As the years have gone by, I’ve been progressively withdrawing from more and more social networks and apps. At first it seemed relatively harmless and even fun to have these windows and doors into each other’s lives. Likely not-so-coincidentally, the shift away from them started around the time I started meditating. Becoming more aware of my psychological and emotional states quickly made me realize how draining and distracting they could be. The compulsive scrolling, random messages coming in, bouncing between multiple convos, constantly having my thoughts and feelings interrupted by those of others, having their beliefs and opinions streaming across my vision and mind all day, effectively obscuring my access to my own. I’ve been becoming increasingly aware of how often I compromise my own values for the group too, choosing to go with the general flow of those around me in order to feel more connected and involved. This was no different.

Each time I decided to leave it was the same straw that broke the camel’s back - I didn’t like having these perpetual mental links with basically everyone I’ve ever known and some total strangers. I didn’t like having so many open doors for people to message me whenever they felt like it. Over time it started to feel more and more intrusive. I found myself constantly navigating how to show my appreciation while deterring aimless chatter with people, many of whom I barely had a relationship with in the first place.

I also found myself falling into the temptation to curate idealized images of myself. They weren’t images of the picture-perfect life that most people go for but I was still creating my own kinds of masks. Depending on how I was feeling about myself and what I was going through I could find myself becoming pretty damn invested in choosing the right photos and captions to convey some kind of story. It all started to feel more and more like networks of manufactured personas interacting with one another, collections of solidified ego images participating in a game of mutual inflation. Not that everyone did this all the time but it was always floating beneath the surface.

It also started to feel uncomfortable and unsatisfying having almost every occasion end up being a drawn out photo-op. I couldn’t help but see the stark contrast between the reality of the occasions compared to the photos being posted online. They would present these freeze frames of a seemingly fun day while in reality everyone mostly had their faces in their phones, with most interactions being to briefly share what one was looking at with someone nearby. We were so disconnected from ourselves that the connections seemed to have to be made through sharing content created by others. Where were we as individuals in all this? What was actually being expressed by us to each other? Not much.

I think it was less of a problem when I was happy to fill my time with pleasant distractions. As more time has passed with more plans and projects going undone and unfulfilled, my perspectives and priorities have started to shift. Similar to back when I used to play MMO’s, I finally reached a point where I was left looking back on all the time spent I’d spent in the game with nothing much to show for it. All my efforts had been put towards building up a virtual character rather than myself.

There seem to be some people who are solid enough in themselves that they can navigate these spaces without being so impacted. I always believed that being able to see what was going on would keep me from being overly influenced, but I was wrong. It did influence me, more than I’m probably even now aware of.

So I left. I want to focus on myself now. I want to get to know and build myself and my own life. I want to be present with myself and respond to my own values and needs as they arise. I don’t want to be tossed around and influenced so much by the thoughts, feelings and needs of others anymore.

There was a time not so long ago when it was completely normal to call or write or meet up with a friend once in a while, and to otherwise live your life as it came. We weren’t constantly hooked up to each other the way we are now, constantly checking in, constantly sharing our fluctuating thoughts and feelings. This occasional and intentional contact seems a lot more healthy, sustainable and satisfying to me than what’s going on now.

When I’m with myself, I want to be with myself. And when I’m with others, I want us to be with each other. It’s as simple as that. Unforunately, I think there are a number of relationships in my life that wouldn’t hold up under the pressure of total presence and detachment. The phone provides a convenient fuzzy middle ground to compensate for the intensity of our discomfort within ourselves and with each other.

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