Tag Archives: social media

Putting Away My Smart Phone Pacifier

18 Jan

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Every day I grow increasingly horrified as research emerges about the impact of social media and technology on society at large: decreased concentration span, less meaningful relational engagement, compare-and-despair syndrome, ADHD, depression, and irritability in the kid/adolescent population, and a decrease in human civility are among the findings. Most alarming is the fact that phones are being used as pacifiers for infants and toddlers. Very young children hit developmental milestones through affective interchange with adults, imaginary play, and self-soothing activities. Phone and tablet use threaten all of that and could impact human evolution in an extraordinarily destructive way. There is a reason Steve Jobs didn’t allow his own kids to play with the very I-Phone he invented. But what of our use as adults? Why do most Americans fall asleep with their phones next to their heads and wake up clutching them as if their devices were stuffed animals? Are they that soothing?

I find not. Even though I check my own phone quite regularly, and at times compulsively, I don’t get much gratification from doing so. It is far more stimulating to hold a yoga pose or to read a book. Yet through some habituated twitch, I reach for my phone. So lately, I’ve been turning my phone off by 8 p.m., so I can truly relax. Whatever or whomever is trying to reach me- they can wait until morning when I have the time and energy to be more present. Sure, if I needed to keep it on for emergency purposes, I most definitely would. However, some of us still have land lines and doorbells.

Do I really need to look at email and FB one more time before I shut my eyes? Honestly, what’s so exciting to see there? Do I need to view it all day long?

Eventually, the child needs to wean herself of the pacifier. I’m taking my own out of my mouth. How novel, and perhaps, more grown up.

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I’m So Old School….

30 Oct

While bemoaning about my dislike of texting as a primary communication form, a friend of mine said, “I’m so old school, I actually answer the phone.” Taking the bait, the banter continued:

“I’m so old school, I actually answer the phone even when I don’t recognize the caller ID.”

“I’m so old school, I don’t text and drive.”

“I’m so old school, I actually turn off my phone in the car.”

“I’m so old school, I actually write letters.”

“I’m so old school, I actually have stamps.”

“I’m so old school, I actually read books.”

Well, here’s today’s addition to the list: “I’m so old school, I actually want to wait in line at the bank and talk to the teller while depositing a check.”

Every time I go into the bank to deposit a check, a clerk comes up to me and says, “I can help you outside at the ATM, Miss” (usually it’s the same employee). I always turn to the individual, smile and say, “Thank you, but I’d actually like to make an in-person deposit.” Then we get into a power struggle until I acquiesce and have the person show me what to do.

I know what to do. I just don’t like sending my checks off into a black hole. I also know how to deposit checks using my phone and the bank’s app. The thing is, “I’m so old school, about once a month, I like to cue up inside the bank, so I can stand at the teller’s window and deposit a check before the teller and the window are obsolete. It’s a nostalgia thing for me. I also want a few minutes to just vedge out while waiting for my turn.

You know what? I’m also so old school that I prefer to interact with a real check-out clerk at the grocery store before he or she no longer has a job. It makes no sense to me to hire someone to “assist” customers as they check themselves out. I also occasionally want to talk with a customer service rep instead of pressing 1, 2, & 3 on my phone’s keypad until I’m so frustrated I start screaming obscenities into the cell phone. (And yes, I miss my land line and preferred it to my crappy cell phone reception where everyone sounds like they’re mumbling).

I am old school. I miss human interaction. Yes, the modern way might be – and I repeat – MIGHT BE – more convenient and faster, and yes, the world is changing and I need to adapt, but gosh darnit, let me have a little bit of the old fashioned stuff before it is gone.

I actually prefer having a glass of wine with people in person vs. with strangers on the Internet or with folks far away via Skype.

I miss seeing movies in the theatre instead of streaming them.

I believe in practicing psychotherapy in person vs. on the phone.

I like children interacting with people and toys vs. I-pads and Game Boys.

I like looking out the window on an airplane instead of watching an in-flight movie.

I like sitting in front of a real fire feeling its heat and hearing the crackle of its flames vs. watching an image of a fire on screen (and I want real wood and newspapers vs. some Duraflame log).

Basically, I prefer real life intimacy in all its shapes, forms and delights vs. virtual reality.

