It's 4:28am. I can't get back to sleep. I have a horrible migraine, a throbbing back and a tightly clenched jaw. I wonder if I'm stressed out.
I just had the privilege of spending a very enjoyable evening with a man that, for the most part, loathes the internet and especially things like social media. He doesn't have a Facebook account, barely knows what Twitter even is, and doesn't have internet at home. I am also reading a book called "The Winter of Our Disconnect" by Susan Maushart. It's about a Mother, and her 3 teenagers voluntarily (well, at least in the Mother's case, who then 'volunteers' her teenage children) undergoes a 6 month internet and screen time hiatus.
And both the gentleman and the book left me longing for a life less digital.
I know I have written about it several times here before, and my tangents won't likely resolve until I have some self actualization about my technological involvement. So bear with me. This evening, I had a realization as I was laying awake with a pulsing noggin - my phone was beeping Facebook updates at me. Even at 4am. So then....I started to think. How many times a day does that damn thing go off? And why should I be hearing it now, at four-in-the-flipping-morning? And of course, like any good social user with a smartphone would, I checked it.
One of my friends 'liked' one of my other friends status updates.
WHY THE HELL IS THIS IMPORTANT TO ME? How does this contribute to my day(night)? How much time have I wasted watching and observing somebody else approving of the ramblings of another friend? But the weird part is that I feel like I NEED to. I feel somewhat.......addicted. Take for example the simple Facebook 'bloop' that happens on my phone. If I hear it, and don't respond to it, I become physically stressed out. I'm not kidding. It COULD be something important. It COULD be life shattering news. IT COULD BE THE FIRST SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE TRANSMITTED VIA TEXT MESSAGE.
Or it could be a a friend liking another friend's latest photo of late night binge drinking antics. And I likely haven't seen or talked to either one in over 6 months.
I know and appreciate that half of my migraines are related to stress and tension. As silly as this realization might be to other people, I believe with all the little gray matter parts of my brain that social networking and even my smartphone are contributing to higher stress levels, increasing migraines, and a generalized state of constant depression and anxiety.
Take, for example, my latest pseudo-dating experience. I talked (at great lengths, mind you) with a boy online and via text message. Like.....GREAT lengths. Like.....4am chatting sessions. Like.....didn't spend time studying for nursing school, and often spent time talking to him instead of interacting with the friends sitting right in front of my face. I could, by the way, feel completely ashamed by all of this, but I'll save my regret for another time and place. Now obviously, when you have this ability to instantly connect with someone and continuously do so on a very regular basis, you get somewhat used to the instant gratification of it all. So what happens then if say, you message someone, you are expecting a somewhat immediate response and a few hours passes. Or (God forbid) an entire DAY passes? Well if you are addicted to your social networking site (as well as your smartphone) you start to panic, that's what. Because chatting with him was so much fun, it was sort of like....I don't know, taking a hit. And, when there was no response, it was like withdrawl. (Along with feelings of self-loathing and constant doubt about my own self worth, as well as over-analyzing every single character of text that was sent to seek out hidden messages that may have unintentionally been transmitted).
My point is, that while interacting with him in a primarily virtual way, not only did I miss truly having a connection with him, but I became almost addicted to the experience. Which....I guess I AM embarrassed to say. My headaches actually increased, my sleeping habits have taken on this new horrific schedule of constantly waking up at 4am now (as this was often a common start time for late night texting), and most of all I was misinterpreting someone else's intentions (contrary to what was being transmitted). And it ended up really hurting when the proverbial shit hit the fan. Like, REALLY hurting.
I think, in a way, I needed an extreme experience like that to shake me up. It is inexcusable to allow myself to be woken up in the middle of the night to late night 'likes' that don't even involve me. It is inexcusable to be only half there when I am with friends because I have my nose in my phone. It is inexcusable to allow my anxiety to be increased because of a primarily internet based friendship. And most of all, it is inexcusable that I ignore the actual physical ramifications the stress of keeping up with these social outlets is causing me. I mean....I'm okay with getting a migraine because my phone beeps every 30 seconds and I feel physical anxiety if I don't check it? HUH? This...does not compute.
What happened to the simplicity of keeping up with the people that you TRULY interact with? What happened to having to call someone up on the phone to ask a question? What happened to meeting boys the old fashioned way? What happened to being fully engaged in a conversation with a friend? And why.....yes I'll admit it, why do I feel the need to bring my phone in the bathroom just in case someone writes me back in the two minutes that I'm in there?
My jaw is tightening up just thinking about it.
If my experience has taught me nothing, it's that social media is not contributing as much to my life as I think it is. When an entire afternoon can be spent on a laptop that's one thing. But when you are getting 'bloops' all day and night, around the clock, without a break - how does that not translate to being stressful and making you feel like you always need to be involved, every second of every day? I mean, I have to know what that one friend said to a person I don't even know....right?
I wish I could feel like it was easy to drop the internet, or get rid of the laptop, or downgrade to a phone that isn't smart. I wish I felt like that wouldn't be a punishment of some kind. But, I need some balance. And I sure as hell don't have that going for me right now.
I'm missing the here and now. I'm focusing on the virtual neighborhood. Even when I haven't met the neighbors, in real life, ever. I'm not being present, or accountable, or even responsible with my duties as a student, a parent, a friend, a daughter/sister/cousin/aunt. Apparently, virtual friendships take priority over actual friendships in my world.
And the proof of that is pulsing through my temples as we speak. Oh wait.....someone just posted a funny picture, I've gotta go 'like' it.