Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lenten Reflections: Increasing General Happiness by 10%

I have often failed at my annual Lenten offering, but most of my fasting choices have still improved my life in some way, and so I push forward every year thinking of ways to excise negative energy and bad influences from my life. So even I rolled my eyes at the thought of giving up Social Media for Lent. I knew that the stereotypically cliché offering would annoy my mother the most, who frequently checks up on both of her children on Facebook, and I didn't want for her to feel 'left out' of my life, but something had to be done: my energy, motivation and lack of general happiness were spiraling out of control in a way that I was pretty sure was somehow related to viewing digital screens. Turns out: I was right.

After taking twenty days off from Facebook and Instagram, and coming out of a nightmarish fifteen-year "fever dream" of overstimulation and information overload, I realized that it's not the Apps that are the problem: really it's the cell phone in general. Getting off of the addicting apps is a start. Putting down the cell phone in general presents a much harder challenge. Becoming sober from social media was as hard as quitting Red Bull for me. It also feels creepy and overpoweringly addictive in retrospective. Yes, I had the "Millennial Enlightenment" epiphany of horror at how many times I mindlessly opened the internet browser to get to Facebook before staring at the Login page and remembering it had been deactivated. Yet, as the days crept by without it, I found 10% more energy, 10% more happiness, and four moments of "pure joy" where I thought "this is the best day/moment of my life." Coincidence? I think not. 

The truth is: social media "feeds" are a never-ending rat wheel  and we are the rats. If you have a cell phone, then you are probably checking it the average 110+ times per day (source). Also: "A recent study by has revealed that the average person spends 90 mins a day on their phone. That figure may not sound like a lot but that amounts up to 23 days a year and 3.9 years of the average person's life is spent staring at their phone screen."

So I realize how preachy this post sounds. I realize that no one will read it because I haven't linked it to my deactivated Facebook pages. The truth is, you don't need me to tell you this, you already know that this is true. You've already heard the data, you know that you have control and power over yourself and your screens. You know that you, too, could quit these apps. You know that you, too, could remember the rules of etiquette in public and put your phone down at any time...but you don't. You're still waiting for that life-changing text or call. You're sure it's coming. You want to hear the latest Facebook gossip, you're certain it's going to be juicy. You want to stay caught up with the news, the world is falling apart. The truth is: you're a slave to the rat wheel and all I can say is this: if you want to be 10%+ happier, stop looking at screens, and get off the wheel. Don't believe me? Try it for fourteen days. It will also help to calm down your stress levels. 

If you're interested in my Lenten journey, where I've given up Social Media and started finding other ways to increase general happiness without buying things (such as by embracing Minimalism and increasing my happiness by 10%,) please comment below.