While working with the bank clerk today, the ATM couldn’t read one of my checks because a signature was below a certain part of the check. Thus, we had to go back inside after already spending ten minutes at the machine. To finish the transaction, we had to do an old fashioned deposit. While waiting for the gentleman to finish helping me – help I hadn’t wanted in the first place – I glanced at the bank teller’s line. There was none. Had I stayed in the line, I would have finished five minutes earlier. It would have been faster and more pleasant to do it the old fashioned way.

“I’m so old school, I miss the old fashioned ways.”

I’m ready to ditch the cell phone and move to a remote village in Italy. I’m ready to eat pasta and dance and laugh morning, noon and night. No, I don’t want to be a slave to status updates or stat reports. The only selfie I want is one with loved ones printed out in a frame on my desk.

I’m so old school, I want to embrace and enjoy and squeeze every ounce of potential out of my life. I want photographs posted on my heart and soul and not necessarily on-line.

How old school are you?

 

Longing for Simplicity

7 May

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Last May I spent time in Lancaster, PA, home of the Amish and much beautiful farmland. What drew my attention wasn’t the attire of the Amish or the sight of horse drawn buggies chugging along the roads. Instead, I was struck by the beauty of the landscape and families working together in fields.

I spent my childhood summers in Wisconsin so this terrain was somewhat familiar. While staying with my grandparents, I visited many farms and sung songs to myself while playing in cornfields. Lancaster reminded me of this and left me with a haunting longing for a life more attuned to nature. Looking at some cows sitting in a field of flowers, I thought, “Wow. What a nice gig.”

It is a year later and although I am in a radically different place, the same yearnings persist.

Like last May, I continue to struggle with social media.  In fact, I actually de-activated my FB account. About social media, last May I wrote, “What the hell? What price are we paying for our obsessions with the Internet community? On my deathbed will I care how many followers I have on Twitter? Or will I instead be glad that I produced quality work, even if it never gets recognized? I have no answers because as much as I longed for simplicity as a child, I also yearned to have influence. Yet I wonder if ambition causes us to miss the mark all together.”

Last year the gifted Maya Angelou passed away – a woman of remarkable talent and endurance. How did this woman leave her imprint? When I think of famous people I wonder if they desired to be players on the world stage, or if they yielded power because they acted from integrity. If we embody the vision, does visibility organically follow?

And in the end, what is it that we’re living for anyway?

I ask the same questions and I still want simplicity, serenity, and farmland.

What Being Off FB Taught Me

3 Apr

I gave up FB for Lent. My use had become increasingly toxic. When I saw Ash Wednesday on the calendar, I thought Lent was a perfect opportunity to exercise some discipline. I knew I needed to put my focus more on God than on something that had become an idol.

For the most part, I have stuck to my spiritual practice. While it’s true I have occasionally viewed the feed and I have continued to post my blog updates via Hootsuite, for the most part I have not been active on FB for two months. I haven’t posted any mundane status updates, kept up with people’s lives, or interacted on threads. At first, not doing so felt weird, lonely, and irritating. And then like with everything of late, I found myself surrendering to the emptiness and not fighting it so hard.

Prior to the fast, I’d become one of those people who checks her FB phone app constantly. I also had become one of those individuals who logs onto FB the minute I opened my eyes in the morning. Gone were the days of leisurely making a cup of coffee, being with myself (and/or others if with loved ones), and slowly letting my brain wake up. Instead, checking on what other people were doing usurped my serenity.

It’s not that FB is bad or that people using FB compulsively and habitually is any of my business. But my own FB use had become my business. I knew my FB use was no longer working for me.

Being off FB meant I had to sit with myself more than I have in a long time. I had more time to read, more time to write, more time to pray, and more time to cry. I had to acknowledge that aspects of my career need focus and that this is going to entail attention and risk taking. I also realized that my social network in the flesh and blood needs some serious revamping and that when going through hard times, texts with emoticons from people are absurd forms of comfort. We are souls living in human bodies that need to hear voices, see people’s eyes, and be touched skin to skin. What I realized is that we are living in an increasingly abstract, cut off world. We seem to have more time to post selflies than we do maintain true relationships. After all, posting a selfie takes one minute. A conversation can take an hour. Very few of us have an hour anymore.

