Is your phone secretly attacking your personal space and stealing your inner peace?
What is the first thing you do when your alarm goes off in the morning, or when the sunshine gently rouses you from slumber? Before you have completely emerged from the depths of your inner dream world, before your eyes have adjusted to the light and while your vision is still partially assimilating, before your consciousness has transitioned in its own time, from interior to exterior awareness, what do you do? What is the first energy you capture as you come back once more into your embodiment and life?
Where to do you place your anchor, as you start to greet your life in this day?
Do you perhaps reach for your phone?
Do you perhaps click onto a social media app and begin to thumb through words and images?
Whose is the first breath you breathe, whose dreams are those you give your attention to, whose voice is the first you hear?
Is it yours?
Or is it perhaps, the voices of a hundred – maybe more – other people, mainly strangers. Voices which say Do This! Don’t Do That! Here’s A Message That May be Just For You! And Here is Another Message that Directly Conflicts With That Other Message! So Read Some More Messages To Be Sure! Surely One of These Messages is Just For You!
And with these messages might there be pictures, offered through a hundred different filters, that together fill your head with imagery for every variety of breakfast, eaten in every variety of location, hastening your own inner vision to take a back seat and possibly for your digestion never to get a breakfast of its own?
As you scroll through these partial other- worlds, do you feel the first rumblings of a low-level anxiety? Do you feel a tug in your gut or a subtle quickening of your heart- beat? Is there perhaps an indefinable current of something like dread, something like insecurity, infecting your energy?
Are you feeling, perhaps, your own soul being tugged out of your body and beyond it? Like a retina, quietly detaching from the back of the eye and leaving someone visionless because they never felt it happening or perhaps simply came habituated to the subtle visual disturbances. Do you even feel at all, your own self leaving you behind?
For most of my life, a phone was something plugged into a socket in the wall of one’s home or office. I was in my early thirties when I got my first cell-phone and literally, that was for texting from my train commute in London to say exactly that, “I am on the train.”
I probably didn’t even need to say that, but I had the phone, and everyone else was doing it.
Before such times, we didn’t feel the need to announce our pending departures and arrivals. We didn’t need to share our comings-and-goings, let alone our breakfasts and our every private thought, with anyone outside of our closest inner circles.
Now of course I have a smart phone like anyone else, and which for a generous spattering of years was switched on all the time as if I were boundary-less and ultra-available – two things which are unequivocally untrue.
It took me a while to wake up to my own hypocrisy. If I know –which I absolutely do – that I can and must empower my health and thriving by taking authority with where I invest my energy and where I don’t – then I need to be super-aware of the power of this little device to try and hijack that authority from me.
I used to be that person who switched her phone on every morning before even taking a yawn and a stretch. This bothers me for so many reasons, two of which are that I am a pretty aware a kind of person, indeed I teach awareness for a living – and that I wasn’t even born into this world where logging onto other peoples’ lives and voices before one’s own is seen as an entirely reasonable and healthy habit to have.
Indeed, I have had many a conversation with young people in which I have attempted to explain to them that “in my day” people could still do their homework and find their way home before Google, and that being in a car without a phone doesn’t actually mean that if you run out of petrol, you will be in the gravest danger.
The trouble with addiction is that it tends not to announce itself, but to creep up on you unawares. You don’t even know you are addicted to something: you simply are. The essence of a habit is that it is automatic. The habit itself has all the power. It is mindless. We use that word all the time about our phones – “mindless scrolling”. It is a classic state of unawareness and we know that the state of unawareness – of not knowing – can be a quiet state of profound danger.
What you do begin to notice however is how you are just not feeling good any more.
Our bodies don’t give us uncomfortable feelings for no reason. They don’t make us feel bad as an explicable means of self -torture. They feel bad to alert us that some action is required from us to make us feel better.
It is a simple and efficient exchange of energy. Our job is to wake up and step up. Wake up to what aspects of our daily health and lifestyle are affecting our feelings in ways we simply aren’t willing to tolerate any more and then step up for ourselves in the ways which always bring results. Those ways are investing in what nurtures good feelings and distancing ourselves from what is disturbing our personal balance and inner peace.
Phones, aps and social media are neither innately bad nor innately good. Like everything in your life, it depends on what prominence you give it and how it serves you. Here are some things you might like to consider when you examine your relationship to your phone and social media.
If not, then you could be somewhere in the territory of addiction. There is a diagnosable condition called “Nomophobia” – literally, a phobia of being without phone or internet. Empower your self-leadership by asking yourself why being without social media presents such a threat to you and try and drill down into what that threat actually is. What would you miss? What would you lose? How would your life suffer? Then ask yourself, but what if social media never existed? Would I be feeling all these things then? Asking these questions gives you a chance to see if you have simply lost control of a habit or whether there is some deeper need for healing that is being masked by social-media-led behaviours of numbing or avoidance.
