It has been a while since I have posted on my little corner of the internet. The reasons behind this are numerous and complex but I suppose I will start with the simplest explanation: I just didn’t feel like it and I didn’t think anyone would care. Earlier this year, disenchanted by the world at large, I decided to set myself a new year’s resolution to see through the New year if not the rest of my life.
I know this sounds vague but it is the open ended nature of this resolution that I love the most. 2016 was a big year for me socially and professionally but despite having so much on my plate, I was left feeling unfulfilled. After taking inventory of my life during the last week of 2016 I realised hardly any of the things I had accumulated over the years made me feel fulfilled. I was tired of committing to things in my life that I didn’t feel genuinely invested in. The only way I can describe it is as a kind of claustrophobia. I was surrounded by objects, people and activities that no longer enriched my life and I felt trapped! Not only that, these things were zapping my energy and I could no longer pursue the things I loved. That’s when I realised that I needed to spring into action and reclaim my life! I was reminded of a tattoo artist I had met in Bali who had a throat piece that read “Live for Who?” (sic). He explained to me that it was a daily reminder of life’s temporary nature and in order to live it to its fullest we need to take stock of what we put into it and what we put out into the world : quite literally “Live? For who(m)?” or “Who are you living for?”. In order to be free, I had to follow my own sage advice and be genuine. In order to be genuine I had to ask myself daily who I was living for that day. And that is when things got…hermitty.
The first thing to go was instagram. I can hear you gasping my friend and yes it was hard to deactivate my 1:1 x 12 insta existence. It isn’t gone forever though. I have merely deactivated till I know I can develop a healthy relationship with social media apps and learn to be present in the moment. The next thing to go was Facebook. I deleted the app and the messenger app that goes with it off my phone. I still have an account but I can only log in from a desktop computer. I intend to fully deactivate my personal account before the start of July.
This brings me to the question of friendships. How does one maintain friendships in the digital age without the aid of apps like Instagram and Facebook? What if I end up a social pariah because of event invitations being digital. These thoughts initially bothered me but not as much as knowing that out of the scores of people I know through social media, there were only a handful I socialised with and asked after. The rest seemed to exist in the same manner as all those extra champagne glasses in my drinks cabinet: Oh one day I will host a dinner party and all of them will come out to play! Well…its been 10 years and counting and this scenario is yet to materialise.
Asides from “ghost friends” I had also managed to accumulate some incredibly unhealthy friendships over the years by nature of my interest in the vintage lifestyle. We all have these people in our lives. The people who treat everything like a contest, who find opportunities to make snide comments about your appearance, your home or some other aspect of your life to make themselves feel better. We keep them around because as a generation we have learnt that its easier to “unfollow” their status updates than to send them packing on their merry way. I have had the misfortune of having one such person in my life and it only struck me that I was being used for social and material gains a year into our tumultuous friendship. It is a heartbreaking feeling realising that the wool has been pulled over your eyes for so long when you are emotionally invested in a friendship. Looking back, I have absolutely no regrets with ending that particular friendship. I realised that I no longer wanted to be a rung on this woman’s social ladder climbing expedition and I wonder if she is aware how low the drop is if others are to follow suit. In the words of Bob Marley “You can fool some of the people some of the time…”
Come round and see me sometime.
So where has this left me? Well, I now have the phone numbers, postal addresses and emails of the people I wanted to stay in touch with and who wanted to stay in touch with me. I have a social calendar…an actual PHYSICAL, TANGIBLE social calendar where I pencil in lunch dates, dinner dates, movie plans, coffee dates and other social activities. There is nothing like reconnecting with another human being over a hot beverage and asking them how they are going. If it feels more intimate than a text message or Facebook inbox, that is because it is! Body language plays such an important part in our interactions with others. It is disarmingly honest and wonderfully comforting. There are less opportunities to misunderstand one another and plenty of opportunities for clarifications. I could go on and on about the benefits of real life friendships but I digress.
Similarly, my friends across the Nullabor and the ocean keep in touch through emails and even old fashioned letters. One of my oldest friends is a musician who lives in Melbourne. We keep in touch via weekly emails discussing the genius of David Lynch, the Twin Peaks series and not much else because that is the extent of our current friendship. For a while this was the most honest friendship I had because it was straightforward and knew its own limitations. It was a genuine interaction in a sea of perfunctory pleasantries. And that’s how I realised that not every friendship needs to be pursued to perfection nor does every acquaintance we make need to occupy a space in our lives. Less is more. Quality over quantity and so on.
Give it a go
Recent studies have shown that Facebook causes negative effects on self esteem by triggering feelings of envy, with vacation and holiday photos proving to be the largest resentment triggers. Other prevalent causes of envy include posts by friends about family happiness and images of physical beauty—such envious feelings leave people lonely and dissatisfied with their own lives. A joint study by two German universities discovered that one out of three people were more dissatisfied with their lives after visiting Facebook, and another study by Utah Valley University found that college students felt worse about their own lives following an increase in the amount of time spent on Facebook. In addition, a recent study from Pace University showed that the more frequently users update their status on Facebook, the lower their self-esteem is.
– Wikipedia on Facebook
I am not suggesting that eschewing social media apps is for everyone. Some people need to use them for many reasons including staying in touch with family members outside the country, running businesses and of course social contact. Not everyone enjoys socialising in the flesh and some prefer keeping their interactions with people to the online world. However, if you feel like your friendships are lacking and that you feel like social media is keeping you from being your genuine self then maybe you need to get out some more. Ring your best friend, make plans to grab a cuppa (your place, their place, a coffee place…the choices are endless) or maybe even send them a nice email about your day. The worst that can happen is apathy on the other end in which case you could reassess your friendships OR you could just as easily go back on to Facebook and insta land. Me? I think I will continue with life in glorious colour outside of a phone screen.