Turning Down the Volume: 79/365

I read this essay yesterday that really made me think. Rachel’s beautifully crafted essays always make me think. This one felt especially timely because I’d just finished taking stock, assessing the changes and discoveries that have evolved over the course of this project so far.

My anxiety has been up and I’ve had brain-drain from too much digital consumption. I’d had a sneaking suspicion social media scrolling was at least partly to blame, but Rachel’s essay brought it into stark relief. We can’t escape the distracting noise that is technology, but is there a way to turn down the volume?

Today I conducted an experiment. I dropped off Facebook and Instagram for the entire day. Actually, I had to click on Facebook to wish a dear friend happy birthday, and just as my finger was about to hit the notifications, I shut it down. There’s no way any of it was urgent; I refused to click. Later in the day, as text messages were popping up, I read the texts and then found myself unconsciously clicking on Instagram. What is wrong with me? I deleted the app from my phone, eliminated the temptation.

Today I operated in real time. I did not feel like I was being pulled in as many directions. I was more connected to my daughter. I was less irritable. Less anxious. I stayed on task. I got a few hours of writing in. At our friend’s birthday dinner tonight, I was immersed in conversation, connected to the people around me.

I’m wondering, should I schedule my social media check-ins? There are reasons to stay engaged there; I don’t want to disappear completely. But if I don’t limit my use, the habitual scrolling takes over. Everyone does it. We drift into our phones for a moment that becomes many moments, eventually looking up, glassy-eyed, irritated to have been interrupted from the mind-numbing scroll click scroll. Should/could social media check-ins be limited to a few times a week? Has anyone tried this?

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7 thoughts on “Turning Down the Volume: 79/365”

  1. I know a few people who gave up facebook for Lent, and it wasn’t easy. I just started reading a memoir you may enjoy – The Winter of our Disconnect – by Susan Maushart. It’s about a family (with teenagers!) that unplugged and their experience. I just got through a section with some very interesting insight about boredom and how important it is.

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    1. Yes! Boredom is essential to creativity, that space for daydreams and drifting thoughts. It is impossible to engage with digital media and daydream at the same time. For me, those breaks of mental space happen when I’m running and when I’m driving; ideas flow and breakthroughs occur. There are other small breaks of space, but I tend to unconsciously fill them by checking email, texts, Instagram or Facebook. It sends my thought stream in a million different directions.

      Thank you for the book recommendation. Giving up Facebook for Lent is an interesting experiment too. Did your friends enjoy the hiatus once they got used to it? I belong to a writers’ group on FB that’s been a great professional resource for me and that, among other things, keeps me engaged there. But I can certainly reduce the number of check-ins. Right now after 3 days without social media, I’ve felt more focused and relaxed. I have to give some more thought to a new approach…

      Thanks for your feedback and insights!

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    1. If you decide to schedule your social media, I’d love to know how it goes for you and what type of schedule you create. My 3-day hiatus has renewed my calm and focus. I’m still trying to decide on a schedule. Once daily every other day, or every two days? And not at all on big writing days.

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  2. Oh this is so kind, Sarah. I think it was your Taking Stock and all the healthy, productive habits you’ve acquired (I shouldn’t say acquired, that sounds passive. better: you’ve developed) that forced me to think about the noise and distraction and what is was doing to me. So that is part of our interplay – reading/writing/thinking/ productive spirals of energy directed inward rather than dissipated out.

    Sometimes I do something like check email etc. 2 x/ day, say 7 am and 6 pm.

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  3. I like the put the phone down if I’m with you effort. Ringer on but out of reach. Check when I’m done. Plug in to people first. Check the rest later. It’s practice, though – one I fail often frequently.

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    1. Ringer on but out of reach is smart. I’d also like to stick to the first 30 min and last 30 min of the day being screen-free. Very challenging!

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