stuffing my emotions down to become stagnant and the only relief, it seems, is to consume more, as quickly as possible as my attention span continues to shrink.
I am addicted to IG and our relationship is toxic.
In light of this realisation, I have decided to recommit to my media deprivation… a whole week without social media.
And I am begining by deleting Instagram from my devices.
I’ll let you know how it goes.