I am easing back into the busy world of likes, clicks, and engagements after a self-imposed hiatus from all things online.
note: At first glance, this post may not seem relevant during a pandemic, when the internet has given us a miraculous way of staying connected, keeping busy, and maintaining our sanity. Understand, I am most definitely not suggesting that you give up the internet, especially not now.
I do hope, however, that you will take what I have learned and add a little balance into your life, where possible.
More than a year ago, before the planet tilted, my relationship with the internet was complicated. On the one hand, it gave me an outlet to write, which is the thing that sparks my soul. I got to share what I had learned with the world which excites the teacher in me. In many ways, blogging made me feel very much “in the flow” of how my life should go.
On the other hand, my online life had begun to bleed into, even take over my real life. It was hard to distinguish between the two. I spent every waking moment either scrolling, shopping, analyzing, or working on the next post/engagement.
In many ways, the invention of the internet has opened up the whole Earth for us. But for me, I began to wonder if my own world might be a bit bigger and brighter apart from that tiny screen.
So, I went offline, cold turkey. I got a plan on my phone that allowed for talk and text only. I had my home wi-fi and cable disconnected. Quick like a band-aid. I was curious to see how this would play out.
I stayed that way for more than a year.
10 things I learned while offline
I need to have face-to-face conversations.
You are probably already rolling your eyes at this one but stay with me. I know, face-to-face conversations can be (to name just a few), inconvenient, messy, unpredictable, and even scary. It is easier and safer to send a text or message, but here is the problem. We are social creatures. Now, more than ever, we need each other. Your soul lights up in the presence of another’s light. You may be six feet away, but you can still recognize the sparkle in someone else’s eyes as you come near.
I need shared burdens and shared laughter. I need conversations with real people.
I love books.
Yes, kindle is awesome and convenient, and real books are heavy and clunky. This might be because I am a bit older than some of you, but I love real, bound books. I love the way they smell. I love the weight of a book in my hand—a thing of substance. Life is not a good life without some simple, lovely pleasures. For me, few things are finer than a comfy chair, a glass of wine and a good book beneath my fingers.
I need to be in Nature.
I don’t mean that I need to be in a forest or on a mountaintop, (although those things are wonderful, when possible). By Nature, I mean the growing, expanding, force of life that exists outdoors. You are a creature of Nature, created by a divine light. You don’t need me to preach at you about looking up from your screen, so I won’t. But, as for me, I can stand barefoot, in the grass and tap into the source of energy that is making the grass grow and rebuilding my cells. It is a wonderful thing, and it would be a shame for you to miss it.
I have enough time!
I once heard someone say, “I should take a time management class, but I don’t have time.” That’s kind of where we all are. We are so busy. There is never enough time. Please don’t be offended by this, but when I gave up the internet, I got lots of time. I have enough time to sit and think and plan and schedule things and organize my life. I have time to get enough rest and plan healthy meals. Less scrolling equals more living. Just saying.
I need stillness.
Before my internet abstinence, my life was busy, stressful and chaotic. I soon came to realize that there had been something missing in my heart and I was trying to fill it with busy work. We are continuously thinking, running, doing, worrying, and binging, in an effort to escape being alone with our own thoughts. What would happen if, just for a few moments, you turned off the music, the t.v., your phone, everything…? I know it seems scary, but I can tell you from my own experience, on the other side of that fear is something extraordinary. Only when you get still, can you encounter the source of life that built you. This is the space where you can find your creativity and hope for your future. This is where you find faith in yourself and a love for others. Be still and know.
I need outdoor exercise.
When I think of all those hours of sunshine I missed, locked away, in a dark room, staring at a screen! All I can say is “Ugh.” I won’t go crazy on this topic. You already know this stuff. I knew it too, but just recently rediscovered how true it is. Here are a few reminders for you.
A. Exercise of any kind decreases depression.
B. Sunlight gives you Vitamin D, which boosts your immune system, helps your body absorb calcium, and promotes weight loss.
C. When you step into an unfamiliar environment, like a hiking trail or a new park, your brain switches to a more alert, creative way of processing. Being adventurous and active makes your brain more efficient.
D. Taking a long, striding walk around the neighborhood strengthens your heart, which increases your blood flow, which helps your body heal/recover faster and will probably make you live longer.
