Reevaluating our relationship…not quite breaking up with the internet

Dear Internet and Social Media,

This letter has been a long time coming, I had been putting it off but in the last couple of months, a series of events have occurred that have it made it clear I can no longer put this off. Calm down, I am not breaking up with you. Oh, I have thought about cutting you off, but there are times when I need you…just like I need my morning coffee and a good stretch. Breaking up for good is just not the answer; we crossed that point of no return eons ago.

Baby, you were so good in the early days when we first met in 98. You gave me so much; you made my life so much easier. I could spend 10-20 minutes with you and accomplish so much. When we moved to Maine and I was lonely, you gave me life through the old discussion boards. When my Mom was sick and even after she died, once again you came through for me. Seriously, I can’t imagine having navigated my 30’s without you.

I am not sure when things changed though, I suspect it’s when technology changed and I no longer had to be tethered to my desk in order to see you. I suspect our relationship started to change when I bought my first smartphone. Remember BlackBerry. Oh, she allowed me to tap into you whenever and wherever. Then I discovered social media…sweetie, that might have been the beginning of the end. Suddenly, I could be plugged in all the time. Oh, I knew I was swimming in dangerous waters but I was feeling so good. All of a sudden, I was no longer limited by geography. Sure, you allowed me to develop a following of people who actually enjoy my ramblings disguised as a blog. You have allowed me to grow some old dreams and even make a few bucks. But babe, you are hurting me.

I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, but this internet/social media/plugged in life is more than I bargained for. I knew I had crossed the line into an unhealthy relationship with you when my girls commented on it a few months ago. Remember when the girls aka the gathering of Black women happened a few months ago? Well they were none too pleased with my need to constantly molest my phone and share with the world our happenings. At first I thought they were being uptight, but the truth is they are right. I suspect it hasn’t helped that the Man Unit has also recently pointed out that I have been spending a lot of time with you when there is no need for it.

Here I am trying to live a mindful life, yet I have been anything but mindful when it comes to those closest to me. You are really cool and Twitter and even Facebook can be fun but what you give is a quick fix that at times has contributed to the moments of gray that overshadow me. Can I be honest? Sometimes when I am up late at night playing around online, it feels good but it also feels empty. Don’t get me wrong, I have met some great people because of you, but the vast majority of people I interact with online are never going to be more than lookie loos into my life. So why am I spending so much time with these people? Yeah. I know. That’s what I said. Never mind that sometimes I get so caught up in the moment when we are together than I stay up too late and then I am dragging and tired the next day. I just can’t stay up late like I once could which means if I am staying up late, it needs to be for a damn good cause.

Now, I admit I thought about pulling the plug, but that is just not practical. Instead I am taking a lesson from my mindfulness practice and realizing that I need to be a lot more intentional about how and when we connect. Some days, we can spend a lot of time together, but I need to know why I am spending time with you. Am I using you to fill a void, avoid dealing with those around me, etc.?

So, I hope that you are okay with these changes, like I said at the beginning, I am not breaking up with you, but our relationship has to change. Got it?  







Unplugging & Changing

As I type this, it’s a lazy Memorial Day here in my corner of the world. The girl child and I got up and walked over to the annual Memorial Day parade and afterwards enjoyed a gooey cinnamon roll and resumed our walk.  Nothing spectacular at all, other than the fact that I have been unplugged since Friday evening and frankly I am enjoying being unplugged so much, I am wondering whether or not I should bother plugging back in.

For all that modern life gives us with instant access and 24/7 news cycles, lately I find myself wondering what am I losing? This weekend I didn’t actually plan to unplug, it just sort of happened and with each passing hour has felt good. The only reason I even bothered turning on my phone was if the college kid or my Pops needed to reach me. Granted they both know how to reach me on the land line but they also know depending on where I am in the house, I don’t hear the phone ringing.

Getting deeper into my yoga practice has made me more aware of myself and the fact that frankly I absorb too much of other people’s energy at times and to be honest, I don’t want to absorb most people’s energy, lot of folks out here got bad juju. Why in the hell do I want to absorb someone else’s drama? Yet when I spend a lot of time being plugged in, that’s exactly what I am doing. Sure, twitter provides a lot of laughs, but not all laughs are equal and for the laughs I have, sometimes I get the pain too. Snarkiness is great, but why? I am a natural smart ass, surviving in my family of origin meant you learn to  speak snark or else…. But do I really need to do so all the time? I think not.

I guess one could say I am going deeper into the land of woo woo, after all I did go to a chakra cleansing workshop a few days ago, but let me tell you, I don’t understand it all, but I will be damned if I don’t feel better. Suddenly my crazy cousin George as he is lovingly called in my family no longer seems so crazy to me, I think he was onto something when he talked about bad vibes and good vibes.

