I feel scattered. I don't know if it's a result of the specific circumstances of my own life or the current state of our society, but, either way, I feel pulled in a thousand different directions every day.
Wake up to an alarm.
Check my phone.
Voicemails to listen to.
Missed calls to return.
Texts to reply to before people think they're being ignored.
Instagram likes and comments to review.
Instagram posts and stories to like and comment on.
Facebook likes and comments to check.
Facebook posts to like and comment on.
Articles and videos to read and watch.
Trending hashtags to check on Twitter for funny commentary that makes the world not seem so depressing because at least we can laugh at it, right?
News to check to make sure our country is still a thing.
Comments sections to browse. (This is always a mistake.)
Pinterest for free retail therapy to cope with everything that was just read.
Snapchat notifications and new stories to watch.
Snapchat articles about things like "The Top 10 Things You Must Do Before You Die" and "Can You Believe What Kylie Wore to the Beach?" (Why? Why do I click on these every time?)
Emails with offers and discounts and last-minute sales.
Emails I actually need to reply to.
Then, after being sucked into the black hole of the internet for my first hour of consciousness, I look around my house and realize the laundry isn't folded, the dishes are piled up in the sink, and the bathroom floor could use a good scrubbing. Sigh.
My mother is full of helpful little proverbial phrases, and she can pull the appropriate one from the depths of the file cabinet in her mind at a moment's notice for any occasion. As a result, whenever I encounter pretty much anything in life, I pull up the folder in my head labeled, "Wisdom My Mother Has Imparted to Me." So whenever I think of how overwhelmed I feel, I remember her saying, "A messy room reflects a messy mind."
And she's so right.
Whenever my mind feels messy, without fail, a quick glance around my house will reveal that I haven't been keeping things up very well. I figured that getting more organized may help my constant state of overwhelm (which, by the way, is a word that I learned the French have no equivalent word for, hence my wanting to move to France). So back in August, I talked to my mom about wanting to get my life in order, and she got almost too excited to help me start by cleaning out my home via the KonMari Method.
For anyone who hasn't heard of this, it's a system of cleaning out and organizing one's living space. Marie Kondo is the Japanese organizational consultant who developed this method, which she then shared with the world in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. The main idea behind it is that one should not have anything in their home that is not useful and/or does not "spark joy."
For about a month, my mom helped me go through my books, clothing, DVDs, junk drawers, you-name-it. I cleaned out everything, and my mind had never felt more clear. I had previously thought my home was fairly free of clutter, but I found that I had collected bags upon bags of art supplies and shoes and books I would never read again to either throw away or donate. The more I gave away, the more I wanted to give away. What had started out as a difficult challenge to let go of "stuff" soon became a super FUN challenge to see exactly how much more I could release. The emptier the closet, the better!
Even right now, almost a year since we attacked every room in my home, I could probably list out all the contents, shelf by shelf, in my main hall closet. It's a cool feeling to just know what's there and what's not. So you may be wondering now -- if my house is so clear, then why do I feel so overwhelmed?
Well, as it turns out, there is so much more to make our minds feel messy than what we can hold in the palms of our hands. Every time I think about every email account, social media profile, and online subscription I have ever signed up for or posted on, I feel a rush of anxiety. It's like a dark, looming, ever-expanding shadow that I sense hovering over me -- over all of us. Every time I see a red notification number pop up on my phone's screen, I experience a mixture of excitement (basically that dopamine and adrenaline combo we get hit with all the time) and also a compulsion to check, check, check. So much of it, however, is so insignificant and does more harm than good for my psyche, soul, and relationships.
For instance, there's my Yahoo! email account that is basically defunct and that I should totally delete without hesitation -- oh, but it has all those email exchanges from back when my husband and I were first dating and he was studying abroad in Barcelona! Our hypothetical future children may want to read those someday!
And then there's my Snapchat account that never should have existed in the first place because the fact that it took me weeks to figure out how to use it should have been an indication that it wasn't made for the likes of me -- oh, but I have all those pictures on it from my vacation to Europe when I had to rely on the app to store my photos because my phone storage was full! And I'll have to save them to my phone one by one, and that will just take forever!
And let's not forget my Facebook profile that I've been in an on-again-off-again relationship with for the past 12 years (otherwise known as all of my adult life) -- oh, but I have so many friends and family members I'm friends with on there who don't have Instagram, and I'll miss what they're up to if I officially delete it! Not to mention, there are all those tagged photos that I haven't saved to my computer yet! And that would just take so long to download all of those! I mean, seriously, who has time for that?!
This is the inner dialogue I have with myself every single time I think to delete anything online. I almost panic at the thought of losing every post and comment and like and photo. But why?
Last month, just a couple weeks before my 30th birthday, I decided to tackle my Instagram account to clean it out a bit. At first, I just took out superfluous photos of breakfast foods and sunsets. Then I decided to remove all of the oldest posts and just leave whatever was the most recent. Then, just like when I used the KonMari Method in my house, I started to get ruthless. Granted, I would screenshot each photo to save them on my phone (and perhaps eventually my computer if I ever upload them), but then I'd delete.
Delete, delete, delete.
It felt amazing. I was free. I was down to about 40 posts, and I had no regrets.
Then today I removed more and more and more. I am down to 3 posts. THREE.
And, honestly, I don't even care for those three very much. They just happen to be recent and/or direct people to follow my writing account that I've been focusing on recently, which is probably what got you here in the first place.
Anyway, when I was in the midst of deleting posts, I worried that I would feel my sense of self erasing away with my online presence. I thought I might cease to exist altogether. I mean, if things happen in my life that are not then posted online, did they even really happen?
I'm not asking that in a snarky, facetious, holier-than-thou type of way. I'm honestly asking it of myself because sometimes, when I step outside of my digital life, I start to feel sad and confused since it seems nothing is ever real unless shared. I start to wonder what my motivations are for posting anything at all.
Why did I feel the need to share a "clever" thought I had when I was enjoying lunch out by myself?
Why did I need to let anyone know I went to the Griffith Observatory?
Why was I so compelled to let people know I'm eating ice cream and watching Netflix alone on a Friday night?
I think the answers to these types of questions may be different for all of us, so I won't speak for everyone. However, I will speak for myself. The answers to the Why? Why? Dear God, WHY? of these questions are: VALIDATION. LONELINESS. APPROVAL.
In Part 2, I'll get a little more into why I feel like social media is a double-edged sword with plenty of pros and cons. I'll also expand on how none of what I am writing is meant to judge anyone for anything they ever post (because, honestly, the problem I'm going to be discussing has to do with exactly how much I do enjoy both sharing my own photos and looking at everyone else's to the point that I am not productive within my own three-dimensional life). This series of posts is meant to be exploratory rather than exclamatory because I do not yet know where I stand on whether or how to make the most of these communication tools.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts about your reasons for why you like, love, hate, or feel indifferent toward social media!
How has social media made your life better or worse?
What are your own "why"s for using it?