A social network, in the grand scheme of the universe, is an infantile construct. What a new and unfinished labyrinth to be so focused on, so consumed by.
The internet and digital technology is so ubiquitous that there is little opportunity to reflect on it. It simply happens and evolves and transcends, silently and unceasingly. Plants photosynthesize, adults pay taxes, and mobile devices connect to Wi-Fi.
It all moves so fast, too. If you stop and think for a second, something or someone will have surely passed you by. The sheer momentum of the digital age not only keeps us participating, but also keeps us from evaluating. Have you taken stock of the impact technology has on your life recently? Have you ever?
Of course, technology has revolutionized much for our benefit. Along with its advancements, though, technology has forged new paths to suffering. New ways to feel age old pains.
Take social media, for example; never before have we been able to communicate with people all over the globe so easily and instantly. These channels are great connectors, yes, but they have also become modern vessels for emotional hardship.
Jealous. Less than. Depressed. Misunderstood. Alone. Sometimes social media will make you feel all of these things in one day. It is both enrapturing and utterly unhealthy, a vice we seem to inherit by simply existing in a technologically modern society.
And like all vices, the opportunity for the relationship to turn abusive is right there, hovering in the digital cloud, descending slowly in the form of pictures of exes and toxic comments sections. If you’re not careful, the negative energy online can virtually consume you, to the point that it dictates your own thoughts and actions.
Swearing off social media entirely would seem irrational to most people, and probably rightfully so. Human interaction relies on communication technologies more than ever. It would be unreasonable to suggest completely removing, or exiling, yourself from your digital community. However, periodic disconnections from social media can be crucial to your mental health.
Disconnect Your Wires, Plug in to Some Roots
The earth has hosted a network of its own for quite some time. It’s as intricate as a computer chip, but it breathes rather than whirs. It’s tangible and full of colors. It is truly ubiquitous, but passively so.
Nature has been humanity’s eternal backdrop, so it can be fairly easy to disregard while your digital network is so hectic and stimulating. For nature to be as stimulating, as rewarding, as your time online, it requires a bit of engagement on your part.
Trees don’t reach down and brush against you as you walk past to remind you of their majesty, they simply grow and exist, ready to be admired. Rivers don’t weave their way across the earth to share with you all the marvels it contains, it just flows in its place, waiting for you to access them.
Luckily, this vibrant network is available to you, without fees or hardware requirements, when you finally disconnect from your digital environment. Disconnecting can be difficult, though, especially for a younger generation who thrive in the digital environment.
The first step to signing out of an over-connected life is to distance yourself from the tools that keep you the most connected. Are your hands and eyes and brain glued to your phone’s screen? If so, start identifying times when you can disconnect. Those moments when you simply don’t need an electronic companion.
If you usually scroll through Twitter while you eat breakfast, enjoy your meal outside and leave your phone on the kitchen counter one day. The idea is to wean yourself off of your technological dependence with the natural network that surrounds you.
Login to the morning air and peruse all the stirrings of the wild as you would your timeline. There is always something new to see in nature – its history of automatically refreshing itself is a rich and vital one.
Eventually, or perhaps not so eventually, you will go back inside and return to your phone and the world it contains. No matter how long you lasted in the open air, it will have been an important start to the digital detoxification most of us need.
Once you’ve made your initial disconnection, it is important to build on this ability to not only resist virtual temptations, but to constructively escape into the natural world as well. To stand in the sun and only think about your phone, or how you wish you could take a picture of the scene to share on social media, is to miss the point and opportunity of a natural getaway.
The rustle of the leaves and the whisper of the wind can be a powerful mental cleanser. Learn to sync up with them and the rest of nature’s therapeutic rhythms to keep your psyche healthy and your mind clear of the inconsequential debris of your social network.
Evan Corey is an editor currently working in digital marketing and co-author of Scanning For Signal, a book of introspective writings and prose that explore the feelings and emotions most relevant, and often most troublesome, to an awakening generation of young people and millennials alike.