7:00. Just got home. Tired toes. Hungry. The 7.5 feet from the couch to the kitchen feel like an eternity. Buzz. Ding. Somebody wants my attention. Fingerprint. Click. Respond. Click. Click. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Like. Like. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Stomach grumbles. Kitchen. So. Far. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Going numb — 10:00. What the hell!?
Most of the modern world is totally wired in, plugged in, and connected every second of every day. We laugh about it and make fun of it but I think we also know deep down inside that we have a problem. We are all very much addicted to our cell phones, no, social media, and more specifically instagram. Instagram is man’s new worst best friend. Sure, it has some pros. It’s a super convenient way to stalk that guy you matched with on tinder so you can decide if he’s worth meeting in person or if you’re better off ghosting him! It’s a great way to keep up to date on what *insert influencer's name here* is doing, what makeup products they’re buying, and what clothing brands they’re endorsed by! Just kidding. In all seriousness, the one good thing I believe instagram is truly good for is free advertising. You probably thought I was going to say “staying up to date on what my friends are up to.” But no, dear sweet reader. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’ve come to the conclusion that using instagram as a way to keep tabs on what your friends are doing is actually a negative side of social media. I promise I will further explain what I mean later. (THIS IS ME REMINDING MYSELF IN BIG BLACK BOLD TEXT TO EXPLAIN LATER WHY I THINK WE ARE BETTER OFF NOT KNOWING WHAT OUR FRIENDS ARE UP TO BY WAY OF INSTAGRAM - I don’t want to forget to explain this.)
Instagram has changed the world of business. You can quite literally build a business from scratch on there. As long as you’re smart about posting a lot and using the right hashtags you can make money without having to hire an advertising team, without paying for space in the local newspaper, or making use of any other ancient advertising techniques. I’ve seen this with my own eyes. One of my good friends is a real estate agent (@samiamrealestate on instagram) and she once said to me that she only “advertises” through her instagram page. Combine smart instagram posts with the infamous power of word of mouth and she’s making a living doing real estate. Jon (my boyfriend) started a photography business with only two things: a passion for capturing the essence of a human being in a photo, and his instagram (@jon_esquivel). This is amazing.
But this is not all that instagram gets used for. I mean, unless you’ve been living under a rock the past decade you’ve seen the rise in instagram usage. You’ve probably gotten sucked up in it too. I know I did. Think of instagram like an addictive toy that has a the power to change our brain chemistry (it literally does, there are studies that prove this). The gods of social media released this toy to us without an instruction booklet on how to safely play with our new toy. And since this toy has the capability of manipulating the way neurons fire in our brain it’s no surprise we all jumped in headfirst and forgot to come up for air. How many of you have found yourself literally wondering where the time has gone after falling down the rabbit hole of mindlessly scrolling through instagram? This has happened to me so many times I can’t even count that high. (I’m a dancer so I only count to eight. And sometimes twelve, but mostly only eight.) Or even better: how many times have you found yourself scrolling through instagram only to realize you’ve already seen all the photos coming up on your newsfeed because you were on instagram 45 minutes ago and not that much has happened since then? Or clicking on people’s stories and not even really watching them, but just clicking through them and then suddenly you’ve clicked so far down the road that you’re suddenly watching stories of people you don’t even know but for some reason follow and “wow she’s in Hawaii?! I wish I could go there. He looks so ripped. I should spend more hours at the gym so I can look like that. Ugh! They just keep booking show after show after show! Leave some contracts for the rest of us, why don’t you?!” I say this because I’ve done this. Writing it down on paper (or MacBook Pro - it’s the same thing) makes it seem pathetic. I literally feel like a small ball of pathetic-ness has left my fingers and opened itself up for the whole world to see (or at least the small community of people who religiously read my blog - thank you guys, you are the best!) And I’ll admit, it’s a little embarrassing. But you know what they say, the first step in changing something you don’t like about yourself is admitting you have a problem. I did that for myself in the privacy of my own mind about four months ago.
Let’s back up even further shall we? I started to become aware of my relationship with social media about two years ago. I was on a contract in a beautiful part of the country, performing in awesome shows, and hiking a lot. I was posting a lot of pictures of my adventures and of me in costume but other than that I wasn’t really spending time on instagram because I was really busy. I had sort of adapted a post, don’t scroll attitude towards instagram without meaning to and I found myself reaping the benefits hard core. I was living my life in all its fullness. I was enjoying the people around me and the magic we were creating together. I was letting myself fully explore parts of the country I had never seen before. I was, for lack of a better term, completely selfish in paying attention to and caring about my journey and my journey alone. But because I’m human and we’re a silly species I kept getting off the “post don’t scroll” train and would find myself going down rabbit holes only to come out the other side minutes or sometimes hours later. And I realized something: I never feel good after scrolling through instagram. I actually think my heartbeat quickens, my anxiety definitely goes up, and somewhere deep inside my psyche my confidence goes down.
“Maybe I should do a social media cleanse the first week of every month and just go off it for a whole week.” I thought to myself while getting dressed one morning in May. And here’s what’s crazy: as soon as I thought it I was immediately swarmed with nerves and anxiety about it.
“What if I miss something important?… But it’s Mother’s Day this week. I won’t be able to post anything about how much I love my mom!…But Sabrina leaves for China this week too. I won’t be able to post anything about how proud I am of her and how much I’ll miss her…This week is a big week. Maybe I should just wait and do it next week instead…”
There’s a saying among millennials that goes a little something like “pix or it didn’t happen.” Most of the time that phrase is used as a joke. However, I think many of us (and I’m including myself in this as well) abide by that as if it were law. And this is what laid the seeds for me to learn the first of many lessons about my relationship to my instagram: the world still continues to turn even without my obsessive involvement online. Mother’s Day still happens even if I don’t post about it. I will still be the proudest older sister sending my little sister off to China even without a #proudbigsister post. There are ways to share these moments with the people who truly matter that are way more heartfelt than any instagram post could ever be.
