Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The great #UNPLUG of 2013

The Great #Unplug of 2013
or The Relative Merits and Discomforts of a Social Media Fast
or The Extrovert's Dilemma
or I Feel it All (Feist)

I unplugged from all social media for exactly one month, after being inspired by this summer's article in Fast Company by Baratunde Thurston here. Thurston describes himself as the world's most connected man. I am so not, but I am managing a family and wearing a lot of hats including social media marketing for my little creativity brand.

The most ironic thing is to broadcast the contents of that month via social media. So here's to irony! Excerpted notes from the #UNPLUG:

Day 1– Oh, holy hell. I have already come unraveled. My engagement in social media has masked and veiled so much. Am using it to self-medicate. Am I addicted? Am already in a rather embarrassing and clichéd depression. Crap. But feel more calm and present. Relieved by the lack of artificial pressure of "how much I have to do." Spinning plates. Present with my kids. No need to spin those plates.

Day 2– Am I the plate or the spinner of the plate? In a most interesting day of traffic school this summer I learned about my ranking in a scale based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. My highest score is in the category of "love and belonging." I scored a 78% in love and belonging. Not crazy high, but way higher than all the other scores. This is the best worst kind of a driver to be–too cautious, courteous, and slow–too mindful of others. So, I am wired to find love and belonging on social media. Shit. Without social media there is nothing to distract me from my feelings of discomfort or mask them. And then there is the narcissism of falling in love with our social media reflection so brilliantly described here.

Day 3
House arrest
Marital spat
#unplugging sucks
love and belonging sucks
confounded relationship to social media

100 hours in and my inbox is cleaner. More is getting done. Been on three bike rides and a run. Am I escaping?

Day 5 and you can say life feels a little sadder and a little quieter, but am totally present with my family and with what's around me. Social media is sort of like a forest of cicadas. We stand in that forest and we don't even know they're buzzing. When we turn it off, it's so quiet and so much more still.

Day 6–Much better. PLUGGED IN to my family, my life, my yoga practice. The farther away I get from it the less I want it, need it, or care. My life has sparkles and magic in it. It is OK to not share mine and to not look at the lives of others. Paying attention to the moments. Reading books, talking to my husband, inhaling my kids, building a tree fort in the backyard. I actually got on my bike and rode to a local cafe to write. I sought out real connection during the exact time of day and in the same manner that I would normally check in on facebook. I didn't speak to anyone but it felt good to be among them. I like people. The virtual and the real social arenas both hold the possibility of connection–the possibility of bumping into someone or being inspired by something or informed. Both realms hold promise.

Additionally, I am now officially, acutely and irrevocably aware that the stream of information we see looks absolutely like the cascading waterfall of green streaming data in the Matrix.

8 days in and the craving has mostly subsided...feel way more present in my life. Normally, when things get too intense with my life, work, or family, I hit the eject button and escape for a few minutes into social media.

11 days in. Am aware that facebook and Instagram are consumed so quickly. The motion is churning. It is rapid and frenetic–frenzied. Inherent in the medium is the inability to self-regulate because it is so fast and so hungry for more. Also, I am no longer distracted by my devices.

day 13–Social media isn't the problem, I am.

I feel my life hugging in around me. Am wearing my life like a coat and I like it. Am aware of so much...all the little stuff...because I am mindful and present...the love and connection...planning and back-to-school shopping. It isn't a picnic, though. I feel the whole range of emotions including frustration and anger, but I don't escape into social media to deal with them. I take a bike ride, eat a salad, sit with my feelings, and talk about them.

Day 14–who cares? I am free! I don't care about my phone. Don't care about my texts or emails–never know where my phone is. This #UNPLUG is nice. I feel my flesh around my bones. I feel it all.

16 days It feels really good right here, right now.

Day 17–I do miss my blog, though. I would like to blog about our tree house because it is stellar.

Last day–I had no idea until the last day that I would realize that even offline, even outside the realm of clicks and likes, I have been hiding. That thought just washed over me through blubbering back-to-school tears...that I have been hiding in my family–in my life. It has been so precious. So stressful. So crazy. My kids have been wondrous and amazing and awful and parenting them this summer has been largely blissful, and by turns I have felt like a total failure as a mom because of their nutsy behavior. Parenting is the most beautiful hard work.