The world thinks a lot of thoughts and so do you. If you are losing track of your own thoughts in the noise and clutter of everyone else’s then you might not want to indulge so much in this over-crowding of your head-space. Some highly sensitive and empathic people are embodiers – they are more widely open to external energies than others. This community needs to be particularly boundary-aware or it is possible not to know which are your genuine thoughts, feelings and opinions and which are others. That gets dangerous if you act on an impulse that is not your own. If you feel you have this level of empathy, unless you have developed mastery-level boundaries and protection, you might consider a high level caution when entering the digital space. (You might like to read this blog or watch this video for some ideas)
The only true way of discovering this is to deliberately get conscious of how you feel on days you are spending a lot of time on social media compared with days when you have been without it. Notice for instance, whether a sense of security and generally high mood starts to diminish after a while of scrolling through other peoples’ posts. There has been a raft of research from the areas of neuroscience and psychology that attest to a rise in mood disorders, depression and anxiety associated with mobile phone use and engagement with social media. Is Instagram a worthy guardian of your sanity, literally?
For the benefit of our mental health and inner security it is essential that we have time in our own company, listening to ourselves. Self- relationship is our primary relationship. People are already reporting that real-life relationships can be negatively affected by peoples’ engagement in relationships online. There is even a new word in the lexicon – “phubbing” – to describe someone checking their texts while someone else is talking to them. Imagine that every time you are looking away from yourself at your phone every time you are giving a platform other than your own world your precious time and space, you are doing exactly that. And it is just plain rude and disrespectful.
Within a few minutes of scrolling through your social media account, you can be here, there and everywhere. You can be in the political territory of right, left and centre, the geographical space of everywhere between the two poles and up into outer- space, you can be anywhere in time from the stone age to the future, you can be issued edicts from religions and atheism, you can be entertained with comedy, tragedy and downright farce. You can be in everyone’s body, at everyone’s table and caught up in everyone’s head but your own. You can be in heaven and in hell. This is on the one hand thrilling and lively and on the other, downright un-grounding. Know yourself. Can you truly be in all these spaces and still feel your own centre, your own guidance and your own truth? Can you feel your own ground? Or are you beginning to lose yourself a little or a lot? This is too important a question not to ask.
The fuel of social media is sharing. That is why right at the top of the page, Facebook asks you to post a status update.
Do you feel your business is everyone’s business?
Sharing is not a bad thing – it can be generous, supportive and touch peoples’ lives.
It is a great way of keeping in touch with friends and family you don’t see very often.
However, it has become perhaps more of a social expectation than was the case before social media.
It can seem sometimes that not sharing your every thought and feeling is ungenerous or even dysfunctional.
Neither of these is true.
It is entirely up to you what you share, how you share, when you share it and with whom.
Before you share anything of yourself online, I urge you to be mindful and protect all the possible outcomes because deleting a post doesn’t mean that no one ever sees it. Never put anything out there unless you are sure you want it to be known.
And remember to keep some things private -secret even – and just for you. You don’t owe Facebook anything – however to be successful, Facebook needs you to think that you do.
Journalist Catherine Price, in her book How to Break Up With your Phone, explains that Instagram “has created code that deliberately holds back on showing users new ‘likes’ so that it can deliver a bunch of them in a sudden rush at the most effective moment possible—meaning the moment at which seeing new likes will discourage you from closing the app.”
According to Price, the cluttered territory of links and ads and the short bursts of attention that are required by scrolling and swiping and tweeting result in a contradiction in terms: “an intensely focused state of distraction.”
“This type of frequent, focused distraction,” she says, “isn’t just capable of creating long-lasting changes in our brains; it is particularly good at doing so.”
I personally don’t like giving my precious neural pathways over to be re-architected and repositioned without my knowledge and consent. Reading Price’s informed book has really clued me into how not-in-charge of my relationship with social media the platforms themselves want me to be.
Populating your internal space with virtual crowds of people might feel like a cure for loneliness but in many ways, it is sustaining it. While you are staying in a room, glued to your phone, there are real people (and really good people) outside who, just like you, are looking for company and connection.
One of the dysfunctional uses of social media is by people who need “likes” and comments on their sharing to validate them in some way. The other side of that is we may feel at the mercy of everything seeking our attention and a misplaced sense of obligation to satisfy everyone else’s need for attention but our own. You could consider stopping scrolling for a moment, closing your eyes, and taking three deep breaths for yourself. or turning your head to the window and gazing on some of the beauty out there. Those things are worth a “like” too. And they will reward you with something far more nourishing than a tick in a box.
Are you spending time alone and time with others? Time inside and time outdoors? Times taking it easy and time taking risks and challenging yourself? Are you connecting to your dreams and desires and acting and moving in ways to progress them and make them happen? Does the air around you feel fresh or stagnant? When was the last time you were enthralled by birdsong, captivated by the moon, high as a kite on dancing, moved beyond words by the smile of your child? Have you felt the sun kissing your skin and the breeze playing with your hair as if to say “I am life, loving you back with devotion”? Are you regularly so in the flow of creation – planting your garden, painting a picture, playing music, writing a story, playing an imaginative game with your kids, building a wall….that you lose a sense of time and space? Life is enticing. It reaches out to us with open arms, longing to draw us into its magic. The world shimmers with mystery and surprise. There are miracles and wonders and moments we never dreamed could happen. Inside of you is an amazing bright being with so much to reveal to you. There are secret places within you far more enticing than anything the internet has to show you.
In the end, that little oblong square that is your phone can promise you nothing but more phone.
The world beyond it promises much, much more.
And logging into it requires no internet and no device.
Would you like some practices and meditations for replenishing your energies, inspiring a strong sense of self and for claiming your power and your boundaries?
My album Strong Sensitive Soul has 19 tracks including talks, meditations, affirmations and instructional material just those that.