Some days are busier than others. Some weeks build up energy and force me to step back during the next. The end of October was one of those weeks. The end of summer caught up with me. Weekend events and obligations thinned. Summer me would be relieved!
I had a relaxing birthday weekend and felt as if I did nothing but sit on the couch, eat and drink a lot, skip a workout and scroll, scroll, scroll. It’s too instinctual to plop down and pick it up. Instead of doing the many relaxing things I’d dreamt of doing in the summer, “if I had JUST A FREE HOUR” in between jobs and commitments, I did nothing. I consumed a bunch of nonsense on a tiny screen.
I remember during one of my first writing workshops we were asked: “If you had all the time in the world, no obligations, no work, etc., what would you write about?” Everyone talked about all the things they’d do before they’d sit down and right. That’s how this week in October felt.
I felt this push/pull with social media during that week; work and play. I currently FEEL the constant satisfaction click that everyone talks about. I hear stories about teenagers becoming depressed because they’re anxiously waiting for the next comment on their Instagram post. Do that regularly enough and it becomes a habit. I, fortunately, don’t have that craving inside of me for my self-worth, confidence, or whatever it satisfies in a human. I think its more about the quick scrolling from one photo/video or caption to the next. It’s difficult for me to watch movies (not only because I fall asleep halfway through) and I truly have to be interested in the plot or force myself to pay attention.
In addition to the attention struggle, whether this is from social media or not, I can barely listen to two people at once. As a bartender, I often have to lean over the bar and listen to customers. Easy enough?
The door opens, someone laughs loudly, a co-worker walks behind me, my phone vibrates, eyes are waiting for my attention, the music playlist switches songs and on and on and on.
I’ve found it incredibly hard to focus on simple interactions in public. It’s extremely easy for me to get distracted and I’ve never felt like that before. Even while having friends over, I’m looking and listening and following my friend’s story, but also hearing every word her boyfriend is saying to my boyfriend in a different conversation. My brain can’t block it out.
When it comes to social media, I have one paycheck that depends on it. The rest is commitment. I promote a local artist collective, my own photography business/passion and now a future music and arts festival that I need to drum up noise for. The problem with mindlessly scrolling is that I’m learning how to separate the difference in use.
We’ve all been there: 10 minutes down a Facebook hole and you’ve hop, skipped into that girl from high school’s ex-boyfriend’s cousin, because it’s a small world after all? Or six videos beyond the Tiny Desk Concert on NPR’s Youtube that you’ve been searching for and instead you’re calling your friends about conspiracy theories.
You get it.
At the bar I see plenty of older couples sit across the table from each other with a little screen consuming their space. For a good chunk of time, they don’t speak to each other. Sometimes it’s one person scrolling and the other patiently waiting and looking around the room. It’s not just millennials.
I felt my brain go mushy during the last week in October. Sure I was relaxing, but it didn’t feel successful. As someone who is constantly busy, I grew bored quickly. I used to say it was impossible to get bored. There’s podcasts to listen to, books to finish, projects to create, a bike to ride, and trails to explore. I just have to remind myself sometimes that all of that is available. I hope it’ll retune my lack of focusing habits.
Social media has changed our lives in many ways. We keep preaching that it’s a tool (I’m mostly speaking for myself here, folks). I suppose my goal is to use social media for work during the day and try to shut off at night. It’s about living in the moment, taking photos for later and prioritizing work/time. Here’s to being more conscious!
Is it wrong to put a plug here?
Instagram: @photos.mcgeeney & @wearecommonfolk
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Side note: While studying to be a personal trainer, I found it challenging to simply read from a textbook and answer questions. It was also summer time. Studying outside increased my distractions, as well as my exposure to Vitamin D. The app Forest helped me stay off my phone by building trees for my forest while a timer ran. I’d study in 30-45 minute increments. It’s a silly concept, but might work for you!