“Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected. Remember the old days when you had eye contact during a conversation? When everyone wasn’t looking down at a device in their hands? We’ve become so focused on that tiny screen that we forget the big picture, the people right in front of us.” – Regina Brett
There are many positives to this digital world in which we live. Social media allows us to connect with other like-minded people. It allows us to not feel so marginalized or isolated. It allows us to feel part of a bigger community. However, once again, I am feeling like it is taking up too much time in my life. As I have said many times, I am a very social person and extrovert. I crave human contact in a way that is so palpable that it can almost be painful if I don’t receive it for any length of time. This is why my cellphone is such a powerful entity for me. It allows me to touch base with people from my hometown with a few strokes on a keypad. I can call and email people anytime I want. There are so many ways to connect. All of that is positive. However, there is a dark side that I don’t often acknowledge.
I am always accessible. I am finding that my anxiety often goes through the roof because of this. Every morning, I write in my journal and outline how I want my day to look. I want to paint. I want to start some sewing projects. I want to start a book I have been wanting to read. Often I am finding that if I was to journal at night and reflect on what my day actually looked like, it would not at all resemble the outline I had set forth in the morning. Many days I feel like I have been hijacked by a very strong force that prevents me from achieving my goals. That force is often my cell phone. If I look at how much time I spend talking on my phone vs using apps, the apps always win. I have a morning routine that I cherish and need, however before any of that starts, the first thing I do in the morning is look at my phone from anywhere to 30 minutes to an hour before I even get up. I check the weather, my emails, text messages, Facebook, Instagram, some word game apps. All before I even get up. I feel that is setting me up for a stressful day. After that, I get up, make coffee, write in my journal, meditate, and stretch in an attempt to set my day up right. Then I go back to my phone for a bit.
Every time I hear a ding or a bleep from that rectangular box, I feel the need to check it. Sometimes it is an email, sometimes Pinterest, sometimes a text. Often the communication stresses me out. Emails create jobs I “have” to do. I am on several organizing committees. Communication is often a message requesting something that needs to be done. People are not rude or insisting, but something in my Type A, people-pleasing personality says I need to do it right now. That is where I allow my day to become derailed. Although I know excessive time online is not a good idea, I often feel powerless to curb it. I think deep down, I don’t want to miss out on something, and mostly I don’t want to miss out on a possible connection with someone. Although this is not specifically a problem for people with a chronic illness like myself, I feel it can be easier to be exacerbated for us. For me, I spend a lot of time at home by myself. Although I love my dog and my cat, it is only so long before I want contact with someone who can actually talk to me. So I turn to my phone. If no one is available to chat or text, down the rabbit hill I go of checking the weather, facebook, etc. I read an American statistic the other day that said that Americans spend nearly 50% of their waking time on their smartphones in some capacity. That is staggering to me and I am sure Canadians are not much different. How productive is our society actually being if that is what we are spending the majority of our time doing? I don’t fool myself into believing that most of the time I spend on my phone is doing things that are a need. Most are just mindless surfing.
I often find it difficult to focus. Especially on conversations with people. I feel like I am always distracted and waiting for some bell to go off and signal something else is happening. I really feel like this is a social experiment to see how this vast amount of unfiltered online time will affect our brains. I also find it creates anxiety for everyone. We never have to wait for anything. You can’t remember something? Just search it, as my 11 year old niece says. I went out yesterday to look for a new couch. I didn’t find what I wanted. I came home after 5 hours of looking in stores, to spend probably another 2 hours looking online at websites. I feel like my brain never really is able to fully shut off. As soon as I woke up this morning, what was I thinking about? Couches.
This weekend, my husband is working out of the house, and it is supposed to be cold and rainy. I am going to practice at least being mindful of how much time I am spending online. I am certainly going to try to limit it and focus more on actual human beings who are in front of me. I am going to try to get rid of the hijacker for a few hours and see how my world changes an hour at a time. My first step is to not take that first hour upon waking on my phone. Let me at least start with the healthier things like writing and meditation.
Wishing you an anxiety-free day,