I was probably not the best person to write this article. I’m easily distracted by technology – my phone is often glued to the palm of my hand, my eyes have been know to gloss over from staring at my computer screen for too long and my brain is frequently fogged by thoughts of “how many likes will this post get?!”. It’s easy for me to convince myself that I am not someone who is disconnected from reality or that I’m not someone too addicted to the world of social media, but if I really break it down and take a step back, the answer is right in front of my face:

I am disconnected. I am addicted. I am dependent on my followers “approval”.

You may be wondering, how did I figure this out?

Well, with the storm of politics at an all time high I find my anxiety rearing it’s ugly head in full force. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why. I mean, usually my anxiety becomes more noticeable and present in times of conflict but it’s never been quite as bad as it is right now. I took a step back and analyzed everything that I was doing differently in my life to try and figure out what was triggering my anxiety attacks. I figured out that I spend more time now on social media than I ever have in my past. For months I have been reading hateful comments after hateful comments. Most are disguised as “I love everyone but I’m still mad at the world” but that really just translates to “I love everyone but you because you don’t love the same things that I love.” I’m reading family members attack other family members. I’m watching friends end decade long friendships. I’m essentially living in a world that’s preaching a “live with different views” mentality but is practicing a “you don’t have the same opinion as me so F*** off” disposition.

Let me be clear, I am all for supporting people with different views. I think that’s the most beautiful thing about this world that we live in. We are all different and we can have healthy debates about our differences, but there’s something about the social media echo chambers that is bringing out such ugliness and hatred in people that my heart just cannot handle it.

Here’s something to think about, if we’re all too busy screaming “LISTEN TO ME” then there is no one left to listen.

This has been tearing me down. It is ripping me open and leaving me left with no hope. I was raised that if I was going to preach love then I had better be practicing love and should be doing so without limitations.

So I set out to reconnect in a world that, I’m afraid, is continuing to disconnect.

Here are the rules I gave myself:

1. I am only allowed to get on social media for work when needed (at the office and only when it has to be done right away at home)
2. I can only be on my phone for 30 minutes to an hour once I get home from work.
3. I have to put my phone away when I am with friends and family and especially when I am home with my husband, unless I am expecting a call for work or emergencies.
4. My phone is not allowed to be out during meals.
5. I am going to be giving back to my community more by volunteering at least twice a month.

These five simple rules are my way of “testing” my theory that living my life through the construct of social media was causing my anxiety to sky rocket.

Here is what I have learned so far:

1. I am less anxious throughout the day. I’m no longer flooding my brain with mean comments, slander on people’s character, gossip, etc. This feels amazing for me. I can’t explain to you how much more peaceful I feel by just deciding to turn off social media for the majority of my day. I am calm, I have more energy while I’m at work. It’s like I went on a social media diet and after the week long withdrawal phase my body has all these new benefits that I didn’t realize had gone away but are slowly coming back.
2. My communication with my husband has gotten SIGNIFICANTLY better. He’s probably thinking to himself, “we weren’t that bad at communicating before” (actually, who am I kidding? He’s not reading this). But seriously, I have found that when I am not consumed in social media I am more communicative with him. I love this. This could have been the only benefit to lessening my time on social media and I would have been 100% more happy.
3. I am not as concerned about what people think of me. I am not trying to keep up a fake persona for my followers to keep track of. I share what I want, when it’s something I want to share and if I don’t, I don’t worry about it. Who cares if people don’t know that today I saw three flowers and it made me feel beautiful inside? Who cares if people don’t know that I went out last night and had a great time with my friends? I don’t need them to know. I know it happened and that’s all that matters. I don’t know when I lost site of that but I’m glad that it’s back because it’s a beautiful feeling to experience something without the desire to have proof of that experience.
4. I am making an effort to keep in touch with family and friends outside of social media and am reconnecting on a more personal level with them. Today I had a 4-way call with two of my siblings and my dad while walking through my neighborhood. I’ve never done that before because I’ve never felt the need to do that before. It was definitely more fun than sitting alone in my living room scrolling through my Facebook feed.
5. I am reading and writing more. Clearly I’m writing more, just look how long this article is. Also, I forgot how magical reading a book is. Do you remember the last time you read a book from start to finish? And I’m talking like a physical book, not one that you read on a kindle or listen to in your car. It’s amazing. If you take away anything from this article let it be this.

So there you have it. These are the five most important things I’ve reconnected to in this disconnected world. I’m not perfect yet and I probably never will be. I do still find myself coming up with excuses to extend that “30 minutes to an hour” time period for social media after work, but when I do stay on top of myself I am 100% a happier, healthier, calmer, more positive human being. This makes it all worth it.

I challenge all of you to find ways to reconnect with the people in your life. Turn off your phone at dinner, call your mom instead of texting her, write your best friend a letter and put it in the mail. If we all start learning how to connect in a disconnected world I truly believe that we will start seeing significant improvements.

Life is too short to have enemies. Life is too short to all be the same. Life is too short to spend your time buried in a computer screen. Go out and see what the world has to offer. Listen to those different opinions. Experience a different lifestyle. Our world is far too beautiful for you to miss out on all that it has to offer.