HOW & WHEN TO DISCONNECT

Something about me: I’m a bit like a sponge when it comes to emotions, vibrations & sensations. I’ve always been this way. In the first few years of my life I’d get a fever whenever my mom got really sad. In elementary school I often had to physically recover from a weekday; my stomach would hurt and I’d feel a strange, foreign sadness, which I now understand originated at least partially in the traces of other people’s states of being that I had (unwillingly) collected inside my own. This might sound a little sad, and it was, but only because I still had to get to know myself. I’m 21 now and, if I may say so myself, I’ve gotten very good at being me. I have learned that I need to really wiggle around regularly in all areas of my life to find a comfortable position and carve out my space. I have learned that no one can wiggle around for me, there are no rules for wiggling, and that if I don’t wiggle, my limbs fall asleep and moving gets quite hard.

For example:

I have to regularly examine the way I interact with others and myself and step away unapologetically when I feel like I have absorbed enough of the world around me and it is time to turn inwards and digest things.

I also have to examine my way of working out so that I can go to the gym five days a week but not keep four injuries alive and make every cold drag on for six weeks (true stories).

And, as I have only recently realized, I really need to examine the way I use social media (one big stream of other people’s emotions and vibrations) and recognize the moments that tell me it’s time to disconnect.

I have a slight all or nothing mentality, and I used to get really frustrated with myself for not being able to maintain a truly balanced relationship with my phone. I read things about people who leave their phones on flight mode until noon, always have them on Do Not Disturb, only go on Instagram from 6-6:15 pm, etc. I tried but I realized that when I’m online, I’m kind of… online. I have all my notifications turned off, but the social media button in my mind is switched on. I have a lot of conversations with people via Instagram and text. I’m curious to see what others are doing. I check my messages when I wake up. I can take an hour to take pictures and edit them.

I allow myself to enjoy all this until I get restless. Until I get distracted during real life conversations. Until I start to wear or do things for pictures. Until I find myself texting while walking, biking, talking or eating. Until I pick up my phone without realizing only to open an app, exit it again and repeat five minutes later. This is when I know it’s time to disappear.

Personally, I like disappearing way better than regulating my online activity. I think this might be the only area in my life where I fully allow myself to be black and white, all or nothing, and I feel like it works.

To be clear, with disappearing I mean deactivating my Instagram account (I’m never on Facebook) and basically only having necessaryonline conversations with close friends or family. Usually, it also means barely taking any pictures at all.

Some of the things that happen when I disconnect:

  • I get bored again. The really good kind of bored that gives you cool ideas and sends you to the right TED talks or coffee places.
  • I see everything through my eyes and not a camera lens. I feel present and grounded.
  • I find it much easier not to compare myself to others and have more positive thoughts about myself.
  • I have less anxiety.
  • I get better at listening.
  • I find it easier to connect to my own needs and not base my plans, decisions or desires off of other people’s lives.
  • Eventually, I start to get really excited to share things again. Real things. Things I want people to know and see. To create things and have conversations with strangers that are far away but have stuff to say.

I won’t go back online until I’ve reached this last point – until the thought of sharing things actually gets me excited again.

I sometimes get worried texts when I go offline, and I know the first time I did it out of frustration – but now it’s something I do out of happiness and peace. In the virtual world, we have the opportunity to make our own rules 9 times out of 10. Take it. For your use, your content, your vibe, your aspirations.

Generally, I encourage everyone to wiggle and wiggle until they are comfortable. This can mean anything and everything, but you need to be conscious of your mental state and physical body in space, even (or especially) if it’s virtual space. I encourage you to take feeling comfortable and grounded extremely seriously, especially in relation to things that happen daily. This includes sleeping, eating, thinking, talking, sharing, working and dreaming. Just because everyone else does these things, doesn’t mean you have to do them like everyone else.

Text: Nathalie Meertens
Image: Saïda Ragas

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