It’s easy to joke and play on social media. It’s witty, fun, and ego-gratifying. But it’s like candy vs. meat and potatoes. If we are to have long term, committed relationships with friends and family, it means we actually have to spend time with folks in a focused, unplugged manor. And if we are to have an intimate relationship with ourselves, we also have to unplug and sit with our hearts, minds, and souls too. Otherwise, we’re just filling the void and perhaps using others in the process.

Yes, I will re-engage with FB but I will do so much more consciously.

In “Eat, Pray, Love,” Richard tells Liz at the ashram, “If you clear out all that space in your mind…., you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot – a door way. And guess what the universe will do with that doorway? It will rush in – God will rush in – and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed” (p.150).

As I sit realizing today is Good Friday, I also think of this quote from the same book: “Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water” (156). Being off FB taught me that I had disconnected from Living Water and that as a result, I was suffering. On this day that Christ once suffered, I hope to be reminded that in the suffering comes new life. But new life isn’t going to spring from me posting anything on FB. It’s going to come from a much deeper Source.

 

Focusing….

6 Jun

In yoga there is a balance pose that entails wrapping one’s leg around the other while standing with a semi-bent leg and then placing one’s arm over the other arm and twisting them into a pretzel-like shape. The only way to hold the pose without toppling over is to stare straight ahead at a point on the wall and not dare take your gaze away – not even for a second. I am actually quite good at this for some reason. Perhaps it is because I learned a similar technique as a child in ballet where in order to turn without getting dizzy you have to “spot” somewhere on the wall as your head and body spin around in rapid succession.

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Activities like yoga help us practice more than physical actions; they help us apply some of these concepts into our lives. How do we find balance? And how can we execute and accomplish anything when so many things compete for our attention?

I am finding that in this day of cell phones, email, multiple social and work circles, personal relationships and all of the things that compete for our attention, moment by moment I have to ask myself, “Where is the spot on the wall?” There are times when I simply have to tune out everything but the one thing that needs my focus be it a person, a loved one, an animal, or a complex task. Yet more than anything I have to focus on God as my source. He is the spot that keeps me sane and when I remember that, it is easier to concentrate during the day.

Related, Stephen Covey in his very well known book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” writes about the importance of centering one’s life around key priorities vs. abstract tasks. The latter is endless and will always bleed your life force while the former will actually help you stay centered and efficient around what really matters.

I must remember that as long as I spot, I can find my balance. And I must remember that this is a spiritual practice vs. yet one more thing I am attempting to control. Here’s to focusing so intently, the paradox results in surrender.

Longing for Simplicity

31 May

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Last week I spent time in Lancaster, PA, home of the Amish and much beautiful farmland. What drew my attention wasn’t the attire of the Amish or the sight of horse drawn buggies chugging along the shoulder of the road. Instead, I was struck by the beauty of the landscape and the image of families working together in the fields.

I spent my childhood summers in Wisconsin so this terrain is not entirely unfamiliar. While staying with my grandparents, I had the opportunity to visit many a farm and sung songs to myself while playing in cornfields. Witnessing the Amish tend their farms reminded me of this and left me with a haunting longing for a life more attuned by nature and its rhythms. Looking at a group of cows sitting in a field of yellow flowers, I thought, “Wow. What a nice life.”

This morning while reading the Twitter and FB feed, I stopped for a moment and said to myself, “What the hell? What the hell is this all about? This constant need to press myself into the world all in the effort of building a platform? My only intention with these efforts is that perhaps one day my voice will be loud enough for a publisher to notice me and to bet on an unknown horse. But to what avail and at what cost? On my deathbed will I care how many followers I have on Twitter? Or will I instead be glad that I produced quality work even if it never gets recognized and out into the world? I have no answers because as much as I longed for simplicity as a child, I also longed to be recognized and to influence. But I wonder if ambition causes us to miss the mark all together.

This week the gifted Maya Angelou passed away – a woman of remarkable talent and endurance. How did this woman live her life and how did she generate her influence? When I think of famous people of dimension, integrity and talent, I wonder if they longed to be players on the world stage, or if simply living their truths led to this phenomenon. Is it possible that if we embody the vision, visibility follows organically?

And in the end, what is it that we’re living for anyway?

The Art of Practice

15 May

When I used to teach mindfulness meditation in the hospital where I worked, I candidly told people that they would feel no benefit from sitting once. To experience a shift, they needed to “practice” mindfulness.

