The past few days I got caught up in a mindless state, focused on a fabricated world known as the internet, technology, or whatever you name it.
After spending nine days traveling throughout Holland and Iceland, I returned to Sweden with a to-do list in my head. I wanted to complete a great deal of things before traveling to Scotland in 4 days, including the following:
- Edit together a video of Ireland from old clips
- Edit together a video of Iceland with recent footage
- Publish a blog post about my recent travels
- Upload photos to Facebook (which I have never done previously, but thought I should start doing)
- Begin a new blog with creative narratives
I want to share my life with other people, and highlight some of the thoughts, scenes, and dialogues that make our lives worthwhile. Capturing the beauty around me is something I would love to continuously do, and share with others.
But it became too much.
This to-do list was thrown into an entanglement I like to call the “project brain”, or the brain that stores the hundreds-to-thousands of projects that we all think about, sometimes more than we actually act upon.
Other projects I have kept in mind, such as independent social media projects, videography projects, and creative story-writing, were fused with the to-do tasks at hand, and weighed down my mind like a nest of bowling balls.
As soon as I returned home, I started on some of these projects.
I uploaded hundreds of photos to Facebook, and spent an unusual amount of time on my computer.
Filtering out the bad ones, tagging every person, managing profiles, editing details.
This and more took such precedence in my mind that I barely knew how to function healthily and happily, as I did before leaving for Amsterdam two weeks ago.
It drained me.
Sharing photos to Facebook for the first time in my life seemed to be at war with my values, views, and daily habits. As soon as I got onto the computer, nothing else could take precedence.
Academics (studying for my upcoming exam), cultural learning (studying Japanese language for my upcoming trip), and personal wellness (meditation, cooking, etc.) all took the back seat.
I knew this was wrong. It was not how I lived happily day-to-day, or the way that I believe life should be lived in general. I tend to use social media as an output of art and communication, and have protested its addictive and perspective-narrowing qualities my entire life.
But I continued to become absorbed in the online world of Facebook. And this absorption started to make every other project in my life look like a nuisance. I didn’t have the time, or the energy.
I did not want to write a blog post or begin putting together a new video. Even the things I normally pursued seemed insufficient. Meditation, studying, or going to the gym. I couldn’t do any of it. Because it did not host the same excitement, purpose, or motivation that it normally did.
It felt as if I had to do these things, complete these projects and share these moments, for other people rather than myself.
The fact that my photos were now public made me question whether I should filter some out, reformat the albums, and so forth.
Which then made me question if I should write a certain blog post, share a certain video, or film a certain event.
Which then made me worried about capturing everything, and sharing everything, so that I would not forget who I was or what I experienced in the future. So that others would not forget either.
It made my creative projects into public projects, serving my online ego and subconscious anxieties rather than my individual aspirations. And that sucked.
Because at the same time I knew: none of this matters. How many notes do people make to themselves about the details of things that just truly, don’t matter? Edit this photo. Post this status. Complete this project.
It makes art into business, and release into stress.
So I took a walk outside, because the weather was warm.
Warm weather means nice walking, and nice walking means nice thinking.
I walked to the park to start studying for my exam, but instead just sat there on the bench looking at the pond, looking at the people.
Ducks flew around, beautiful, colorful ducks. People strolled around, enjoying the weather and the calm warm day.
It was refreshing, to have an empty mind after constant wandering. To be able to see everything in the perspective that I usually do.
The beautiful day reminded me that life is not lived through a computer. It is not lived through projects of personal accomplishment. It is not lived through the jumbled thoughts or vague dreams that we contemplate over each day.
Life is made of us. The world around us, the people in it, and the moments we experience in every present moment.
The people feeding the ducks, enjoying themselves in absence of anxious dreams or unsettling thoughts, reminded me that we all know this, and we all forget this.
But it is our job to try to remember, and to live every day doing so.
How many people get caught over these things that are so small? Upset over in-completion, the strife of projects that are meaningless in the scope of what life truly means to us? People 100 years ago, people today. People just like me and you.
Now let me be clear. It is amazing to be able to pursue these projects that help us define who we are, but it is damaging to let these things define us wholly. Because a social media profile, the next raise, even a Nobel prize, none of it guarantees a good or happy life. None of it guarantees anything.
Because in the end of it all, we are all just people. Living, breathing, people. Whether we accomplish everything we want to, or manage to slave to our to-do lists to their full completion, we are hardly different than the person living next door.
The only real differences between us, that are of our total control, exist in our active engagement in living. Our active stance in seeing the things that matter and living our lives according to them.
Which is why social media and the online world can become so dangerous: it gives us the idea that we are fundamentally different from each other. We think we can define someone by their photos, their captions, or their shares, and become worried as others begin to try and define us.
But this is simply not true, simply not important, simply not human.
Life is more than that. People are more than that.
Which is why I result to a compromise:
Share the moments of your life freely, share the things that you believe are important and the experiences that you think are beautiful. But share them because they are yours, and understand that they will only ever be yours.
The things we share with the outside world can give others an idea of what our life means, or what we identify with as an individual. But the true and wholesome ideas will only ever be valid, genuine, and accurate on your own terms, and on the terms of those who know and love you unconditionally.
So share. But for the sake of creativity and self-discovery.
And remember, it is okay to fall short. Not every photo has to be posted, not every caption has to be edited. Even upload your entire camera roll if that’s what you want to do, because it really doesn’t matter.
Try only uploading projects to the online world one day a week, and if you really need to, block some of the sites that entrance you into mindless thinking.
Here are a few options:
- StayFocusd (for Chrome)
- Self Control (for Safari)
Try them out, even if only for a week, to remember what life can be like without the interruption of an online world filled with impersonal distractions.
Look at the real world around you, instead of the screen in front of you. Interact with the people and scenes in your life, instead of your online illusions.
The screen will always be there, but every moment around you will not.
Live life first, and share second. And never, ever, ever fall victim to the illusions of anxiety, stress, or false meaning that a variety of social media platforms can hold.
It. Doesn’t. Matter.
But you do.