Today, we feel the pain from a slew of digital headaches: social media anxiety, FOMO, online procrastination, comments section arguments, notification distractions. None of these are anything new though, they're all rooted in the same problems that've always dogged us as a society.
So if these feelings always existed, why do they feel particularly overwhelming now?
The problem is our amplified digital world. The ubiquity of technology makes everything loud. It puts every image into a spotlight, every voice on a bullhorn, every difference of opinion in front of your face:
- Everything your friends do is immediately shared, you don't have to wait until you hang out to catch up.
- Every news story is immediately discussed, you don't have to wait for the evening news or morning paper.
- Every opinion is immediately published and immediately commented on, you don't have to wait for the editorial page response.
The digital world is like putting a magnifying glass on the real world. We zoom in so close--focus so narrowly on quick soundbites and status updates--that we lose context and patience and presence. And like a magnifying glass, the extreme focus creates heat. If we spend too much time on one point it'll set fire to our sanity.
We fight back against the loudness of today's amplified world by being present.
I know I know, easier said than done. I'm certainly not immune to these hold ups, but I am working on it. Here are 3 simple things I try to do every day to quiet the noise of the digital age:
- Instead of refreshing that newsfeed over and over (and over) again, close the browser and log out of the app for at least two hours a day. Notice the freedom you feel when Facebook isn't always in the background tempting you with puppy pics and oh-so-clever Buzzfeed lists.
- Instead of immediately posting a picture of every moment, look up at the world around you and smile. Notice how your mindset changes when you sit and enjoy a sunset rather than think of it only for its Instagram filter potential.
- Instead of allowing your phone to buzz at you for every little update, turn notifications off. Notice how your phone becomes less of a burden and more optional. Notice how light it feels when you're not constantly distracted by it.
The thing about the internet is, it'll always be there. Instead of expecting to constantly share and be shared with, you can choose to make it a treat. You can choose to use it when you want to use it, instead of letting it use you.
The problems of worry, doubt, and regret will always be around in one form or another too, whether we use social media or not. It's how we handle them that gets us to place of mindfulness, or really, a place of happiness.