Growing up I used to hear folks say, I have to get right with God. Well about a month ago I realized I had to get right with myself and being that I believe God lives in me, it made immediate sense. I wasn’t feeling very “social.” I was beginning to dread going on Facebook. The process felt more mechanical than experiential. I was going through the motions because I felt I had too. Even at home, if I wasn’t on my laptop I would be staring at the TV. I would just turn it on and not watch anything in particular, but would need to have the TV playing just to have the noise. And sometimes I would sit there looking at the screen, eyes glazed over, absorbing all that noise for hours. When my mom would ask me what I had just watched I would have problems remembering. I was becoming a couch potato. Nah, my bad, I was a full-fledged couch tater. It’s hard to explain, but there was a need for me to be connected even if it was just to noise and a bunch of retweeting. It wasn’t so much a physical burn-out, which I’ve talked about before, but this was more social. I had grown tired of “liking” photos and waking-up with my Blackberry in hand (no judgment!). It was no longer gratifying and so I decided to go offline for 15 days. No Facebook, no Twitter, and no television.
The first few days were excruciating. I caught myself going on FB to see what people were saying, what they had accomplished, who they had seen. Twitter was even harder to abandon. It’s so easy to click on that blue bird on my Blackberry and get “Breaking News” and quick soundbytes on whatever scandal was brewing and again, to see what kinds of things folks were doing with their time. I was spending more time being nosey trying to find out what others were up to instead of living my life. “Grrrl, get your life,” I heard a voice in my head say. Maybe it was Yemaya cause She’s been on my back to get my act together and live my dreams in real time. So after three days of falling off the wagon, I took the apps off of my phone, called the cable company and had my service suspended for 30 days and before I knew it, the taste for social media gradually dissipated. I found other things to fill my time. One was definitely getting organized. I went through papers and magazines. I donated four hefty bags of clothes. I read a book. I started an art project that I’ve wanted to do for three years now. I applied to my first academic conference. I spent time with my mom. I talked on the phone for hours at a time with old and new friends. I went to the movies. I wrote and mailed two letters and two postcards. I went to three concerts– John Legend at Red Rooster, Shuggie Otis & Jose James at Summerstage and Afropunk in Brooklyn and was able to fully enjoy every minute of every show without live-tweeting, Instagramming, or shooting it for YouTube. I looked at all the folks holding up their iPhones and Galaxy’s taking pics and recording moments and it kinda made me sad. That was me just a month ago. Standing on the outside looking in, I could see the intimacy of the moment slipping on by folk. The magical connection between the artist and the art lover is lost when we don’t freely immerse our whole selves in that moment. And you know it’s rough out here for a playa when you can’t even stage dive at a Saul Williams performance without knocking someone’s humongous iPad on the ground. I think I took one pic that night and then I twirled, hollered my Banshee cat-call and joked around with my friend. T’was a good night. The best day was probably the day I went to Central Park and found this beautiful meadow. The picture above is from that hot, sunny day. I took off my sandals and let the grass settle under my feet (ala Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman”), plopped down on my sheet and read, slept, wrote in my journal, laughed and played Frisbee with strangers. I needed that. ALL of that! I had gotten right with myself again.
Now don’t get it twisted, I love social media. Hell, I make a living doing social media. But with that love, like most great loves, there is a cost. When we are connected all the time online, our off-line, non-virtual lives suffer. 875 Facebook friends and you haven’t broken bread with anyone all year? There has to be balance. Balance is my new life keyword. I thirst for it now. Seek it out with every new sunrise. I need it in my life. The beach, the park, my mommy’s house, Harlem cafés and bars all became my sanctuary for three weeks. Within sanctuary there is an ev-en-ing of spirit– a balance. Yeah, I missed a lot of FB updates, but what I gained in return made me love life in the face of rejection and challenge. It has shown me how to be grateful in hard times.
How do you find and maintain balance? Now that I’m back online I’m looking for ways to connect with people and myself that keep me rejuvenated. How do you curb your social media time? For me it’s so addictive and I can be online for hours. I need help to keep me walking the straight and narrow! Please post your suggestions. Now that I got my life, I want to hold on to it!