Saturday, January 23, 2016

Social media overload? Pause, go outside and listen.


Do you ever feel mentally frazzled by all the apps, sites and accounts to check online? Keeping up with social media feeds is on top of daily life- work, family, commuting, errands, meals, the rest. Much of it is great- entertaining, like that video of a hedgehog bathing I saw this morning!- staying connected to people- glad to know my friends in Columbia and Hong Kong are having fun today!- informative- so that’s what those sirens last night were about!--- but after a full week of nonstop checking my phone for info of all sorts, I can start to feel overwhelmed.

This happened yesterday… I was working and checking Facebook, Linked In, and other sites at least hourly. I could not get to a place of focus or relative peace. Early afternoon, I made myself put down the electronics and decided to just go outside. It was on/off again chilly rain. The next half hour was invaluable. I walked around my yard and just observed what I saw. I picked things up- little branches that had fallen, leaves blocking drains. I listened and counted how many sounds I could hear, naming them as I went. Cars, a plane, birds, a machine, wind, rain hitting the roof. I did not have a plan or goal. I sat down for a few minutes until the rain got harder, then moved to a covered spot. I saw sheets of rain lit up from sunlight streaming from another direction. It was beautiful!  I observed how things were different or the same from last season. I made mental lists of projects to do someday. I thought about my neighbors. I was glad it was raining, because I could not take my phone out of my pocket for fear of water damage though it was tempting to see if any interesting notifications had come in. I felt better after I went back inside- calmer, more motivated. I made a note to myself to do this more often: stop, go outside, and just be.

Then, I went to meet a close friend for coffee. I focused on being with her fully and enjoyed our time together so much, even though a fair bit of what we talked about were tough challenges in our lives. Strong social connections in person are another wonderful way to truly be in the moment. When I lived in urban neighborhoods, just taking a walk around the block could help- seeing others out and about, seeing what was going on, hearing the world around me. I love retreating into a cozy mode at home- but it can be hard to find the discipline to turn off the constant online feeds. We are still receiving information when out in the real world, but it is paced at a natural scale, letting us take it in at a digestible rate. It hardly matters where you take the pause from scrolling and tapping. Online I can feel like I must keep clicking or I may miss something good- which of course may be true, but also a self-created pressure as we will never be able to consume all info in our domains daily.


I am all for collecting tips on how to manage it well as the endless stream of incoming material is only growing. What are your methods for handling information overload?