lessons from my 6 month digital detox
“More than anything it is the idea of impermanence that has helped me learn and grow. The fact that things arise and ultimately pass away may seem simple but it carries a depth that can bring light to nature and help peace blossom in our being. Change is not the enemy, if anything it is the understanding of change that can function as a vehicle for our liberation.”
- Yung Pueblo
I last posted on Instagram on 21st August 2018 - over 6 months ago – in the weeks following the completion of my first 10-day Vipassana meditation course. I was encouraged by the interaction and engagement on my scheduled posts whilst I was offline – my words had resonated with other souls out there in the world.
One of the teachings I often share with my students is that of duality. Everything in existence exists in duality to its opposite: yin and yang, masculine and feminine, black and white, day and night, sun and moon, hot and cold, inhale and exhale, active and passive, online and offline. Wellbeing can be enjoyed in the point of balance – the state of equanimity – between these poles.
And so whilst I enjoyed the connection I was able to foster here online in the digital world I soon came to realise in the days after the Vipassana that the time I spent sharing and engaging online came at a cost to my life in the “real” world.
During the autumn and early winter months of 2018 I travelled to Bali and India. People would speak of the business opportunities I would have – think of all that content you can create and the followers you’ll gain by sharing in these beautiful “Instagramable” locations. I had planned on sharing again but each day when faced with the decision as to what I would like to share – my nourishing breakfast smoothie bowl or maybe post yoga bliss inspiration following a class at Radiantly Alive yoga studio or perhaps my students lay in savasana at the end of teaching Sampoorna Yoga School – I found that I just didn’t want to and so I honoured those feelings and reflected on why I felt this way. I knew that engaging on social media had many benefits but where was that point of balance between life online and offline to be found?
In each moment we find ourselves faced with choices. We respond to these choices – often mindlessly/habitually – by succumbing to our constant reactions founded on either craving or aversion for what is or isn’t. For quite some time I found that I had been craving “real life” connection with others. I am not ashamed to say that connecting online had been making me feel lonely - more disconnected and isolated behind my phone screen. I craved conversations with people in cafes and walks with people I could call friends on sunset beach swims. This sounds obvious – of course most of us would rather connect in this way - and so why did I find that whenever I saw people spending time together IRL that most people would often be glancing down into their phones – had their social media accounts become their minders?
I made it my intention to give whoever I was with in the present moment my full-undivided attention. Ask yourself this question: whenever we talk to a friend and they, even if only for a fleeting moment, look down at their screens – how does it make you feel? Disconnected, ignored, unheard, depleted energetically, like you are giving but not receiving the attention you crave? I wanted the people I was with in the present moment to know that I was with them – not only in person but mentally and energetically. I saw and heard them. And because of this I formed some incredibly rich new relationships with people I know that in the past would have passed me by.
Everything is in a constant process of change – nothing lasts. In the past I took more comfort in this law of nature when things in the present moment were dark and difficult. But if we flip this truth on its head we realise just how to be when the present moment is joyful and rich in beauty. The breath-taking sunset will pass. The time spent with a friend or a loved one will pass. The moment in which your students surrender to their vulnerability in savasana will come to pass. If I were to spend time capturing these moments in a device and immediately sharing them on here I would miss out on that opportunity for “peace to blossom in my being”. I would be distracted from the full experience available in the present moment.
Finally, in the weeks following the Vipassana I struggled with some life fundamentals. I lost meaning. During those ten days of deep silent, meditative introspection I had pierced through a veil – experiencing what felt like some of the foundational truths of what it means to be human. When I returned to everyday life I found so much of what consumed my day to be utterly meaningless. If there were no point to life other than to experience joy then why would I choose to spend my time – the present moment which could go out like a light in any moment – on my phone double-tapping or buying more stuff? Why worry about whether I had responded to every email/text/post comment? What was the point? Why was I sharing? Why was I online? “Why” permeated almost every moment? I felt like an unmoored boat left out on a stormy sea. And so, in addition to spending some quality months forging new and deeper connections with others I also learnt many valuable lessons – and still am in process of learning and growth – about how to span the worlds of spirituality AND “reality”. That common challenge shared amongst many yogis and meditators around the world – how to grow spiritually and remain conscious whilst also being of and feeling firmly rooted in the “real world”?
So why am I back?
I am now more aware than ever as to how mindless use of social media platforms can detract from happiness, the opportunity for deep connection, and the richness of life experience available in the present moment. And yet I have also been encouraged to share on here as a valuable way of connecting with other like-minded souls located all over the world.
When you search “benefits of sharing on social media” in your search engine you will find the following results: “Increased Brand Awareness. More Inbound Traffic. Improved Search Engine Rankings. Higher Conversion Rates. Improved Brand Loyalty. More Brand Authority.” There has been a radical shift in the foundational purpose of social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram. Sold as platforms that enable users to connect socially – to relate, to find and cultivate friendships and connection, to experience resonance with others, these platforms are now predominantly used to promote “brands” – businesses or our personal idea of the Self as sellable, envy-inducing polished products that endorse other brands. They have become just another market place focused on generating monetary income. With reflection I can see now why I felt such disconnection and aversion to sharing back in August last year. I had mindlessly been sucked into this shared view of social media – I saw my followers as numbers - as a marketable “audience” but I knew there wasn’t anything I intended to sell to them. I just wanted to connect and yet my focus had shifted on how successfully my posts were received i.e. how many “likes” and “comments” had it generated, how many new “followers” had I gained?
Weighing the positives and negatives as to whether to return to Instagram I have (for now) made the decision to share again and I have found that having a good understanding of my “why” – “my mission statement” in “brand-speak” – when it comes to doing anything is really helpful at focusing my energy.
So here it is:
Do you resonate with any of the above? If so, in what way do I speak to you?