One of my favorite things is discovering a really great song from an artist I’ve listened to for decades and I thought I knew so well. I almost feel nostalgic, like I could have had so many special moments with that song if I had only heard it, and understood it, way back then.
But I wouldn't change a thing. This amazing little moment of discovery wouldn't be the same if I had heard it years ago. It's only special now, because now is when it suddenly mattered.
When I hear this song again years into the future it will bring me back to this moment, late September 2014, when I played it on repeat and it spoke to me. That’ll be a moment to reflect on how far I've come since then. That'll be a moment to remind me of how much further I will go, of all the songs in life I will have the privilege of knowing.
Hey let your honesty shine, shine, shine, now
It seems many have been clamoring for an alternative to the ubiquitous Facebook monster lately.
It's not just the gay/drag community getting up in arms about the Facebook "real name" policy, or even the start-up social network Ello that became alternative du jour this week, receiving praise and rage in the process.
Those are just recent flare-ups in a fire that's been smoldering for some time.
The real malaise comes from a sense of unease social media seems to create. It's providing bits of personal information, in the form of "likes," that are used to sell advertisements. It's visiting a website that can foster both good and evil, and feeling like evil wins out way too often. It's all the moments of social disruption it spawns--the FOMO, the distraction, the arguments, the jealousy, the anxiety.
Jumping to an alternative social network won't solve all of those problems though. No well-meaning manifesto claiming to make it all better will ever, actually, make it all better. Ello might very well be a better alternative, but it can also very easily become yet another digital distraction.
Social media encourages people to sit behind a computer and watch the world go by. At first it makes you feel connected because it makes it easy to keep in touch with friends, both near and far. But it also makes it way too easy to be passive in your social life. In that laziness, in watching the world go by without you, you end up feeling more alone.
I can't tell you which social network is the best at making you feel more connected and less of a commodity. That's up to you.
But I can tell you how to break from the malaise that will eventually come from every social network: go engage in the real world.
Don't sit at your computer and bemoan the fact that everyone is having fun but you. Go make a plan. Go to dinner with someone. Go join a group. Go out to a public event.
Don't sit on an app and complain that the information you meant to share with friends is being turned into an ad. Go out and share that information directly with them in the form of an actual conversation.
The strength of your friendships is up to you, whether any of them follow you on a social network or not. So don't blame Facebook for your malaise. Be proactive, get out there, and change it.
Jealousy, worry, doubt, regret... they've all been around for a while. Throughout history they've caused personal angst, lover's quarrels, and international wars. Philosophers and psychologists, from Buddha to Nietzsche, have pontificated on these themes. They're the mental banes of our shared existence.
Today, we feel the pain from a slew of digital headaches: social media anxiety, FOMO, online procrastination, comments section arguments, notification distractions. None of these are anything new though, they're all rooted in the same problems that've always dogged us as a society.
So if these feelings always existed, why do they feel particularly overwhelming now?
The problem is our amplified digital world. The ubiquity of technology makes everything loud. It puts every image into a spotlight, every voice on a bullhorn, every difference of opinion in front of your face:
The digital world is like putting a magnifying glass on the real world. We zoom in so close--focus so narrowly on quick soundbites and status updates--that we lose context and patience and presence. And like a magnifying glass, the extreme focus creates heat. If we spend too much time on one point it'll set fire to our sanity.
We fight back against the loudness of today's amplified world by being present.
I know I know, easier said than done. I'm certainly not immune to these hold ups, but I am working on it. Here are 3 simple things I try to do every day to quiet the noise of the digital age:
The thing about the internet is, it'll always be there. Instead of expecting to constantly share and be shared with, you can choose to make it a treat. You can choose to use it when you want to use it, instead of letting it use you.
The problems of worry, doubt, and regret will always be around in one form or another too, whether we use social media or not. It's how we handle them that gets us to place of mindfulness, or really, a place of happiness.
A wise woman once shared a mantra with me. It's one of happiness and love. There are different versions of this to be found on the internet, but here it is as I learned it.
You start by blessing those you love:
May they be safe. May they be strong. May they be happy.
Next you bless everyone, whether you love them or not:
May we be safe. May we be strong. May we be happy.
Then you finish by pointing this back to yourself:
May I be safe. May I be strong. May I be happy.
The only person you can control is you. The only Facebook rant reaction you can change is your own. The only comment board opinion you have power over yours.
You're in charge of your mood. You're in charge of the path you take.
The energy you send out into the world is up to you.
I believe that when you do good, when you hand out smiles instead of scowls, peace signs instead of birds, hugs instead of hatred, that those acts are addictive. Others pick up on them and return the favor or pass it along.
