How Do We Live Inside a Garbage Fire Without Getting Burned?

Jennifer Kane
Oct 14, 2018 · 3 min read

For the past decade, my life has been equally focused on two paths of interest and education:

1. Digital marketing/communications and social media (through my consulting practice, writing, and public speaking).

2. Health and wellness (a side hustle of writing and speaking related to my degenerative medical conditions and two spinal fusions).

In one part of my life, I immersed myself in the study of people adapting to online tools and how it affects their communication and behavior. In the other, I studied all of the different ways people can improve their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Over time, I’ve noticed learned there is a strong connection between these two topics — namely, they aren’t compatible.

Welcome to the garbage fire.

Spending a lot of time online, particularly on social media, is not a great way to improve your health, wellness, and happiness. In fact, it’s been linked to a host of health problems like postural issues, depression, anxiety, relationship stress, eye strain, ADHD, and sleep deprivation.

The research supports what I’ve seen in my own life and what I’ve observed and heard anecdotally among friends who are heavy social media users. None of them talk about social media being a truly healthy, joyful component of their lives anymore. Instead they describe it as a place where they walk a careful tightrope, trying to balance between between connection and education, hostility and hacking.

The phrase many of them use to describe social media? “Garbage fire” — a place where everyone’s baggage is thrown together and ignited with the goal of attracting attention.

Sometimes the heat it generates is helpful. Sometimes it is toxic.

It’s an environment we both thrive and wither in.

  • We use it to find endless content to better our lives… but synthesizing all that content often sucks up the time we’d use to process and apply it.
  • We explore/test new ideas… but those ideas are often inundated with criticism and killed before they flourish.
  • We can be entertained 24/7/365… but that often leaves no time for silence and deep contemplation — the modes of being when we’re most apt to find insight and peace.
  • We can easily multitask and be online and offline at the same time… but that often means we’re not fully present anywhere in our lives.
  • Inspiration and insight is always instantly at our fingertips… but so is injustice, horror, and suffering and those take a toll on our spirit day after day.

Do you smell smoke?

If you’re like me, you know it’s too late to grumble “Bah, Humbug,” sledgehammer your router, and go live in the woods with a rotary phone.

Many of us want the garbage fire in our lives.

  • We may have created deep, vast, and thriving lives online that provide us with personal and professional value.
  • Our jobs may require us to be online throughout much of our day (and evening).
  • Our past investments in our online lives may have been rewarded with success, money, or fame — things we enjoy and want to keep in our lives.

How then do we stay connected to the fire — walk in it daily even — and not get burned?

I believe the first step is to start acknowledging that yes, social media is a great place to make money, spread information, and reach new people. However, it may also be a place that can be unhealthy for us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

If we want (or need) to spend time wandering in the garbage fire each day, we need to start taking some protective measures (and define what those look like). We need to talk about ways we can wander and search more mindfully. We need to start proactively adding restorative practices to our lives that can fill us back up when we get invariably depleted online.

These are all topics that have been on my mind lately, and I’m interested in exploring them more in future blog posts. However, I’d like to hear your thoughts first. Is this a topic you think about? Do you struggle to find balance? Do you ever get burned?

Jennifer Kane

Written by

Author, advocate, educator, speaker, and chronic pain warrior. More info at jenkane.com

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