I think about cutting back on my social media presence all the time.
I think about it. I haven’t actually gotten around to doing anything about it yet.
But as I make plans to spend ten days at a Thai monastery practicing meditation, (a monastery at which I won’t be able to write a letter let alone scroll Instagram) I’ve begun thinking about imposing a small technology detox on myself. Maybe take a weekend away and leave my phone at home. Or even better, just turn it off for a few days and find a way to entertain myself without it.
It shouldn’t be that hard, really. I’m an avid reader. I’ve got a big group of friends. I live in one of the most culturally magnificent cities in the world and if all else fails, I’m a writer for god sakes. I can use my imagination.
But somehow I always find reasons to be on my phone or computer. I blame it on work, on keeping up with transcontinental friendships, but when it comes down to it, it’s more sinister than that. If we really take a hard look at ourselves, I think that our technology addicted generation would find that we don’t really know how to be alone with our thoughts.
To our credit, we’ve never really had to be. Throughout our truly transformative years we’ve been completely submerged in TV, video games, portable music players and cellphones. We are always connected, always electronically entertained. We have always been able to drown out our thoughts with blaring music and TV marathons. But rather than stimulating or even relaxing us, it just ends up numbing us instead. We’re connected to everyone else (or at least their digital portrayal of themselves) but we have no idea what’s going on within ourselves.
A couple of weeks ago, I laid on my bed scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. I would close one, then refresh another and repeat. When I finally checked the time I realized three hours had gone by. I was horrified.
How had I so mindlessly spent three hours of my night, when I have a stack of unread books at the side of my bed, a long to-do list, and most importantly, a mind full of unexplored ideas, thoughts and feelings that I have vowed to pay closer attention to.
I meditate multiple times a week as I try to sort through some of my crazy, mantra the shit out of myself so that I feel like a sexy, capable badass and work on figuring out who I am and what I want.
And from that I’ve learned that what I want more than anything is to continue to learn. About me, about you, about societies and cultures, the environment, the universe and everything beyond it. I want to learn via living, reading, listening.
And instead of allowing my phone to hinder that, to numb my wild, erratic mind, I can use technology to feed it instead. If I’m not going to turn it off and go camping for the weekend, I can at least give myself more to think about as opposed to less. Instead of background music on the way to work, a new podcast. Instead of re-watching Friends (again) on Netflix, a documentary. I can scroll Ted Talks instead of a Buzzfeed videos, read news instead of gossip columns, I can take online courses and practice a language.
The fact of the matter is that we can turn off them for a weekend or for ten days, but our phones will likely continue to be a big part of our lives. If we’re going to keep using them so much, we might as well use them to expand our minds more than we use them to expand our digital following.