Oh, and a brief word on those push notifications, beeps, buzzers, alarms, ring tones, and all other sounds and/or visuals that otherwise alert you to the dire fact that someone, somewhere clicked something which potentially affected you through a curious web of technological events that most likely do not matter in any way to your current state of happiness or existence.
(I’m looking at you, Apple products.)
Your life should be more important to you than what any person, at any time, anywhere, has to say. Turn your phone on silent, utilize airplane mode (for those of you with iPhones, that is… the rest of you, I guess that would be “droid” users, I don’t know how you manage without combining your phone and iPods into one, but you have my blessing just the same) and stop living your life like avatars are more important than your own personal experience. They’re not.
Or at least, in a balanced mind and life, they aren’t.
No one should be able to be reached at all times. You aren’t a civil servant to the world. Trust me, no one thinks of you as much as you think of yourself. The world keeps spinning just because you don’t post on Instagram.
(I’m guilty of this over-connection at times, too. Guilty as charged. But do as I say, not as I sometimes mess up and do, too.)
And yes, admittedly, I still search for a balance between being connected, for both practicality of my writing and enjoyment of it for its own sake, and retaining the quiet of solitude that I know I require in large doses in order to be happy and feel like a balanced human being.
But unless your last name is Obama and you’re married to Michelle, your job is not so important that you can’t afford to come unplugged for at least a few minutes of the day, every day. And the more difficult this is for you to do, the more you stand to gain by trying.
Just like going to the gym or eating better or meditation or anything else in life: the more resistance you encounter in an endeavor, the more you know your ass needs it.
Don’t subject yourself to stopping your own life every time someone decides to “like” your picture, text something stupid, send you an email, or drunk-dial you in the middle of the night. The most magical button on your phone is the one that causes an image of a little bell with a diagonal line through it to come up on the screen (okay, I didn’t mean to make this post an ode to the late Steve Jobs).
You should be in charge of your life. And where your attention goes, your energy flows. If you don’t want your energy to be scattered in a hundred thousand directions, it is a serious boon to your productivity and ultimately your success, if your eye isn’t consistently drawn to the little red badge notifications on every flat, lit-up surface within your general vicinity.
Not only is it distracting and prevents you from actually getting shit done, it just isn’t cool on principle as a way of viewing and living your life– letting other people jerk your attention around on command. You’re like a dog and they’ve got a chip. (My dog loves chips, I just found out.)
It’s like that saying goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
But instead, here’s my new, less-catchier version:
“If you pay attention to everything, you lose track of what’s truly important.”
Sometimes it’s hard to remember which way is up when you’ve just blown the last hour and a half consuming mindless bullshit and have nothing to show for it– and this is routine to the way you live. Day after day, those lost hours of your life spent on Pinterest and Huffington Post Op-Ed articles pile up.
Then those hours turn to weeks, and you know the natural progression. Before you know it, you don’t know how, but your grandkid was conceived via an app and your husband Face Times you from the other side of the bed to say goodnight.
And without meaning to sound like a conspiracy theorist, with the way technology has so rapidly invaded our lives, the potential for lost time spent on shit that otherwise just doesn’t matter, is only increasing. It’s like a global deadly virus* and we are primed for its imminent descent and subsequent bloodshed at the hands of our very own precious Macbook Pro’s. (Okay, I’m gonna just go for broke with the Apple nods.)
(*And I wish I had richer biological terminology to really instill the fear into your heart but “global deadly virus” will have to suffice, for my Dictionary Of Medicinal Jargon is downstairs.)
The internet and its minions in the form of Digg, Reddit, Tumblr and all that other crazy shit that I can’t even keep up with its creation and existence, have you by the balls, my friend. So instead of focusing on producing what is actually important to you, you’ve just consumed a bunch of garbage that pollutes your system and clogs your creativity.
So here’s what I propose: instead of shoveling the equivalent of Twinkies and french fries into your awareness, how about you go work on your novel, edit that screenplay, or go for a run? Do some dishes and listen to a podcast while you scrub (oh wait, and I the only person on the planet who doesn’t have a dishwasher?). Vacuum your disgusting rug. Organize your desk area. Throw your computer against the wall.
Doing little, seemingly trivial things like this can lift your spirits by making you feel productive in small ways, that cumulatively raise your confidence and optimism to help you take action on even bigger things– like putting on your pants and going to the store or applying for that new job you’ve always wanted.
Even staring at a blank canvas is better than staring at your Twitter feed. Go for a walk, floss your teeth, talk to your dog. Do something good for yourself, no matter how small. Break the cycle of addiction to things that don’t love you back. I promise, your slightly-improved-self will love you for it.
We are so quick to say we don’t have time for twenty minutes of meditation (Which by the way, I am currently stoned from– and I went on for another fifteen because it was just that good… First time record for me to extend it out of pure pleasure) but we easily spend all that time, and more browsing the web (how’d you get to my site?) or checking our phones or sending stupid Snapchats.
It’s all about time. And we all have the same amount of it every day. And yet, certain people somehow seem to do an amazing time of making good with it, and others blow it like lottery winners you see on those shows you are bankrupt and worse off than before.
(I still cannot wrap my mind around how stupid those people are with their money. Any TV producers reading this, we should try an experiment: give me the winnings and I’ll show you how NOT to do that. It’ll be great ratings. I swear.)
Don’t let that be you at the end of your time in this body– where you realized you spent it focusing on things that were all just slightly afield of what actually mattered.
Your time is limited. That’s one of the only universal truths of life. There will always be another news feed, another article (even this– god knows I can blabber on page, after page, after… you get the idea), another picture of a celebrity with their coffee (why do I love those) or another thing to shop for on those ads that somehow know the exact boots you fucking LOVE (or maybe that’s just me).
It’s a bottomless pit. It’s a losing battle. You may as well be throwing your metaphorical money-time down the drain at a casino. Those websites are like the internet versions of Foxwoods and the people running them make millions– all because people like you go and gamble your time away indiscriminately all over the internet instead of being out and actually enjoying the living, breathing life you’ve been given.
Focus your time and attention on you. Invest in yourself. It’s the only certain investment one can make.
And guard your time and attention. They are your most precious assets in this life–in fact they are the core ingredients of it– and should be spent just as wisely as (if not more than) your material ones.
The key to a happy life is conscious use of these two gifts. And that means yes, logging off social media once in awhile to deal with real people and the real-time life in front of you. Even if that means you have to put down the phone and actually talk to Crazy Aunt Mary during Thanksgiving.
(That’s what alcohol’s made for.)