Real life vs. Social Media

For awhile now, I’ve been contemplating giving up Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, or at least curtailing the time I spend on it. I started participating in these platforms because I wanted to stay in touch with friends, and I’ve done that. I’ve reconnected with childhood friends, my friends from college and my time as a military wife. I’ve also remained connected to others I’ve met more recently, especially my writer friends. I’ve joined quite a few online groups to connect with other writers through Facebook and on Twitter, too. Writing is such a solitary occupation (especially when you practice it in a rural setting) that connecting through the internet is invaluable and validating. There really are others out in the world who write!

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A secondary reason I became involved in social media was to build an audience for my book(s) when I am published one day. I don’t really know if I’ve managed to build an audience, (perhaps a small one) and my books aren’t on the market yet. Though I still like being on social media, I spend far too much time following my interests down the rabbit home of information and curiosity. I will intend to spend only a moment checking updates but find that an hour and a half has passed before I realize it. I no  longer have much time to do other things!

Also, I’ve noticed something about myself and the time I spend on social media. I feel scattered. I struggle to concentrate. I am disconnected from life rather than connected to it. I don’t engage with my writing as readily as I once did.  I have trouble concentrating on long passages of reading or writing for extended periods of time; whereas, I used to read and write for hours. I also used to draw, sew, garden, watch birds and myriad other pursuits. Ironically, my world and my interests have narrowed even as the internet has brought the world to my fingertips.

Once I wrote from a place of deep introspection. When I sat down to write, the words bubbled up from deep within. Not at first, but it didn’t take long to enter the mindset necessary for the magic to happen. Sometimes hours would pass, but it only felt like minutes. Characters appeared seemingly from the ether. Experiences, voices, descriptions, scenes, dialogue, all these passed through me. I was the conduit for the story. I didn’t think it up. I simply waited for it to come to me, and I wrote it down. It was glorious, like a runner’s high, endorphins exploding inside me and filling me with deep satisfaction. When I found that I could disappear into the words and rhythms of the story I was writing, I knew I had found my release, my meditation, my art. I want that back.

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Now I struggle to write because I inhabit a place of frenetic activity, sound bites, and frequent interruptions. I think my characters into being rather than being open to the muse and letting the action and the characters appear as they once did.

If the creative act of writing is a meditative, relaxed, art-minded state of being, taking part in social media is the farthest thing from it. When I have written, I usually discover something about myself or gain some insight into the writing process or human nature. But on social media those moments of insight are rare. When I hop on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I tell myself I will only scroll down my feed (disgusting term, that) for a few minutes, but I so easily succumb to the seduction of reading articles, looking at pictures of cute puppies, watching videos–you name it–that I often spend far too long there and come away feeling less happy, less settled, less satisfied with life than when I began. I should have more will power, but I know that social media sites do a lot of research to keep me clicking.

I have decided to conduct an experiment. Starting today, I am going to limit my time on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Oh, and definitely Pinterest, that black hole of a time suck where I tend to dawdle! From now until further notice–at least a month or longer–I plan to be on social media only AFTER I have worked, written, read, cooked, gardened, walked Stella, visited with friends, and generally enjoyed my life.

I am going to live my life, rather than share an edited-for-media version of it. I want face-to-face conversations with my friends at dinner parties over good food and wine. I want to float down the river with my husband and walk with him in the forest to pick berries or see the leaves change. I want to visit with my children and really hear what is going on in their lives. I want live music, art, and travel. No more distractions, no more staring at a phone or a computer screen.

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I’m making a change today to save my brain from the constant barrage of ads and negativity I find on social media. I will continue to write this blog, and I hope you’ll follow me here, but I am limiting myself to an hour each day of activity on all media. I know it will take a lot of willpower to make this happen. All habits are hard to break, but I hope to be a happier, more productive person, a better writer, a more attentive wife, and a more loving mother, sister, daughter, and friend. I’ll check in and let you know how it’s going. You’ll still find me on my social media platforms, but not as often as before. If you feel compelled join me in sharply curtailing your involvement in social media or have done so already, leave me a note and tell me how your life was changed (or not). I’d love to hear your story!

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Butt in Chair Equals Early Death?

