Both things and people can creep up on you.
Now, while the idea of a person creeping up on you sounds somewhat more disturbing than a phone or an iPad, I’m beginning to think that Frank from across the road isn’t so bad after all with his silent tiptoeing, impenetrable shades, and large, paisley-patterned upturned collar. Relax! Frank is a fictional character (well, I certainly hope so!). Fictional Frank, some would call him.
But here’s the thing… I think phones may be the real creeps. They look utterly harmless, attractive even, with their cute little rose-gold hues and trend-setting sleek lines. We can even buy them some bling! They have crept into our lives and our societies with such stealth-like prowess it’s like we didn’t see them coming. We have simply become accustomed to their constant presence, like a sort-of security blanket that we bury our nose into while our thumbs are the only thing getting a workout. They are the last thing we say goodnight to, and the first thing we reach for in the mornings. If it felt good to do so, then I’d say hooray for that. But it doesn’t feel good, right? The frightening thing is that relatively speaking, social media and chats are still in their infancy. Not enough time has passed to truly understand the long-term effects, but we can feel the effects already (both physically and mentally):
Our devices also feed us constant media. Media as a whole can send us spiralling in short space of time. Consumerism! Distraction! Headlines like “Energy CRISIS!!” are designed to suck us in and instill panic…and keep us clicking our way down the rabbit hole. Even if we aren’t talking about a war, the narrative is scolding, frightening and war-like. Yes, being informed is important, but we don’t need to develop a sort of survivor’s guilt. We can still care about what’s going on, and act even, but we are allowed to TAKE. TIME. OUT.
To not compare, to look up and around, and the feel joy of wet grass underfoot or the coolness of dappled shade beneath a hundred-year-old tree. Or how about the crackling warmth of a fireplace while the snow falls like break-away tufts from a child’s cotton-candy.
As the year slows down, give yourself permission to go on a diet. Not food, please – no! Enjoy the festive fares! I’m talking about a media and social media diet. Turn off. Get turned on. Turn your devices off. Turn your real-world experiences on. If not for a full day, at least part of it. Go outside and just stare. Breathe, then breathe again – more deeply this time. Feel the icy cold burn your lungs and not only accept the sensation but appreciate it too.
It’s also ok to be bored. We have become exceptionally ill equipped at doing nothing. It’s ok to do ABSOLUTELY nothing. Or, if that’s too severe a detox, pick up the book your friend bought you 6 months ago and feel the roughness of the page and enjoy the simplicity of black print. You might not see the latest 50% discount, or win fake gold coins, but your body, mind and soul will be richly rewarded. Reflect. Give your authentic self a chance – that real you that can’t compete with all the noise. Listen. Be still. Smile. Do a jig. Do YOU.
In the words of Carl Newport, author of Digital Minimalism - a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestseller and selected as one Amazons best books of 2019:
“Digital minimalists are all around us. They’re the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience. They stay informed about the news of the day, but don’t feel overwhelmed by it. They don’t experience “fear of missing out” because they already know which activities provide them with meaning and satisfaction”.
Please, do it for yourself. I know I will.