Broken Engagement


A few weeks ago I wrote of my intention to limit my time on social media, and as you would imagine, I have had varying degrees of success. To paraphrase an old song, it’s a hard habit to break, and most of you are well aware of that.

On days when I am successful, however, here’s what happens: I’m more content, more focused, less flustered, and I accomplish a whole lot more. And by accomplish, I don’t mean just checking stuff off my to-do list. The biggest accomplishment I’ve achieved in those days when the phone stays tucked into its pocket inside my purse and the iPad remains closed on the kitchen counter is that of doing nothing. Of sitting on my couch and looking out the window, watching birds fly in and out from the feeder, listening to my little dog snoring softly from her bed in the corner. 

Of being quiet.

I’ve always been sensitive to noise, to crowds and sirens and loud music. To babies crying and dogs barking and lawnmowers and chain saws. Within the last year, this sensitivity has become even more heightened. If I walk into a restaurant and the noise level is deafening, I won’t stay. If I’m at a concert and I can feel the beat of the music altering the beat of my heart, I’ll walk out. Sometimes when I’m playing bells, I have to take a step back from the table because the sound of the bells next to me is physically hurting my ears. And while I’ve been laying this condition down to aging ears, I wonder if there’s more to it than that. Because the world is SO noisy these day, and not just with actual sound but with so many strident voices vying for attention. 

Social media these days has become like walking into one of those restaurants where the din assaults you the moment you open the door. Where you find yourself shouting in order to be heard, where you constantly strain to hear your companion’s voice. Where you end up bolting your food in order to get out quickly. 

Why put yourself through that misery? 

As humans, we crave connection. I consider myself an introvert, but I am not immune to this need for interaction with other people. In the past decade, the internet has become a valuable outlet for introverts to satisfy this yearning. We can get our social fix without actually having to leave the house. When I started a blog in 2006 and suddenly found myself engaging with dozens of people from all over the world whom I’d never met in person but still felt as if I knew - what a revelation! What a treat! I remember once writing that “all my friends lived in my computer.” 

And then Facebook, in its earliest days, was an even more prolific way to connect and share information. It enabled us to regain long lost connections, to remain in touch with people who would otherwise have likely disappeared from our lives forever. I sometimes likened it to the town square or the general store of ages past - a gathering place where a community could come together.

But social media is not as charming as we once thought, is it? In fact, it’s actually dangerous. As we’ve learned more and more about the ways social media was used to influence not only information but our very thought processes during the election, it’s taken on an insidiously evil tone. For me, it’s one more very important reason limit or even break my engagement with it, even though I enjoy the way it allows me to engage with other people in numerous valuable ways.

What I really want is to return to the “olden days” of social media, or even blogging, when it all was mostly about connecting and sharing our stories with friends and family, meeting new people and learning from new voices. The ability to do that is valuable and important.  But I  feel as if social media in it’s current state is spinning madly out of control and taking a great many of us with it. 

These are some of the things I ponder in those quiet times where I sit on the corner of my couch, engaged only with my own thoughts while the minutes tick away on the mantel clock. Each of us must individually decide how deeply engaged in this relationship with social media we want to be, must weigh the pro’s and con’s and balance the scale accordingly. These days I’m learning the extent to which I must disengage from the cacophony of this world around me in order to re-engage with my own quiet thoughts. 

How about you?