Practicing Mindfulness in the Digital Age

If you’re reading this blog post right now, chances are you’re one of the whopping 2.5 billion people around the world that are tethered to a smart phone. And look, I’m not here to judge. Just like you, I’ve also fallen victim to the addictiveness of apps, emails, and social media since I purchased my first iPhone nearly a decade ago.

Whether I’m “working” on my phone by responding to emails or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram during commercial breaks, the harsh truth is that I spend a LOT of time on my phone.

How much time? Try nearly 8 hours per day. 

Yep, that’s right. This freelance writer and yogi is spending nearly 2,700 hours per year toggling between social media apps, Amazon Prime, and Gmail. Yikes.

I will be the first to admit that there are some jobs that, just by their very nature, require extended phone use. Take my dad, for example. He works in a very high-stress job in finance and well, to be honest, the difference between picking up the phone or letting the call roll to voicemail can sometimes literally be a million dollar decision. Same goes for a lot of my lawyer friends out there. Ditto for doctors.

But I am not one of those people anymore. And, even if I were, the bulk of my tech usage would still be entirely irrelevant to my professional career. Think about it…

How much time are you spending on Facebook or Instagram?

How many hours per week do you think you’re devoting to Candy Crush or Temple Run? 

How many times do you refresh your inbox in an average day?

Not sure? Well, as ironic as it may sound…there’s an app for that.

If you have an iPhone, you may have noticed that there are some new features packed into the latest iOS update you just downloaded. Not sure what I’m talking about? Go into your phone settings and click “Screen Time.”

Among other things, this nifty new feature will show you exactly how much time you’re spending on your phone and how long you’re using specific apps. You can even set limits for the amount of time you spend in a certain app or category of apps before your phone kick you off for the day. All in all, it’s a pretty awesome feature and, in a weird way, it’s one of the most mindful tools we have at our disposal to pull us out of cyber land and back into the present.

When I saw that I was spending the equivalent of a full-time job on my phone every week, I wanted to hurl. Even worse, nearly 75% of that time was spent on Facebook or Instagram.

My relationship with social media is complicated at best. One the one hand, these platforms have afforded me the opportunity to earn a living in a way that simply wasn’t possible 10 years ago. Without Facebook, I could never run my little side hustle cosmetics business. Without Instagram, The Yogi Lawyer would probably still be an idea in the back of my head. Social media allows me to connect with thousands of people all around the world, but…

It also sucks the life out of me on a daily basis.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve experienced very real, tangible drama over shit that happened on social media. Whether it’s a dumb comment on Instagram by a complete stranger or a weird status update on Facebook by someone that I haven’t spoken to in real life for months (or even years!), the fact is that social media has been running amuck in my emotional life for quite some time now.

Raise your hand if you’ve felt real, physical, anxiety or depression or sadness or pain based on something you read or saw on social media? Anybody?

Whether it’s a sense of jealousy from wedding photos posted by an old high school acquaintance, annoyance from the flood of baby pictures taking over your newsfeed, feeling less than when your Instagram is inundated with #transformationtuesday, or the super religious meme Great Aunt Mildred decided to spam everyone with…we’ve all experienced some form of tangible pain caused by the artificial world of social media at one point or another.

And that’s the thing…none of it is real. None of it. Notta. Zero. Zilch. None of those annoying posts or weird interactions are actually happening in real life…they’re all happening on a small screen in the palm of your hand while the rest of your life carries on all around you.

Even worse, we’ve become so addicted to this false sense of connection that we let other people’s drama become our own. Even when those people are complete strangers.

Think about it, how many people do you follow on social media, hanging on their every word…who you’ve never actually met face-to-face? 

As a millennial yogi working in the wellness industry, I have to have an Instagram. It’s just part of the gig. And along with the handle, comes a list of “promoters” and “influencers” that I follow for inspiration.

It wasn’t until very recently that I realized just how much time I was spending watching and reading the lives of these influencers, taking their own experiences in as my own. How many Instagram Stories I was watching about some chick’s cross-country road trip or the amount of lengthy captions I was reading about some bendy yoga gal’s baby or complaints she had about her business. How much time I was spending as I scrolled through their comment sections and became entrenched in their own dramas. How, over time…their lives became so much a part of my own that the two were nearly indistinguishable.

That’s the thing about social media and smart phones: if we let them, these platforms and apps and screens can quickly become our most important lifelines.

So here’s what I’m proposing instead – let’s connect on a real level, at least some of the time. Instead of scrolling through your feed or playing a phone game while you watch Netflix…just watch the damn movie or show. Instead of flipping through apps and games when you can’t sleep…read a book. Instead of stalking your family and friends’ every move on Facebook…call them (or better yet, take them to coffee). Instead of obsessing over the number of likes or comments your post gets…make a gratitude list of the actual, living humans you encountered in the real world that day who made you smile. Instead of comparing your own life those of influencers or people you haven’t spoken to in years…take pleasure in the tangible joys you have available to you in the present. And above all else, start practicing this mantra:

If it doesn’t bring you genuine happiness, comfort or joy…Let. That. Shit. Go. 

If that means unfollowing an influencer on Instagram, do it. If it means deleting those addictive phone games, do it. If it means blocking a weird relative or an ex-boyfriend on Facebook, do it. If it means setting limits for the amount of time you can use your phone, do it. If it means reducing the number of quotes you post or pictures you share, do it. After all, your digital life should never supersede your real life.

Now turn off your phone and go outside,

The Yogi Lawyer

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.