hello monday: vol. 4

Hello, Monday. I've been thinking about disconnection lately.

Back in December, I spent the better part of two days in my car as I drove from Florida back to Virginia. To make good use of the time, I downloaded about a bajillion podcasts to my phone before I left and proceeded to catch up on as many as possible. Over the course of two days, I caught up on something like 50+ podcast episodes thanks to short episodes and 1.5x listening speed.

 
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As I cruised down I-95, I listened to a podcast episode where the conversation centered around living a more analog lifestyle. The interviewee had been an early adopter to all things technology and, after several years, essentially scrambled her brain. She had issues with sleep, memory loss, concentration, and more. During a family vacation, her husband made her give him all her technology and after just seven days of disconnection, her brain began to unscramble itself. 

I don't think I've ever been anywhere near the level of technology addiction she was, but her story stirred something in me.

I've always been an odd sort when it comes to technology. On the one hand, I love it and the things it allows us to do. I use technology and social media more than anyone in my immediate family and at one point I had three different websites, four Instagram accounts, and six email addresses. At the same time, however, I staunchly refuse to use a Kindle because I don't see the point in adding technology to an activity that doesn't require it and I can hands down promise you I will never own a smart watch of any kind.

Even with these somewhat luddite inclinations, I had more or less accepted the fact that, in order to do all the things I wanted to do and still brand stuff "properly," I had to split all my interests into little pockets spread all over the internet and drive myself absolutely bonkers in the process of trying to keep up with them all.

Yes, that sounds completely ridiculous when I write it out now, but that's legitimately how I felt.

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Our default — my default — way of living is connected.

We check social media and email countless times a day. We swipe and tap our phones an absurd number of times. We respond to notifications popping up on our screens and even feel phantom buzzing when our phone is in our pockets. Our phones are often the first thing we grab in the morning and the last thing we touch before we go to bed at night. Everything is connected now, so you never have to miss out on anything "important."

Partially in response to the podcast episode and partially in response to feelings stirring in my heart over the last several months, one of my goals in 2018 is to put strict boundaries in place regarding my use of technology and social media.

Rather than the default being 24/7 connection, I want to get to a place where the default is disconnection. Where I control my use of technology and social media and there's not even a question that it might control me. Where I don't panic if I leave my phone at home or freak out about what I possibly missed if I don't check Facebook for a few days. Where I live in the present, rather than the screen of my phone.

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It probably isn't new news to you, but this age of supposed connection has left us more disconnected than ever.

We think we know what's happening in people's lives because we liked their status update on Facebook or post on Instagram, but we rarely bridge that gap between social media interaction and actually picking up the phone and seeking out the individuals in our lives for a personal connection.

The problem with those statistics is they often feel so impersonal, and you can trick yourself into thinking they don't really apply to you. Other people might be addicted to technology and the gratification of social media, but that would never happen to you. At least that's what I thought.

In 2017, I started implementing social media free weekends. Every Saturday and Sunday, I stayed away from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like in an effort to be more present in my day to day living.

When it first started, particularly on weekends that weren't particularly full, I'd often find myself with that itch, reaching for my phone out of boredom, only to put it back down when there weren't any non-social notifications for me to check or respond to. But after a while, I noticed that itch going away, but the changes didn't stop there.

I was calmer, less anxious. My head felt clearer and more focused. I was able to really enjoy and appreciate the time I spent with friends and family because I never felt the need to pull out my phone and check what was happening on social media.

It wasn't until I took a step back from social media myself and saw the positive changes it made in my own life that I started to recognize the truth behind the statistics.

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Because I'm an extrovert, most people think I'm a social butterfly. That I want to be friends with as many people as possible and always do all the things and see all the people. That's certainly the case for some extroverts, but not for me. My preference has always been for smaller and more intimate. I prefer to go deep, not wide when it comes to relationships and connection with people.

Social media gives a false sense of width in our relationships. We can be friends with literally thousands of people on different platforms and trick ourselves into thinking we have a deeper connection with them than we actually do.

There are writers whose blogs I follow and, through their words, I feel like I know them. But I have to remind myself often that I don't. Most of them I've never met in person and though I know bits and pieces of their heart through the things they share online, I don't actually know them.

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I'm going through a 12-week business course right now with a group of other small business owners. During our first week, one of our homework assignments was to write out our vision statement for our life. It took a little while to craft mine in the perfect way, but I eventually decided on these words: "To love God and encourage others to know they are seen, heard, and loved."

That second part of the phrase — to encourage others to know they are seen, heard, and loved — completely sums up how I want to approach all my relationships.

I wholeheartedly believe this world is under-encouraged in so many ways. I believe that even more so now than we ever did before social media, too many of us feel completely unseen. We feel like we're shouting into the void and our voice is unheard. And because of this, we feel unloved.

I truly wish I could make every person I interact with know they are seen, they are heard, they are loved. 

But the reality is, that kind of encouragement in relationship requires a certain amount of depth in relationship. I can't truly make that known to people unless I'm able to practice it in my interactions with them, unless I'm actually able to show them that they are seen, they are heard, they are loved by me.

For me, that means stepping away from the screen. It means putting down the phone. It means disconnecting. It means digging deep with the few the Lord has placed in my life and ensuring they know those truths.

A part of my heart breaks that I am unable to impress that truth upon every person I come into contact with, but what I'm learning is that when I disconnect from the online world so I can reconnect to the real world, I'm able to impress that upon people in a deeper, better, truer way and the result is they are then able to impress it upon others they come into contact with.

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We're only a few weeks into the new year and I'm still sorting out what things look like for me in 2018, but I know this: it's going to be a year of deliberate disconnection and intentional reconnection. 

Social media isn't inherently bad and I'm by no means shunning it completely. But I would encourage you to evaluate your own use of it in this new year. Are you using it to legitimately connect with people in your life? Or is it, and the results of it permeating so much of your life, causing more disconnection than real connection?

Put the phone down. Look your friends and family in the face. Show them, in practice, they are seen, they are heard, and they are loved.