Dueling dragons

The Instagram-minimal life is great for me. My relationship with social media has been fraught ever since I joined Facebook in 2007. Going without checking IG every day helps me notice how much my mood is affected by it when I do log on. As you probably guessed, the effect is not favorable! A few scrolls down and already I’m wishing I’m off because I start feeling depressed.

We’ve all experienced this negative affect, and I’ve been aware of how I respond for a long time. Those delicious shots of dopamine, though, have kept me coming back. I haven’t been able to form a new habit until now.

Did anyone catch this NY Mag laugh-and-sob-worthy article about friends who can’t stand their friends’ online presence? If Hemingway were on Instagram, I imagine we’d all tire of his boozy photos and cantankerous captions.

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It turns out, Instagram harms young people’s mental health the most out of several social media sites.

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(CNN) Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health, followed closely by Snapchat, according to a new report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK.
Their study, #StatusofMind, surveyed almost 1,500 young people aged 14 to 24 on how certain social media platforms impact health and well-being issues such as anxiety, depression, self-identity and body image.
YouTube was found to have the most positive impact, while Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter all demonstrated negative affects overall on young people’s mental health.

The Ministry of Facebook

For a while my goal for social media posts has been to share uplifting words and images. So many friends I run into say, Oh, I love your Facebook posts. It feels like a ministry of sorts. Sometimes I’ll post just the quote someone needed to hear that day. I had a friend tell me that she wasn’t able to read her scriptures much but that she would see the scripture I posted. The addictive component of social media combined with that feeling that the words I share really do make a difference have kept me wired in, in spite of the discomfort I feel.

All that glitters is not gold

Instagram has been an essential journaling platform for me to share my recovery journey and raise concussion awareness. When my life was in such a very narrow sphere, it helped to have posts that helped me interpret what was going on. It was also extremely painful to have the experience behind the camera be so much more narrow and restricted and painful than any of my posts could ever convey. What I desperately needed was human connection and friends stopping by, but I was too sick to ask anyone to just come by and cheer me up. I looked good, so my words had less of an impact. That is one of the deadly pitfalls of an online life. Things all around look shiny and good in others’ lives, when we’re all just drowning and hoping someone will stop by to cheer us out of our depression.

Another Way

So what am I doing instead? Well, reading books. Going to yoga. Taking as many walks in the spring air as I can. Rebuilding the connections in my brain. Making lists. Brainstorming ideas for YouTube videos (I really love the idea of a platform that has an even more positive effect on people’s mental health). YouTube has been one of my favorite educational resources while I’ve been unable to read for more than an hour in a given day.

1 Photo

Today’s 1 Photo is a simple iPhone capture of Mt. Olympus that I took on a walk last night.Mt. Olympus.jpg
We’re not meant to live online. We’re meant to live among the clouds and under the stars and immersed in connection with living, breathing human beings. We’re not wired to have up-to-the minute updates about each other’s lives. We aren’t designed to be unfatiguing computational thought machines, either.
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Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking. . . .
“Deliberate practice,” they observed, “is an effortful activity that can be sustained only for a limited time each day.” Practice too little and you never become world-class. Practice too much, though, and you increase the odds of being struck down by injury, draining yourself mentally, or burning out.

Resistance and The War of Art

All this inner dialogue about IG and being meant to live in the real world almost got in the way of me even posting anything this week. I’m still posting because I made a commitment to myself to create. I commit to healing and finding a better way to create that feels most authentic to me. I commit to making my art. The voice of reason in this case sounds a lot like Resistance (thank you Jennie Brown and Morgan Shaw for recommending The War of Art!). Getting in the habit of unselfconsciously serving the Muse is my next hurdle, and I hope you can do it, too.
What I call Professionalism someone else might call the Artist’s God or the Warrior’s Way. It’s an attitude of agelessness and service. The Knights of the Round Table were chaste and self-effacing. Yet they dueled dragons.
We’re facing dragons too. Fire-breathing griffins of the soul, whom we must outfight and outwit to reach the treasure of our self-in-potential and to release the maiden who is God’s plan and destiny for ourselves and the answer to why were were put on this planet. Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, 108-9.
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