reflection: my relationship with instagram

I can easily pinpoint the first few moments I realized I felt disconnected from my “social media self.” In these moments, I was starting to connect with my authentic self. Or, for better lack of words, I was connecting to my heart and spirit.

In May of 2018 my dear friend Hayden and I traveled to Southeast Asia for about two weeks. In the beginning of our trip, at the end of each night, we engaged in what we later coined as “PT,” an abbreviation for the phrase, “Phone Time.” This was our cute way to avoid feeling guilty for taking a chunk of our night to call friends and family, send photos of ourselves kissing rescued elephants to interested parties, and post how much fun we were having on social media.

We spent the final days of our trip in Bali, Indonesia. I had heard of Bali’s spiritual reputation, and though I definitely craved that inner connection with something deeper than my mind, (or, what some would identify as my ego), I had no idea how much of a lasting effect it would have on the way I live my life and look at the world.

Needless to say, once we arrived to our Airbnb in Bali, “PT” became nearly nonexistent. Of course, we took photos of beautiful monuments and moments so we’d have them to reflect on and reminisce about later. We posted things on social media here and there, but it definitely felt forced. (Probably because it kind of was…shout out to mom and grandma, my most loyal followers to date.)

Here’s the thing: It wasn’t the literal photo-taking and documenting that changed. It was the “need” and anxiety I had placed onto myself to document everything I was doing that began to fade. And, whether what we were experiencing was as spiritual as a bath at a temple or as casual as a walk around the city of Ubud, we were both in such emotional awe by the end of the day that our nights were mostly spent in silence. Sitting, starting, letting whatever we had experienced marinate into our brains and wash over us like water.

Though this “need to document” perspective shift slowly started during the trip, I didn’t realize it was happening until I landed in the US and slowly got back into my routine. Coffee with friends, teaching classes and workshops, dinner dates downtown. Each time I’d do something of the sort, it felt different. I now realize this alteration of my reality existed because I was just experiencing my experiences.

I know it sounds simple, yet I’m convinced that because concepts like this ooze with simplicity, they are often mistaken for insignificant. That was the case for me, at least.

When I say, “experiencing my experiences,” I mean being fully present in the moment and not thinking about how I could curate it later to look better than it actually was. (Because apparently, it was never good enough? Odd, isn’t it?) It was almost as if every moment of my life—both big and small—became so much more precious to me, that in all honesty, what I really wanted to do was the opposite of share it. I wanted to desperately hold on to every second and interaction I had, as if they would become polaroids in my mind for only myself and others involved, or, as if I would never get them back. Which, when I reread that sentence, is kind of true; but I’ve gradually learned to repackage this concept in a way that doesn’t terrify me. (Though it scared the shit out of me to type just now.)

Since this realization, I’ve gone through many phases with my phone and technology in general. We’ve been in love, we’ve taken breaks, we’ve been obsessive, and we’ve been both toxic and healing for each other. This was the most colorful relationship I’d ever had with an object (rather than a person), and up to this point, I had worked really hard to leave corporate America and build a brand from my phone. With that, I decided to step back and take a deeper look into what the f was REALLY going on.

Enlisting in the MNDFL Meditation Teacher Training in the fall of 2018, deepening my meditation practice, and having the good fortune of learning from some incredible teachers has gifted me the ability to, as my mentor Kevin Townley beautifully puts it, “sharpen the blade of awareness.” I am now aware that this ever-changing relationship with social media directly reflects my relationship with myself. And I—like everything around me—am changing and will continue to do so. That’s the terrifying, yet liberating reality we live in.

A photo taken by my lovely roommate just a day after my first night of teacher training.

To help with the anxiety of what I think I “should” be doing and discouraging thoughts of what I could have done differently, I try to come back to the “why” of everything I do, over and over again. I understand and am thankful for the ability to build community, connect with people around the world, and potentially have the opportunity to help others like the teachers and mentors in my life that have helped me. Yes, the gross, sticky feeling of resentment towards social media and anything of the sort comes and goes, just like it does in regards to my relationship with myself. Some days we’re a team. Other days, it feels like I can’t catch a break from my own mind, so I lash out at lovers, friends, society, and in this case, social media, to make myself feel better.

With time and practice, I trust that though these thoughts and feelings may never completely go away, their impressions on my present moment will become more manageable, therefore, they won’t seem so, “fight or flight.” In my experience, it’s rarely a do or die situation, anyway.

To anyone who reads this: We are all wishing for similar things. Mine, in this case, was being freed from suffering caused by my own perception of something that has actually helped me. Know that it’s okay (and quite normal) to take a break, step back, change, and reboot. It’s all part of the journey, which, in my opinion, may be more significant than the destination, wherever that is.

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