What is this in terms of that?
How social media made me fancy that I was imaginative at the risk of losing the ability to imagine.
My departure from social media in Covid 19 was mainly due to a perceived information overload and the desire to root myself in the present.
Coming off social media on January 18th, 2021 in the middle of Lockdown 2 presented some concerns.
Social distancing hasn't meant social isolation for me but part of that is due to my access to social media. Chatting with like-minded people and colleagues on Instagram and being part of groups on Facebook, sharing stories with friends all over the world is a part of my everyday life. But I had recently become aware that I couldn't remember what life was like before my phone! So, I decided to give it a go and post on Instagram that I was taking a break for a fortnight.
I noticed I started to have a sense of being more emotionally engaged in the interactions that I was having with other people, family, and students, I started to feel one hundred percent there. I was also more engaged in the things I did without other people, even just brushing my teeth, I noticed, and I remembered too. I felt as though I had a lot of space to do whatever I wanted to do, and more time to enjoy and take in the information I chose. And I felt as though it had been a long time since I just sat back and engaged organically, coming to information rather than relying on scrolling to fill my brain and my time.
An example of this was on January 21st, day 4 of the social media free experiment. I was listening to This American Life podcast and became captivated by a segment on ‘delight’. Bim talks to poet Ross Gay, whose book inspired the show, about the discipline and rigor of seeking and holding onto delight. Being a mindfulness teacher, I was heavily into this idea and decided to see if something similar had been going on in the U.K. My go-to British commentator for this was Louis Theroux, in his podcast 'Grounded 2'. I listened to the latest episode with the actor and director, Riz Ahmed. They didn't discuss ‘delight’ directly, but there was a lot of gratitude there. At some point, he was talking about an inspirational teacher he’d had in school, who had taught Ginsberg alongside rap. He also talked about ‘letting go’ and authenticity. The next day, the poet Allen Ginsberg was on my mind, I started to remember a time when he and the writer William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and John Steinbeck amongst others had meant something to me. I remember buying tickets as a teenager for my Mum and I to see Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men at the Playhouse Theatre in Liverpool. I remembered being quite in love with Kerouac and having 'On the Road' confiscated from me by the headteacher at school when I'd been reading it in Literature class instead of the prescribed Moonfleet.
This remembering was inspirational, and the next day I enjoyed watching far too much Ginsberg on Youtube! In an interview, I saw him mention 'negative capability' which I wrote about in the last blog. When I heard him talking about it, I felt as if all this social media free time was leading me somewhere where information wasn’t toxic but actually wholesome, fluid, and nourishing.
So, the rest of my days have been pretty much like this and it's kind of delightful! I like to learn and I like to evolve, and I remember that before my phone there was an open spaciousness inside me and outside of me, maybe all around me.
I discovered that going to bed and waking up without the phone at the side of the bed is blissful. For the first couple of nights, it had been difficult to turn off the phone long before going to bed. I had a sort of resonance in my mind when I did get into bed and close my eyes, I could see the scrolling of blurred images of Instagram posts behind my closed eyes. I knew then that something was wrong with the way I had been engaging with this technology and so stuck with it.
Social media free for 14 days.
I’ve been doing the same things that I would normally do with my day; mindfulness meditation, yoga therapy, teaching, leading workshops. Seeing and doing things without the pressure to post online is refreshing and comforting. My connexion with nature and experience is deeper and more infinite.
Owing to my general state of mind and my profession, I do tend to have a close relationship with nature and I like to share but it feels like a reprieve to not post the things I experience, to notice, to delight, be content, and restful and that’s it.
I started to realize that whatever I perceived about social media, indulging in Facebook and Instagram was blocking my creativity and my ability to imagine. In spite of this, I do want to be on social media in moderation but I’m simply much more interested in knowledge, wisdom, and growth.
I think if I keep sitting and reflecting I can fit all of this stuff in with consciousness and a healthy balance.
The past fourteen days have been unforgettable and unbelievable, but mostly incredibly restful.
Even if you couldn't imagine taking a break from social media, I encourage you to just leave it alone before you go to bed and first thing in the morning. To be receptive to something beyond the drama of social media. Without thinking about what it is or why it is, there’s something else there to be noticed and enjoyed in these times. I think it’s impossible to see it until we make this space.
References and Citations
Buckley, William F. “Allen Ginsberg.” Youtube, The Avant-Garde, 1968, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBpoZBhvBa4. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.
Burroughs, William. Naked Lunch. Calder & Boyars, 1970.
“Grounded with Louis Theroux - Riz Ahmed: Eight Things We Learned When He Spoke to Louis Theroux.” BBC Radio 4, BBC, www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1d5SGdJzg8FqbWGRFlCmqXJ/riz-ahmed-eight-things-we-learned-when-he-spoke-to-louis-theroux.
Kerouac, Jack. On the Road . Viking Press, 1957.
“The Show of Delights.” This American Life, Ira Glass and Bim Adewunmi, 1 Feb. 2021, www.thisamericanlife.org/692/the-show-of-delights.
Steinback, John. Of Mice and Men. The Easton Press, 1977.
Willey, Basil. Coleridge on Imagination and Fancy. Norwood, 1979.