I have a new addiction to podcasts. I totally jumped on the Serial bandwagon, which took me down the rabbit hole into the world of podcasts. Turns out talk radio is the perfect medium for someone like me to connect with my introspective side and indulge in lots of thought-provoking material. One of the things that has been on my mind a lot after listening to some TEDtalks and This American Life, is the concept of humanity and how it's impacted by social media and technology. I have a love / hate relationship with technology. It's a powerful force that scares and intimidates me and makes my mind feel like it's going to explode. I have a similar reaction to outer space. My inner hippy sometimes wants to flee to some commune off the grid to spend life living in the moment. The other part of me wants to take a picture of myself doing that and upload it to Instagram (#offthegrid #hippylife #inthemoment #connected #naturelover). Having started a business, I am now more dependent on social media than I ever have been and it does raise a lot of internal conflict. I'm digging my heels in the dirt at the same time as I'm diving headfirst into Flat World (the cyber world that exists within a flat screen).
I am trying my best to find a happy medium. To embrace the amazing aspects of technology that allows me to connect with a wide group of people from anywhere in the world, while also staying grounded and connected to my beliefs. One of my biggest focuses is on the concept of presence; the idea of living in the moment. Nowadays most people struggle with this, myself included, as we're constantly tempted by the draw of the attention and distraction of social media that is often kept in our pockets. It's something that keeps coming up for me and I think it's something that's important for us all to think about as we continue to live in a society that is more and more dependent on social media. In response to my own need to find a place within this technological world, I've come up with a personal guide to keep me grounded and thought I'd share it with you, Flat World.
A Hippy's Guide to Embracing Technology
1. Remember that "off the grid" is always one power switch away:
Before having an iPhone I would often forget my phone or just let it die and exist for awhile free of it. Now, I rarely separate with it. Lately I've been trying to spend more time with it on silent, so I'm not constantly tempted by notifications, especially when I'm with other people and want to be more present. If I'm off in the woods and want to use my camera, I've been putting my phone on airplane mode so that I can still use the camera without being lured into Flat World. And then there's the power switch. This is always an option for a full "off the grid" experience.
2. Allow yourself empty time and space:
I've noticed that when I get in the mode where I've adapted to constant entertainment and distraction easily provided by Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and so on, that I'm no longer left with empty space. I forgot how important that empty space is to me. Empty space is what inspires me to go within and journal, meditate, do yoga, hula hoop, or fill it with some other activity that allows me to take full advantage of that moment. It's good for me to remember that I can be content in quiet, peaceful, still moments and that beautiful things can happen when I explore within that space.
3. Don't forget that Flat World is full of actual humans:
One of the things that has disturbed me the most about social media is this disconnection it allows us to have from humanity. Lots of times people feel freer to say hurtful things because they're comfortable spouting out their opinions in the comfort of their homes behind a screen. I believe that many people wouldn't act that same way if they had to face the repercussions of seeing the hurt they caused someone with their words. We allow ourselves to become detached and we should always remember that on the other side of the screen sits real people with real feelings. There's a great episode of This American Life about this, listen here. Instead of using social media as a vehicle for hurtful words and strong opinions, we should use it's power to spread love and positivity. We now have access to people, celebrities, idols, gurus, colleagues, and people with similar interests in ways we never have before. Use social media to make positive connections, draw inspiration, express gratitude, share creatively, and show love and support. Remember when it wasn't polite to talk about politics or religious beliefs at the dinner table? Flat World is the new dinner table, so stay classy.
4. Put pen to paper:
I love mail. The good kind, not the bill kind. I love cards. I love writing. Blogging has allowed me to write publicly and to get my thoughts out efficiently and quickly, which has been extremely beneficial and therapeutic, but it doesn't compare to the act of writing using the old school method: pen and paper. Journaling is something I still practice when I'm struggling with something. The slower process of it allows me to get fully present with my feelings and it provides a lot of clarity. Writing doesn't just help me connect to myself, but to others as well.
When I first moved away to California, I started writing letters to my roommates from college and loved it. We would doodle our own stationary and share about recent happenings. It really helped ebb my loneliness in the first few months. Recently, I've started to take the time to send out more cards to people. I can't tell you how much enjoyment I get out of hand picking cards that perfectly represent someone or some inside joke between a friend and I. I also can't tell you how much enjoyment I get out of seeing a card or a letter show up in the mail. More and more I'm wishing to take the time and effort to express myself in this way because it feels special to me and makes me feel connected in a way the internet cannot provide.
5. Information saturation:
Holy guacamole, we sure are exposed to a ton of information! It can be extremely overwhelming and, depending on the nature of it, disheartening. In so many ways I feel blessed to have answers, solutions, interesting news, and creative inspiration constantly at my finger tips, but I've had to learn to filter out the stuff that weighs me down. I'm a sensitive individual with a bleeding heart that is quick to feel the pain and joys of others. I have to be careful with what I spend my time on on the internet, so that I don't get lost in sadness or negativity. I do my best to embrace the stuff that lifts me up or inspires me and then not give energy to the stuff that leaves me feeling down.