Putting the woo aside though, a recent encounter with my health provider is making me take stock of life and making it clear that change is needed. A few weeks back I broke down and went to see the doctor after thinking I had strep throat, turned out there was no strep, but my allergies have decided to start playing in the major leagues. But it wasn’t the allergies that got me concerned; it was my blood pressure which at 122 over 82 was higher than it’s ever been. Considering I had been self-medicating with a slew of over the counter drugs to combat the allergies, my doc wasn’t terribly concerned especially since I am moving back down the scale and for the first time ever consistently moving. I am concerned though, 122 over 82 is pre-hypertension and with my family history that was a cold water dump on my face.

I have been actively looking to keep stress low in my life but that blood pressure reading was the kick in my ass. Sure, it could have been the fact that I was having white coat syndrome that day as evidenced by the fact I was having a mild panic attack, could have been the fact I had decided to disregard the instructions on the side of the boxes and was mixing & matching over the counter allergy meds like a kid in a candy store…matters not, change is needed.

Social media has been great for expanding my writing, I have made some kick ass new friends and it’s fun, but it’s also stressful. Hell, my day job is stressful, I have a high energy 6 year old, a kid in college, a marriage that is finally settling back down and a father I am pretty sure will end up in living in my barn. Do I really need more stress?

So in my quest to unplug myself yet maintain a presence, I decided to unplug from Foursquare, after all why the hell am I telling the world where I am all the time? I am also spending less time with email; in fact send me an email during non-work hours and chances are if it isn’t critical, you aren’t going to be getting an answer until the next business day. Send me a text, maybe I will see it, maybe I won’t and you will get a reply when I am in a space to answer it. If you want to reach me, there is this invention called the telephone, reach out and call me. Or if you are far away, send a letter. Mail is groovy especially when it’s not bills or junk mail. Follow me on Pinterest, but know that I spend little time electronically pinning anything so it probably sucks to follow me. I’m still on twitter and Facebook but slowing that down too. As for monetizing this space, guess that’s gonna be a work in progress, if it’s meant to happen it will, in the meantime we like tips! Think of me as your daily barista except I don’t serve up a mean latte, I serve up something that hopefully makes you smile, laugh or think or even get pissed off.

So what does one do when not plugged in? Sit on my new bench in the front of my yard being social with the people who actually live near me, or hanging out in the back of my yard trying to figure out what these are.






A weekend unplugged

Several days ago while relaxing with the Spousal Unit, I posed the idea that perhaps we should unplug for the weekend. In other words, no social media (blogs, Facebook, twitter, etc) and minimal use of our computers. I won’t say that I was met with resistance but I did have to clarify exactly what the goal was, and to sweeten the deal I did say we were allowed an hour of internet time since with both of our jobs, unless it’s been discussed with the powers to be and clients in advance not being accessible by email is not an option.

I admit Friday night I was nervous thinking about the often empty moments during the weekend that I generally fill up by being online. What about the gap between when the Spousal Unit puts the kid down for bed and then comes down to hang with me…what if? As you can see I was worried, it’s funny because I have never thought I was addicted to social media but it’s clearly become a time suck which I was aware of. I also had been looking to plug back into my own life after a series of online interactions that have frankly shaken me to my core to the point I had been toying with the idea of just pulling the plug on it all.

So Friday night I signed off and the weekend began. For starters I did in the end use more than my allotted hour of internet time but only because I read both my local paper and the New York Times online and even speed reading it took more than an hour for the two days. Both the Spousal Unit and I ended up working but without the sweet pull on places like Twitter, it turns out that I could churn out a funder’s report far faster than usual because I was not distracted. Funny how a simple tweet turns us into junkies as we toggle back and forth between our work and twitter seeing what is going on, what was 5 minutes then becomes 20 or more. Heaven forbid you become engaged in a good conversation, you can easily be on even longer.

Well I won’t give you a blow by blow, but it turns out that when I am not checking in via Foursquare, tweeting and updating photos to Facebook, I actually enjoy events a lot more as I can give them my undivided attention. When the girl child (I think she is outgrowing the kidlet moniker) asks me something, I found even when I was reading a book, it was far easier to simply put it down and tend to her need. Unlike the times when I am plugged in either to my laptop or Droid, and inevitably I tell her just a moment, baby. This weekend there were few just a moment baby minutes and I loved it.

As the weekend progressed and I felt really good, I decided to change things up for the Spousal Unit and I. Like many married couples with kids our go-to entertainment when the kid goes to sleep is often centered around television, or as I put it yet another screen. Frankly I have been feeling a bit out of sorts with that fact, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with watching television but the idea that what passes for daily quality time is focused on a screen that we sit passively and absorb well it seems wrong. So I asked the Spousal Unit if he would be up for a read out loud project, last night we started with a book of Pablo Neruda poems, nothing sets a mood like some Neruda! We are now starting to compile a list of books that we will read together; looks like the next up will Voltaire’s Candide.

It is now Monday morning, I have been up and hour and a half and while I have peeked into my social media haunts, I must admit I am wondering do I really want to jump back in? Knowing me I will but there was much learned by unplugging (I should mention that I tried to refrain from texting as well instead choosing to talk on the phone in real time) I definitely will be doing this on a regular basis.

That said, it’s great to be back too!