Saturday, January 27, 2018

Online mindfully (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

One resolution I’ve seen a lot of lately is “reduce use of social media” or “don’t spend so much time online.” I suspect this will now join “eat less sugar” and “get more exercise” as a popular perennial resolution in society in general. (The irony is, if you do forsake online for in-person interactions, you often find yourself staring at the tops of heads, as your companions check their gadgets.)

A while ago, I changed my use of social media, dropping sites that were rarely being updated or whose focus had shifted away from the reason I initially followed them, moving other sites to “check weekly” rather than “check daily” status, and dropping out of one group. But I like reading some blogs for long-form thoughts. I like Twitter for short jokes, and for encouraging my civic involvement and pointing me toward news stories I might not have seen otherwise.

A few things have helped to keep me mindful about interaction with the world both offline and online:
  • I don’t have social media on my phone. My cell phone is a fairly primitive model that I mainly just use for emergencies or traveling. If I want to go online, I do it from my desktop computer, so my online life has a specific time and place that I can walk away from.
  • When I’m tempted to post something angry online, I pause and ask myself: What is my purpose? Who am I helping? Am I furthering the discussion, or just venting? Am I addressing issues or just insults? Am I adding and highlighting new information, educating in a way that encourages people to find their voices too? I actually think anger has an important place in public discourse. There is a lot of injustice in the world; we should be angry about that. But I want to channel my energy in constructive directions. I’m not saying I do this perfectly, just that this is my goal.
  • I take walks every day, and when I do, I leave my phone at home. I bring no gadgets along.
  • One thing I started doing in 2017 was ending every Twitter session by tweeting (usually retweeting) a beautiful photo of a scene from nature. This helps me put something positive into the world, remind myself of the beauty around us, and disengage from each Twitter session with what feels like a calming breath.
I share these ideas not because I think they are The Right Way to be online—these specific things might not work at all for many—but just to support people in finding their own right-for-them ways to be online. It’s easy to get swept up in technology, but we can make conscious choices about where and how we want to be present.

3 comments:

  1. I'm with you on this one. I have one of those "dumb phones"--a disposo-phone for safety that can't get online. When I push myself away from the desk, I'm completely done with online everything.

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  2. I've started using Facebook a lot less, and I don't miss it that much. Sometimes it seems like certain people on Facebook are bragging, and it doesn't really make me feel good to read their posts when I've been having a rough day. Twitter is fun, though, because there's less pressure to make your life look perfect or to post pictures and you can just write whatever you want.

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