For the last ten years I have used a cell phone as an alarm clock, which means every morning, I start my day by placing my phone in my hand. For the first 9 it worked. But now, after rubbing my eyes, I check the time once again, I unlock my screen to see if I have any messages and feel a tiny jolt of happiness when I see little red markers on the screen indicating messages or facebook likes or the rare tweet or my favorite - Instagram likes. I check to see if there are any entertaining emails first, which mainly mean emails from friends unless I haven't heard from them in a while because then I want to be more focused when I read and have some time to respond. And sometimes after that, though not always, I check facebook. And before I know it I am scrolling down the last 12 hours of activity from friends, family, the occasional friend of friend, old high school friends, people who aren't my friends, old co-workers and current co-workers, authors I follow and pages I like. Pictures of babies and beer mugs, blurry night shots of friends I haven't spoken an actual word to in 8 years (some longer), vacation pictures, wedding photos, song lyrics, inspirational quotes, political rants and status updates notifying the facebook universe that their phone was stolen or that they are fighting a cold or what they made for dinner the night before. And don't get me wrong, I am guilty of all sorts and types of these messages. Just a few days ago, it was my giant New Years thank you which added to the 2 billion already posted. And maybe "guilty" is the wrong term since this is exactly what social media is used for - connecting - helping us all find the beauty or perhaps comfort in the mundane, the universal in the details, the constant piquing of curiosities and teasing of egos, the security in solidarity, the promoting of self, art, love and sadly hate, the one-upsmanship craft of day-to-day dog-eat-dog living, the wonder and magic of an open microphone for a stage that will never present a hook. But my point is: My day starts outside of myself before I even plant my feet on the floor.
This is a problem and I recognize it. Having a pretty addictive personality, I can turn anything into a compulsion and I can see it with my constant email checking and facebook stalking. But the tricky thing is, it hasn't all been evil. I have watched my cousins's children grow up through pictures and videos uploaded through social media. It helps me feel connected to my family 3,000 miles away. It reminds me to wish someone I dearly care about a Happy Birthday and also how to support this artist friend or that with their latest show or cause. My life feels big through a tiny screen in my hand. It feels like I am holding a little piece of my universe, my internal movie, and choosing which scenes to look at. And then there are days like today when while waiting for a phone call at work to connect, I hop on facebook to kill the 3 seconds of my time where my attention is not needed and see a friend's "like" for a coconut water ad in my news feed that shows a picture of Bethany Hamilton (the female surfer who lost her left arm in a shark attack when she was 13 and is now 19 and considered one of the top 10 female surfers in the world) and before I know it, I'm reading articles about Bethany Hamilton from 2003 and 2009 and feeling really inspired and shitty all at once because this girl had her arm ripped off by a fucking SHARK and was back in the water one month later and has built an empire on positivity, courage and a can-do attitude! HOLY SHIT! WHERE'S THE TYLENOL!!
.....Now, I'm sure I am simplifying it. It's true that Hamilton is extraordinary and possess a resilience and determination and faith that would inspire anyone. But in less than one minute, I find myself with five or six different screens open, one which gives my computer a virus warning because of course I wanted to see pictures of her, and I feel pathetic because I can't even get out of my own way from the comfort of a TempurPedic chair and a goddamn facebook screen and this girl got back into the mother fucking ocean after a shark attack. And then my call connects and I'm onto another task.
Balance, right? How do I find balance? How do I pull away from the cyber world to feel more in the real life-world when the real-life world can bring so much pain? Who the hell WANTS to feel homesick? Who WANTS to evaluate where there life is going and take an honest look and what might be getting in the way? Who WANTS to be out of the know? The person who doesn't get the latest college humor parody video? Who WANTS to get serious about a diet or exercise plan when you can just edit the kinds of photos you post on facebook and instagram to make you look like you are fabulously fit and easily thin and having the time of your life ALL THE TIME??? Who WANTS to find the courage to stop secretly keeping tabs on this old friend's success or that old co-workers amazing life that happened after they quit that job that either took you too long to do or that you're still at? Who WANTS to be unplugged when a hop on social media can bring a smile or a laugh during a slow period at work? Who wants to be left out of the memories relived through photos and comments posted all around us? Who wants to be alone?
The last couple of nights my insomnia has been back and with a terrific vengeance. I have tried everything - breathing exercises, no caffeine, no sugar - and still my mind wanders and races, flipping through the hundreds of pieces of information I have absorbed or happily distracted myself with while successfully avoiding the one thing that I need to be doing for my happiness - being in the moment. I have given myself rules and wake up calls and even this blog post. But the first step towards change is awareness so, hey...