This past school year I gained 12 pounds. Yes, you read that correctly. Ordinarily during the school year I gain anywhere from 5-8 pounds, but this past year set an all-time record for me. I was horrified and still am because 8 of those twelve are still hanging on. School starts in only three weeks. I wouldn’t be concerned about gaining the extra weight if I felt good, but I felt like crap at the end of the year. Not only was I busting out of my jeans, but I also was tired all the time, and my lower back and neck hurt ALL the time. I knew I had to employ drastic measures to get back into shape.  For me this means walking and running usually, and dreaded body weight exercises. My vanity made me want to lose the weight I had gained, but a little voice inside me whispered that for the first time my health was at risk.

During last school year I became really sick, bronchitis in the fall and then pneumonia in the spring. That had not happened in about four years. Was that only a coincidence of working really hard last year? Maybe, but I had also fallen into the routine of doing my job over every other aspect of my life, including spending time at home with my husband and taking walks with Stella, my Lab. I was overwhelmed, over-stressed, and sedentary, a potentially lethal combination. Does that sound familiar to any of you?

Last year author Tom Rath, author of such books as Strengths Finder 2.0, How Full is Your Bucket, Strengths Based Leadership, and now Eat Sleep Move, said that “sitting is the most underrated health threat of modern times.” How does that square with the “butt in chair” mentality of writers? And teachers? And secretaries? Or anyone who spends much of his or her time plopped in a chair either by choice or necessity? Read this article in Forbes Magazine for more information about his research. I guarantee you’ll think twice about how you work.

Having a health crisis last year made me sit  stand up and think about my future (or lack thereof) if I continued my work only sedentary lifestyle. If I were going to be happy, healthy, and successful person, I had to take care of myself first. To that end I decided I had to do something to shock myself into changing. I have always been inspired by pictures people take of themselves when they were really overweight and then the after ones of them in bikinis or swimsuits with ripped abs. I think that is the appeal of The Biggest Loser. We get to see how people transform their lives each week, their successes and failures. When they first weigh in in public and expose their fat in front of people, I cringe for them because I know how embarrassed I would feel. Heck I can barely wear a swimsuit in public and not because I’m fat but because I’m modest. I think Victorian Era swimsuits look pretty good! Weighing themselves in public like that I think is designed to make them accountable and give them nowhere they can hide the fact of their weight from anyone, especially themselves. They can no longer deny how much they weigh or o how big they really are.

I decided that I couldn’t be quite so public with myself–aren’t you relieved?–but I did take a picture of my stomach. I will never show it to anyone, but I do look at it when I want a cookie  or don’t want to take a walk because I’m too tired. I also want a record of how far I’ve come and what I don’t want to look and feel like again when I must choose between my health or my job this school year. No job should consume so much of my life that I don’t have time to fill the well of creativity that keeps me happy. That only fills when I have time to spend with important people in my life and my writing.

I have dedicated myself to my writing and my health this summer. I haven’t lost the weight that I want to lose yet, but I’ve already changed my life by exercising nearly every day and working either on this blog or on my books. Though progress in my writing is much harder to quantify, I’ve made progress in both areas. I now walk 4.5-6 miles most days. I also do Spartacus workouts twice a week with some modifications for my weak upper body, and Popsugar is my “go to” site for fun workouts that are doable and short. I’ve built muscle and no longer have pain in my lower back or neck as often. I’m not where I need to be yet, but I’m getting there. I’m also using my Pinterest profile to keep track of  workouts I like. Checkl out my Pinterest Health and Fitness board. The inspiration for the sculpted belly I want is the cover picture on this board.

You can also find my board for my novel on my Pinterest page too, but I’ll be posting about that soon.

Any job that requires that we put our job responsibilities above our health and time with important people and activities in our lives is asking too much of us. In those cases the time we invest to accomplish work tasks is not worth the money we make because once we don’t have our health, we can’t be successful at anything. We can’t even enjoy our lives. I truly believe “sitting is the new smoking” because last school year I lived the kind of life that endangered my health.  I allowed my job to take precedence over everything else including my husband, my family, my friends, my art, and my spiritual life. I won’t live that way ever again. I am making a pledge to myself to move more, write more, love more, live more, and work less. I will care for myself first so that I have the energy and health to take care of everything else.