So I had my first ever social media cleanse. And I loved it. I shed 5 pounds in just one week! Kidding. But truthfully, I did fall in love with not being on social media. I won’t lie, at first it was challenging. I had no idea how much of a mindless habit scrolling through instagram had become for me. My fingers seemed to open up the app without my brain even telling them to do so. But I fought against the impulse and after a couple days I was really loving it. I loved it so much that I made a commitment to myself that the first week of every month would always be my social media cleanse week.
Fast forward to the end of the summer. Jon and I went on a hiking trip to Colorado and then I met up with my Mom and sister in Florida to relax at the beach with our Aunt and Uncle. I went off social media for the entire time I was gone. I de-plugged for twelve straight days. In addition, I decided I wasn’t going to check my e-mail while I was away. I made one of those “out of office” automated replies, which had me feeling super official and badass and adult. Fully unplugging myself from my technology (other than texting my parents that I was still alive and well after summiting some of the Rockies finest mountains - yes, summiting is a word, Google told me I could use it) really taught me a lot about the type of life I was living and the type of life I want to live. Here are some of my favorite lessons I learned from my 12 day phone break up:
1. There are more hours in the day to do things that fill you with joy when you’re not wasting four of them on your phone.
There are 24 hours in a day and I like to get 8 hours of sleep every night which leaves me with 16 hours of fun potential. That’s a lot of time. Each day in Colorado was jam packed with hiking, exploring, eating good food, and meeting locals. I love this kind of vacation. This is what fills me up.
2. People that really need to tell you something will find a more direct way to do so.
To be honest, I learned this lesson way before I went on vacation but I thought it worthy of being mentioned here. Yes, it is true that social media can be a great tool for getting information out to a lot of people with minimal amount of effort. Dance teachers will post on instagram when they’re teaching a class, or a cast reunion might be organized through a group facebook page. And I totally understand FOMO, but in reality “missing out” on something isn’t the end of the world. Also, if someone really wants you to be somewhere and you haven’t responded to their facebook invite I guarantee they will reach out to you directly. This has happened to me and let me tell you it felt really good to know that my presence was specifically requested.
3. Your life is meant to be lived and experienced. Why would you want to waste some of it watching other people living and experiencing theirs?
This one sentence could be the thesis statement for an entire blog but I will try to briefly unpack it here. I think it’s human nature to be nosy about what other people are up to, that’s why gossip was invented. But with instagram there’s no escaping it, unless you exit the app, of course. Instagram, youtube, etc. have all fed this growing obsession with watching other people live their lives. And what’s even more upsetting (at least to me anyway) is that people who have lots of followers are literally getting paid so that you can sit on your couch and watch them live their seemingly glamorous, beautiful, perfect lives. Yes, sometimes good information can be gained depending on the type of people you’re following: personal trainers share good workout tips, a crafty mom blogger might show you a fun DIY project, and a vegan foodie could open your eyes (and mouth!) to some new favorite recipes. But there’s a fine line between gaining new, useful information and loosing half of your precious life to a screen without being aware of it.
And last but not least…
4. You’re better off not relying on instagram to keep tabs on what your friends are up to.
I told you I’d explain this. The number one thing I fell in love with about being off instagram while on vacation was not having any clue what people were up to. First of all, we all know how accurately instagram depicts what is actually going on in each of our lives (wink, wink). Our instagram feeds are purposely curated to only show our proudest, most beautiful, most impressive moments. Seeing photo after photo of all of your friends living lives that look like they’re way cooler than yours is the perfect way to develop a case of low self-esteem. Secondly, after my vacation was over and I was back in the city, I realized that I really enjoyed having to ask people what they were up to. Typically when I run into people and I ask “what’s new” I already have an idea of what their answer will be because I’ve seen it advertised on instagram all week. But not knowing how my question would be answered caused me to listen more attentively. Posting on instagram, scrolling through instagram, liking photos, and even commenting is so impersonal. There’s no real human exchange going on. But when I had to ask a friend of mine what they were up to and actively listen to the answer I felt like I was truly reconnecting with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in a while.
So what’s my point in all of this? I’m not saying we should all quit social media completely. I do understand that it has its uses, especially in our industry, with more and more casting directors asking about online presence in auditions. (No, this isn’t some old wive’s tale, this really does happen.) But in general, I think we’re all spending too much time on our devices. We could all use to add some balance back into our lives. Most parents I babysit for have very specific rules regarding how much screen time is allowed per day. I think maybe we could all treat ourselves the way we treat our children. There’s a reason we limit how much screen time we allow our kids to have. Why does all of that suddenly go out the window when dealing with ourselves? (I feel the same way regarding exercise and eating healthy but that’s a conversation for another day.)
And to be completely honest and vulnerable (because what would one of my blog posts be without a touch of vulnerability) I think we’re all a little lonely. No, I don’t mean romantically. I think we miss human connection. I think we’ve gotten out of touch with our natural ability to open up and be vulnerable with people we love because we’ve relied on texting and typing and messaging for over a decade. It uses very little emotional energy to text someone “I love you! Miss you!” It requires a whole different level of opening up to look someone in the eye and say those same words and for some, that might seem scary.
So dear reader, if you’ve read this far I want to thank you for indulging me on a subject I’ve become quite passionate about. I hope we can find the time to connect for real in the coming weeks and share what’s on our minds and in our hearts. Ta-ta for now.