And here it is, this cracking realization that even unplugged, even plugged-IN to my family and my life, I find ways to cope, handle, deal with it all. And it is wonderful. And so with that awareness it is much easier to tumble from the wardrobe of Narnia, and back into the world. We four left our coats in the wardrobe, just like Susan, and Peter and Edmund and Lucy did in the book. But here we are back again. And we have a kick ass tree fort. And it is OK.  I know more than I knew before.

Surprising realizations of the #UNPLUG:
1. I get my news in large part through social media. My consistent news source is from someone's post of the thing they shared from their friend from Huffington Post. OMG.
2. The extent of my self-medication came as a complete shock.
3. Life is peaceful and quiet and good when you inhabit it like we lived just 14 years ago in 1999–only email, nothing else.

 My self-prescribed rules and regulations for healthy social media engagement:
1. Create and maintain healthy boundaries and limits.
2. Take a weekend Technology Shabbat
3. No Facebook on my phone. Be present wherever I go. Take my mindfulness with me.
4. Only post something if I actually have something meaningful to contribute.
5. Limited, measured doses of time spent and NO COMPULSIVE CHECKING (we OCD people need that one).
6. No mistaking that social media is "work" even when I am marketing and branding with it.
7. No HIDING in social media. 
8. Pleasure Principle: Accept that I am a beautiful child of god with flaws and desires and compulsions and anxieties and that it is OK to take sips of the stream of social media because I like it and it feels good. I like people and I like myself. I like sharing my life and sharing the lives of my friends. I like sharing my work and inspiring people creatively on my business pages. I feel nourished by connection...the connection in my real, flesh life and the connections I get though the Matrix-like cascade of information from my friends and inspiring websites and news sources.

Oh, and nice to share with you again. Thanks for reading. I look forward to hitting the "publish" button once again. And so here I go....click.


rachael {imagine gnats} said...

oh, this is SO good!!! will need to re-read a few times... then maybe i'll have more thoughtful commentary ;) XO

Deb said...

Living an unplugged life sounds so heavenly. I try to build in unplugged segments to my life. But oh, one month free?! I'm jealous. You inspire me to keep "disconnecting" and reconnecting with "real" life! Good for you!

Alyce @ Blossom Heart Quilts said...

Oh how inspiring! Thank you for sharing some thoughts from the month, much to think upon!!

Bari Ackerman said...

I adore you, Carrie. I've been trying and trying to set limits for myself online, and the first thing that I'm going to do is delete facebook from my phone. I'm keeping IG. :) The other thing I'm planning is no social media past 5pm and no social media on weekends. We will start with Sundays. XO Love you so much!

DeborahGun said...

So helpful Carrie - thank you so much. To be engaged with my family is so important - my rule is no social media time from when I pick my boys up from school until they are in bed. I don't always manage to stick to it, but when I do it is much better for everyone. I think I should try no social media on Sundays too - but that would be harder! Thanks for the challenge :-)

Deb the Baker said...

What you did was awesome and inspiring and hard and brave... What u wrote and how you describe your experience even more so. I love how you write from the gut and heart, unabashedly. As always, I love you lady! You make me want to be a better human being :). Now I'm turning off my iPad because I feel guilty, ha!

einfach bunt said...

Thank you!
I loved how you wrote about this!

Jake Finch said...

So that's where you've been! And while you were gone, Meg Cox was singing your praises for Collage on her Facebook page. So on the next check in, make sure you're there reading it. I tagged you, but it didn't go through. That said, I always love knowing over moms suffer like I do, because it is SO TRUE that misery loves company! Congrats on surviving. Congrats on the tree fort. And I'll be sending you studio Collage pics from here so, Girl. Love you!!

Pétra said...

Very inspiring and thank you for blogging about it! I agree we have to be careful about using social media as an escape and have boundary's around it. The sm as work piece is an interesting thing to think about as well. How will you define when to use sm for work and when it is excess?

thevanillayear.com said...

A most magnificent summer project! Such a great space for the family to share.

Jean Bridges @ On Page 1 said...

"Only post something if I actually have something meaningful to contribute." I think this is the most important point people need to take note of, especially those who use social media for marketing and branding. There's no sense in posting about seeing a chicken cross the road when you're business is about selling dresses, right? ;)