This mantra doesn't necessarily change the safety, strength, or happiness of others. Just as you're in charge or your reaction, everyone else is in charge of theirs.
This mantra simply reminds you to change your viewpoint. Start putting happiness out into the world and then maybe, just maybe, that happiness will point back at you.
Every Friday at 5pm, for the past 4 or so years, a calendar alert reminds me of this little mantra. I repeat it a few times to remind myself to spread happiness. To do so even when I'm stressed, even when I'm angry at someone, even when I don't want to smile.
Happiness inspires happiness. All the peace I wish for the world and for myself can found right here within me, as long as I'm willing to put it out there.
Take a moment out of your day, your week, your month, to wish the world some happiness. Do it in a prayer, a mantra, or simply a kind thought. I doubt we'll create world peace, but hell, it's a start.
Remember the past,
Both good times and bad.
Let those moments teach you.
Remember those who've passed,
Both good people and bad.
Let those souls guide you.
Honor the past,
Remember it fondly,
Do not disgrace it with sorrow.
Learn from the past,
Let it light the way forward,
Do not dim it with regret.
All those moments have sadly passed.
Your moment is just beginning.
Under every pile of dirt.
Silver linings exist.
Only quiet minds see.
It seems at least a few times a month I hear from someone who's considering a digital detox.
You look at the current world: notifications, apps, websites, emails, gmails, texts, tumblr, twitter, tinder, facebook, secret, instagram, hangouts, facetime, games, youtube, netflix, stream this, download that.
And then you look back to the days before all ^that^. Just 10 years ago we lived in a world that, for the most part, existed right in front of you instead of through the looking glass of the latest fad digital device.
There's a lot of problems to be found in today's digital world:
So you're stressed out, depressed, lonely, pissed off. Time to cut the digital cord, right? WRONG.
Long before the Internet existed, Buddha had this to say about it:
“From craving grief arises,
Deleting your Facebook account is like chopping off a huge limb of a tree. It immediately feels lighter, it lets the sunlight in, it's refreshing. But the roots, the problems you found in Facebook, they're all still there. The tree will grow back, you'll either reactivate your account or find another similar outlet. The addiction, loneliness, and jealousy continues.
Digital detox is a purge after years of binge. It's going from one extreme to another without dealing with the root of the problem.
Why not take a moderate approach? Take some small steps every day to prune the tree of our digital addiction:
My monthly challenge for August was to turn off notifications for non-essential apps. In September, I'm going to take this one step further: I'm logging out.
I'm not going to delete my Facebook account, I actually enjoy it and friendships and other connections I have there. But I also don't want it to be a distraction. I don't want it to feel consuming, to be the first thing I do when I'm bored and the last thing I do at night. I want trim the tree a little every day -- make my social media use smaller, more casual.
For at least 2 hours every day I'm logging out of Facebook and Instagram. Just a small pruning. Just a little a barrier between me and distraction.
I challenge you all to do the same. Give it a try for one month, start with something small and easy. If at the end of the month it's made no difference in your life, then by all means log back in and let your phone buzz at you. Either way, you'll learn something about yourself. No harm no foul.
I'm a nostalgic person. Good or bad, life is all about the experience, and an expired experience makes me feel a little wistful. I have to say goodbye to the moments I've enjoyed and to the people who joined me on the adventure. From boyhood through nowhood, it's always been the same for me.
But lamenting the end of a good time is incredibly unmindful act. It means you're consumed with the past rather than wallowing in the now.
It's especially bad when you feel nostalgic about something that isn't even over yet -- spending the last moments of an experience worrying about the end instead of relishing the remainder.
Nostalgia for the past, that's real. Sadness when you say goodbye to a loved one, that's honest and healthy. But dwelling on them, letting those feelings distract you from all the rest that life has to offer, that's not healthy.
When you choose to end a great experience with wistfulness, you do the experience an injustice. It may have been an awesome vacation/summer/holiday/party/dinner, but turning to sadness at the end takes you away from all the awesome feelings that made it so great.
Replacing the memory of joy with melancholy is no way to honor the past.
Instead, think back fondly. Remember the laughter, the lessons, the friendship. Plan a return trip if you want. But then come back to now.
Right now is the best time because right now is when all the moments of the past join together. Every fragment of time has coalesced to make you the amazing person you are today and to set you up for all the possibilities of the future.
When you honor those moments, when you think of them fondly instead of wistfully, that's when they shine.
Don't look back at past moments with a tear, look forward with a smile, and use every one of those moments to create awesome new ones.