Are you really “woke” to what you’re doing with those little chunks of the day that aren’t strategically managed into personal or professional goals? Those moments when you’re flying by the seat of your pants through socializing or relaxing?
Have you noticed how you go about it? Have you thought about how you’re expending your energy (or not) in those experiences? What information you’re loading into your brain? What information you’re putting out into the world?
These can be somewhat big, slightly philosophical questions, and I’m certainly not the first to ask them. Yet despite the articles, news segments, blogs, books and personal discussions I’ve been exposed to on this topic, my eyes weren’t opened to the significance of these considerations until I was sitting in a colleague’s dining room attending their latest dinner party.
In a flash of awareness it came to me. I hadn’t truly contributed to the conversation. In fact, I had somewhat zoned out. I appeared engaged, smiling and nodding at the banter around me — the equivalent of scrolling through the interaction the way I do with my Facebook news feed. Every once in awhile I’d click the Like button, so to speak, by extending a generic chuckle of agreement to the person next to me at the table. But that was really the extent of my participation.
My mind was all up in it’s own internal world, thinking random thoughts of no consequence that I had deemed far more interesting than the lively discussion around me.
Even once I realized I was in full auto pilot mode, I didn’t attempt to reconnect. Instead, I justified my detachment by telling myself these people were not my tribe and these topics were not my interest. What did they want from me?
The wise voice in my head was quick to respond by asking, “Well, what are you doing here, then?”
“What am I doing here?”, I thought. This lead to the very flat realization that what I was doing was being polite. I liked my hosts. I liked spending time with them. But that had nothing to do with this larger dinner party. This was a mistake. This was not my scene. These were not my people.
Fatigued by small talk and topics that were tedious to me, I was politely waiting for the appropriate time to make my departure and that was all I was doing.
That whole experience caused an awakening that has since infected my daily life. I can’t look at my calendar without recognizing activities that aren’t the least bit meaningful or necessary. In fact, I spent a full week post-dinner party clearing my schedule of unnecessary bottlenecks in my day. In some cases, that decision caused headaches and strife that I’ve needed to work through with others. But I still feel it couldn’t be helped. Maybe I’ve simply become of an age where this happens (I’m 47), but I just can’t wear that insincere mask of feigned interest very well anymore.
The evening of that awkward dinner party, I realized exactly where I fit in this world. I realized that I fundamentally know who I am and what journey I am on. As these things have come into focus for me, the inner voice relentlessly asks…
“What are you getting out of this moment?”
That question, in fact, has not only hounded the management of my social commitments, but it’s been a wrecking ball to the manner in which I use social media and even how I approach blogging now.
Scrolling through my Instagram feed, I can’t stop from asking myself, “what am I getting out of these posts? Do I even pay attention to the people I’m following?What am I saying in my posts? Am I just wasting people’s time?”
In the many cases where the answer is a negative, I find myself wondering why I follow the people I follow online. Why am I not exposing myself to content that I care about? Why would I purposely set myself up to be disinterested in my own social media feed?
It all seems rather silly.
To re-engage with the world, I’ve started by recognizing that I’m awake now. I’ve followed that by truly listening to myself — to that message of who I am and what I’m here to do.
I’ve stopped following the feeds of my favorite brands and stores because I’ve realized that I already know when I need new shoes. I don’t need social media to tell me that.
I’ve stopped following the start up, entrepreneur, how to build an audience posts on Medium. Marketing is my day job. Medium is not my day job.
Medium is part of my personal creative journey. All those articles on how best to gain followers, get claps, and select popular topics are making me nuts. It’s spurned me to drag my day job into my creative pursuits and now I feel like I’m always working. Always analyzing metrics. Always looking for claps, clicks and likes. Call me idealistic if you must, but I don’t want my personal writing — my developing art — to be work like that. I could be a workaholic in my day job if I wanted that.
My goal here, in this format, is self expression. I’m writing for all of you because I want to share with you the things in life that I’m thinking through and experiencing. I don’t want to write with the purpose of gaining you as a follower — another notch on my writing desk. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not why I’m here.
Most significantly, I’ve stopped using social media as a relationship crutch, informing me of what’s going on in the lives of the people I love. I’ve unfollowed a lot of friends lately. I don’t want to watch their children grow up on a screen. I don’t want to find out about their latest successes or failures in posts. Those things should happen in one-on-one connections. And frankly, those posts (of which I, myself, am also guilty) are nothing but noise.
I come to social media — or should come to social media — to broaden my perspective. To be inspired. To learn something new and to share my thoughts on my own personal journey and hear what others have to say in return. Granted, it doesn’t have to be all serious, mindful growth topics. There’s certainly room for humor. There’s room for the banal and the outrageous. But I should feel a connection to those posts. After all, it is my feed.
With the pile of books sitting by my nightstand, the dozens of friends and family on speed dial, and the beauty of the natural world outside my door, I’ve decided that I’m done scrolling through my life. I’m done wasting my precious free time insincerely nodding in agreement at people discussing topics I have no genuine interest in. Let those individuals sit next to someone worthy of their conversation, and let me go off to the things that have meaning in my life.
There is nothing wrong with saying to one’s self (or anyone else), “This is not for me. This does not fill me up.”
It’s such a tiny, brief life that we get to have in this ever expanding universe. There’s no rule that says I can’t be lit up inside while I’m killing time on the couch.
I deserve to seek out the little moments that are meant for me — and you do too.