Most people try meditation once, get frustrated that they feel no change, and then never try again. I find this curious as we would never expect to become a concert pianist without practicing our scales. Yet when it comes to wellness, and stress management in particular, most of us want a quick fix. We want to feel good, yesterday!

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I remember a yoga teacher once saying that in order to relax, one had to invest a certain degree of effort. I was struck by his comment because he was right. I found it a chore to go to his Friday night restorative yoga class. Inevitably, I just wanted to go home and have a glass of wine. To switch into yoga clothes and drive to a busy part of town was the last thing I felt like doing. What I discovered though was that after an hour and a half of lying in various poses, I felt as if I had been drugged. I actually couldn’t stop myself from falling asleep by 9:00 pm and sleeping ten hours straight.

All a mindfulness practice requires of us is that we be willing to sit on a cushion. And yet for a number of us, this can create tremendous resistance. To stop and pause in the midst of our busy day can seem both a waste of time and even silly. But if we want to develop the ability to be present with anything and everything that is happening within and around us, it is a practice worth cultivating.

Mindfulness is both a philosophy and a practice in which there is no goal. One doesn’t try to relax, to empty the mind, or to achieve a perfectionist blissed out state of being. The only objective is to observe one’s thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations with curiosity and compassion vs. judgment.

This is actually really hard to do at first. When I’ve taught mindfulness I have experienced people’s resistance in the form of coughing, shifting in their seats, fidgeting, and even getting up and leaving the room because they couldn’t tolerate sitting for fifteen to twenty minutes in relative silence. Yet inevitably, if we offered the mindfulness class a few times a week, which meant that individuals had more mindfulness exposure, and a structure to practice it, they began to actually look forward to the experience and to request it more often. As they practiced, they began to feel the comfort that  sitting with one’s breath can bring – even if comfort isn’t the objective. Once again, the only task is to just “be” in a state of curiosity and compassion vs. judgment.

I too have gotten out of practice. I have no idea why but after years of an active sitting practice, I simply stopped doing it. Getting back to sitting has taken some “practice.” I’ve had to develop a routine: ten minutes in the morning, ten minutes at noon, and ten minutes before bed. To enforce this schedule, I’ve had to leave my cushion out where I can see it as a reminder and sometimes I have to set an alarm. Mindfulness doesn’t come automatically. One actually has to be mindful about mindfulness.

I started sitting while living in NYC . I was overwhelmed by the onslaught of stimuli there coupled with my own emotional experience. I no longer live in NYC but now there is a different onslaught of stimuli that overwhelms me. While I enjoy the benefits of modern technology, the constant barrage of information makes me spin. I also find the pressure to respond to constant messages, whether they be texts, emails, or phone calls, exhausting.

The outside world isn’t going away. It’s here to stay. My inner world and physical body are the only things I have some measure of control over. I can take a few minutes to sit while the world runs around doing its thing. I can make a choice to be still and to enjoy a few breaths. Before the moment is gone. I can make living a practice and that practice an art.

 

 

 

Are We All A Bunch of Hungry Birds?

15 Feb

A Hollywood director friend of mine recently said to me, “I hate LA. It used to be everyone in LA was trying to be an actor. Now everybody is trying to be someone. And no one can fuck’n act.”

In today’s world of reality t.v., everybody wants to be noticed for doing nothing of merit. People think the cameras should come circling in on them because of the way they sip their coffee or toss their hair. But before I bash Hollywood wannabes, are we all just a bunch of hungry birds wanting attention? Are we all trying to “be” someone?

The writer I most respect does not blog, tweet and rarely posts anything to FB. Yet he is prolific. He also has thousands of followers because he is so damned good at what he does. He writes.

My director friend studied at Yale where actors bust their balls to develop their craft and then continue doing so for a long, long time. So when Jessica Chastain (who studied at Julliard) says she has been doing this FOR YEARS, she means it. Now poised for an Oscar, let us not forget what it took to get her there. Artists like Chastain aren’t trying to be someone. They’re being their art. They’re living their lives.

So as I sift through the daily twitter feed, I feel how easy it is to be pulled into other people’s energy and inner worlds as all of us clamor for a worm from the mother bird. And that’s okay because twitter is a powerful, valuable medium and we’re all in the nest together. But the world I most want to inhabit is my own because that is the only space from which I have the time, energy and motivation to offer something to the outer one. And you? What feeds and sustains you, and what do you think it means to take flight?