7. I have an attention span!
I never realized how overstimulated I was until I shut it all down. The continuous flow of information what we take in is quite incredible. I have witnessed the following situation first-hand, so you will know I’m not making this up:
A college student can watch CNN (which shows 2-3 taking heads on a single screen and 2 lines of information scrolling along the bottom), while listening to music, while occasionally checking her social-media feeds, while doing her homework. Although she believes herself to be multi-tasking, I would argue that no one thing is receiving her focused attention.
Although I was not quite as fragmented as the example above, I felt the need to constantly be entertained or engaged. The ability to patiently wait or simply just be was nearly impossible because I was so programmed to be taking in many things at once or in quick succession.
How will I ever appreciate my life, if I never take the time to sit and think about it? I have since rediscovered the beauty of mindfulness. This is the ability to be fully present in a single moment. There is something beautiful about being completely focused and involved in something mundane like washing the dishes or weeding a flowerbed. Life seems richer.
Even now, as I write this, there is no music playing and nothing else going on. You have my undivided attention.
I need to experience real beauty.
I spent a little while looking for the image to head up this post. I wanted to represent the beautiful, real world. But, alas, that is sort of impossible. Yes, the picture is beautiful, but it does not compare to a real flower. How often have you “liked” a stunning image of nature or art on social media? Why do we do it? Is it because we simply enjoy the photo, or have we, on some level, decided that this little picture is the closest we will ever get to the real thing?
I am a huge fan of the artist, Georgia O’Keefe. I love seeing her work online and in big, glossy, printed pages. But none of that was even close to what I experienced as I stood before her “Black Iris” at the MET in NYC.
Now that I have spent a bit more time in the real world, the image of the little blue flower at the top of this page makes me a little sad. I want to know this flower. I want to know how she smells. I want to breathe in the chattering birds in the tree above and the whisper of breeze against the grass. I want to see the myriad of shades of color as the sun strikes the petals from different perspectives. Technology is wonderful, but it can’t give me that.
I have enough.
We are a consumer-driven society. We want it all, all the time. We have convinced ourselves that there will never be enough. Don’t get me started on how this attitude fuels our unhappiness. Online retail does little to ease us out of this mindset, when instant gratification is almost instant, and with free shipping!. Don’t get me wrong. I am equally guilty, especially now. I am happy to retrieve my smiling Amazon packages from the front step, instead of going to the store.
But my months without internet taught me that I don’t need so much. When it comes down to it, I can do what needs to be done with what I have. We humans are creative and resourceful beings, but how will we know what we are capable of if we never have to stretch?
I am enough.
Much of my self-worth, unfortunately, used to come from my presence online. I watched the numbers. How many clicks, likes, engagements, followers…? I may lose some of you bloggers with my next statement, but I hope you will hold on and ride this out. Studying your analytics is the best way to tell the Universe that you are lacking and will never have enough. Sure, having lots of followers is awesome. Obsessing over the numbers is not.
I have come to realize that I am enough, completely on my own. I have enough creativity, strength, beauty, integrity, wisdom…with or without the say-so of the outside world. It sounds a bit harsh, but get a good grip on this, because it is just as true for you.
You are amazing. You are smart. You are creative. You are unstoppable. You will never understand everything you are, until you are able to stand in your own strength and listen to your soul. You have everything you need. Again, I say, YOU ARE AMAZING! When you honestly believe that, you won’t have anything to prove. Then, the rest of the world will naturally come to agree with you.
When we come to the other side of this craziness, and have some sort of normalcy, it is my hope that we will remember to look up and participate in this beautiful life we’ve been given.
Now that I am back, I plan to post something each week. Please send positive thoughts my way that I may hold onto what I have learned.
I Love you all.
2 thoughts on “10 Things I learned Offline (or My year without the internet)”
This is a great post, and it’s come at an apt time when I’m also considering purging my social media apps from my phone. I feel as though they’re sucking my time away from me without me noticing, and I hope to see if there’s any improvement from not spending so much time online.
It really is an addiction, from what I’m observing. Not just me, but everyone else. Thanks for sharing!
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That’s very ambitious, Stuart! Good luck!