You may have noticed that I've been quiet lately, Internet-wise. This is in part because I continue to focus my energy on physical rehabilitation. But there is another reason. In the past five years social networking has become de rigueur. It started innocently enough with blogging, LiveJournal, MySpace. Facebook swallowed them all whole, but that seemed okay because it was about 'staying connected.' Then Instagram, Google Plus, Four Square, Twitter. Now it's a bunch of shit I haven't even heard of (Vine?), in addition to the old standbys. If you look up from your phone, you'll see that everyone else is...looking at their phones.
Clearly I'm not a Luddite--anyone who wants to have a career as a writer can't afford to be. But I've noticed more and more the uncomfortable itch that comes over me when I sit at my kitchen table without my computer. I wanted to understand where that itch comes from. I wanted to sit with it.
So for the past few days I have been. And wow. WOW.
For me, social networking started out as a way to 'stay connected.' It was a novelty to check in with friends I hadn't seen or heard from since high school. My current friends posts are always smart, funny, and interesting. I'm not sure when the change occurred, when status updates and tweets took the edge off lonely moments. When I started squeezing my life into 140 character chunks. When I began needing people to like, to follow, to comment, to reply.
What I didn't realize until I sat without it, was how much I've been using Facebook as a distraction, an escape from the present moment.
During meditation, thoughts and feelings arise. We acknowledge them, we sit with them, and we let them go. This is supposed to help us do the same while we are not meditating. The more we realize the transitory nature of thoughts and feelings, the more peace we will cultivate in our lives. This is especially necessary for me as someone who experiences depression and anxiety. The problem with social networking is that it's all about tightening your grasp. Every little thought, observation, or experience becomes fodder. Becomes relevant. This is speaking just to speak. This is the opposite of mindfulness.
This isn't to say that mindful social networking isn't possible. It is. There are people doing it. Some of them are in my newsfeed. I'm just not one of them. Yet.
For now I'm going to continue my experiment. I'm going to sit at my kitchen table sans computer. When status updates pop into my thoughts I'm going acknowledge them, sit with them, and then continue washing dishes, or folding laundry, or reading a book. I'm going to try and get back to breathing. I'm going to pet my dog. I'm going to look at my face in the mirror, smile, and say "Welcome back."