I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately that somehow all intertwine into one thing, but I haven’t knitted them fully together yet. I keep waiting for that to happen, for the threads to interlace into a pattern that is understandable and beautiful and easy to explain, but I think that just like I knit in real life, this metaphorical knitting will be trial and error and making it up as I go along.
While I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, I’ll happily take advantage of the human constructions of time and the introspection that comes from turning the calendar, a birthday, an anniversary. Which means, as we come to the end of this year, I’m grabbing those threads and trying to make sense of them.
Time well spent. Kindness. Deep work. Agency. Creativity.
We live in a time where our attention is bought and sold by the minute to the highest bidder. Someone, somewhere recognized that our time is precious and commodified that in a way that has changed our economy and our lives. It has limited our conversations. Think about it. How often do you find yourself having a conversation about something that someone saw online? How often do our conversations offline end up circling around online hashtags? And I know this isn’t always a bad thing. Harnessing collective energy around an important issue is powerful. But it comes at a cost. It tricks us into imposing limits on ourselves that do not exist, and worse, convinces us we have no agency in the matter. And we very much do.
I heard this podcast earlier this year between Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Doyle Melton that stuck with me. Glennon’s words about social media cut me to the core during a time when I was already examining my own habits on all of these platforms and whether this was time well spent. I’m going to share some of the conversation here.
Jen: That’s right. It’s possible. It is possible. It matters who we are listening to; who we’re grabbing hands with, and where we spend our energy and our time. We can pick. We get to choose this. This is not happening to us. We are not victims of our own culture. I like what you’re saying right now; that’s the true story, the good story, it’s the right story–so pick it. Just choose it. It’s just that simple. We do have the capability to unhook ourselves from the rage machine, and hook into something more beautiful. That’s my choice.
Glennon: Jen, I mean my kids and I–nobody in my family has had social media on our phones. We don’t have the internet or social media on our phones for the last like two or three months. So anytime you see anything that I’m posting, it’s something that I have written on a word document, and sent to my team, and they post it.
Jen: That sounds amazing. Does that feel good?
Glennon: I cannot even tell you. We are people who believe that the world was spoken into existence, right? Words that we take in and that we say create the worlds that we then step into. We pick up these phones like we are cutters, cutting. We know they’re going to cause anxiety, we know it’s all information and no wisdom. We know. We know it’s divisive. We know. But we pick it up and that becomes our reality. Why is everybody so angry? Because everybody is staring into anger machines all day.
Jen: You are like slicing me open right now. I’m going to stop talking.
Glennon: We use the excuse of, “oh, we have to stay informed.” You’re not staying informed, you’re staying entertained.
Jen: That’s great.
Glennon: You pick up a frickin’ newspaper. Read a book. You can be informed each day in three minutes. You do not need 13 hours–you are not getting your work done. It becomes this impotent, temper tantrum rage that is not creative.
Jen: That’s good. You’re right.
Glennon: There’s work to be done. It’s like serious times and we need wise serious people. And the wise serious people are not staring at their phones all day.
Jen: That’s good. I am ingesting what you’re saying like a girl drinking water who’s never had a sip. It’s true. This year has been so contentious, and so enraged, and so bonkers, but if that’s the message that I’m taking in on the daily–and not just on the daily, all day on the daily—it makes us into angry, scared people.
Glennon: What people say, Jen, “oh, well that’s just burying your head in the sand if you don’t stare at it all day.” No, no, no, no. I am not saying I am a privileged person, so I don’t have to know what’s going on. I’m saying, I’m a privileged person and I’m a leader, so I need to be using my time wisely. I need to be actually creating projects and creating a plan for us to lead better. I need to use my privilege wisely. Staring–it’s an easy button. It’s giving me an excuse not to do my work. But what’s away from the phones is the stillness, and we don’t want to be there.
“We pick up these phones like we’re cutters, cutting. We know they’re going to cause anxiety, we know it’s all information and no wisdom. We know.”
There are so many things in this world that are outside our control. No one gets through this life entirely unscathed by tragedy, loss, hardship or suffering. So why are so many of us, on a daily basis, giving away the thing we can control? Why are we letting these precious commodities, our time, our headspace, our choices, slip through our fingers? I’ve got a few answers to those questions but I suspect they are different for all of us. So, this is a very long way of saying that if any of this resonates with you, in any way (not just around social media but around any place in your life where you are handing over your agency to someone or something else), it’s not too late to make a choice. And if that choice doesn’t work, make another one. Then another.
This is your life. As far as we know, there are no do-overs. We can do good work, serious work, creative work, without staring into anger machines all day long. In fact, my hunch is the work will be better for it. The solutions will come from outside false binary choices, and from our infinite creativity. On that note, I’m logging off for the rest of the year, to spend that time fully with family and friends. I’m wishing you all love in the coming days, and peace, wisdom and hope for the coming year.