An Opening to 2018: The Joy of Disappearing
Upon waiting for my Moka pot to finish brewing this morning, I opened my Instagram and found an interesting DM from a friend, asking: "Yoo, where have you been?? Taking a break from Instagram???" (I'm not making this seemed dramatic in purpose — she does write in multiple question marks, always.) I replied to her, telling that I don't have any purpose for not posting updates. I've been doing things around the house and meeting people a lot, I said. Then I checked on my feed, and apparently, it's been five days since I last "launched" a picture to the stream. Suddenly it stroke me right away: the slight relief sense in my heart. Why relief, I asked myself? Is it because I'm glad that I took those five days off inattentively, or it is more like a "Thank God I'm not away that long" expression? Either way, there's no negative outcome from that feeling, so I probably was quite excited because I didn't realize that five days have passed without me worrying about choosing any photos to post (or sitting on my working desk unproductively because I'm caught between the never-ending Stories updates from too many people).
I told my friend: "It's always been nice, to take a break from the screen every once in a while." — to which she replied (in summary): "You might be right, even though now it feels weird for many people not to post anything for more than a day, you know. I'd feel like the world is leaving me behind, or that I have nothing to share. And why is it? Why the act of sharing is no longer a thing we genuinely do but rather becoming a silent obligation so we can ensure ourselves that we are part of a larger community?"
Consciously, I reflect on my own experience regarding this matter. I'm familiar with the strange, alienated mood whenever I don't feel like keeping up with the digital world (this also extended to the use of technology such as smartphones and computers, in general). For someone who has practically been blogging for ten years, to be present in the digital world means to be present in real life. I must write my thoughts and opinion so that I can feel connected. The needs to be acknowledged by a group of people (whom I don't even hang out with in real life nor ever meet in person) were profoundly significant. I might also want to be recognized for my ideas too, so regularly I will challenge myself to create content that possibly can relate to others in some ways. There was nothing wrong with fundamentally trying to communicate with the bigger audience in the outer world. Like a traveler stranded in the desert, I was thirsty for experiencing a real connection with another person, and the idea of being appreciated by some strangers — online — have convinced my mind to think that it is the closest (and arguably fastest) way to achieve that connection. Well, it did give me a taste of meaningful bond from some very supportive readers, but it also brought me an equally forlorn wave of loneliness into the deepest core of my emotion. Because in real life, within the thin frame of my reality, I didn't improve my relationships — the family, friends or colleagues were left behind my safe internet zone, where I can experience non-commital communications with just anyone out there. It's like I can pick a social media account and be like, "Hey, you're cool, let's talk and be friends!". Then after I'm not interested anymore in their progress (especially when they loudly speak of things I don't agree about), I only have to withdraw myself from their "feeds," slowly. In silence. Nobody has to be hurt, no confrontation needed — for them, I didn't matter that much to notice. The internet is too loud and crowded for anyone to realize anyway. But then it backfired to me when I, bit by bit, felt the emptiness that comes as a result of my own act of disengagement.
To be able to handle the real connection, one has to be brave to face even the thinnest layer of attachment. One has to accept that a connection will bring both comfort and responsibility — that to only choose one means to make it not last.
Within the whole year 2017, I "disappeared" quite often from my social media (as said by fellow online friends, to take a break *even* temporarily is still be called "disappearing," putting it to the most extreme form of daily use). These are the disappearing acts that I've done, for the most part:
1. Giving myself a two to a week break from Instagram, every a couple of months. I guess the fact that I mainly use Instagram to communicate with my online network is making a more consequent (or longer) break less easy to do.
2. I simply tweeted less and read fewer tweets. Mostly I open Twitter whenever there's a newsworthy update to catch up with, such as natural disaster, political reports, and things related to current issues.
3. I didn't push myself to blog when I couldn't find a real voice that I want to share. It felt guilty at first, knowing that I have so many wonderful personal updates to share (especially related to the wedding and my new business venture). The reason of why not-blogging is harder to do might be affected by the fact that there were still so many readers who spent part of their precious time to send me well-wishes message and asking if they will see any new updates from me. But I had to make time to be completely soaked in my life and the changes within, so I give myself time. And I couldn't be happier to know that these readers are special — they will understand.
4. Cutting myself off making regular Youtube content and rethinking about the kind of creative direction I would happily create, the one that fits me truly.
5. I started to repurchase printed newspaper and limiting my online-news consumptions.
By the end of the year, I found myself dealing with less pressure of having to be online all the time. The strange, anxious urge to find "content" to upload just for the sake of "updating" my social media has faded alongside the improved quality of my personal relationship with friends and family. There's a sense of palpable struggle every once in between because I like the activity of sharing as much, too. After those quiet learning moments of unplugging myself from the internet (plus a larger group of people in society as addition) and adjusting the mind to be okay with the more frequent silence, I figure out that this magnetic reaction of pushing and pulling one's self from fear of non-existence is inevitable. At the same time, though, it's also manageable.
There are many unspeakable parts of why disappearing from my online platform has helped me abundantly to find my long-searched inner connection. Partially because I'm still learning about it, that I will need more time to comprehend the current, newly-felt calmness around me. The other part, as I allowed myself to guess, is because there's this lively sense of liberty and self-given autonomy each time we look at our devices, thinking: "I can choose to spend my time with OR without you, and still feel good about myself." How liberating.
This year has started even more delightfully than last year, with so many changes in my life I have yet mastered but absolutely be grateful for. Being a wife and starting a new life in between two towns are two of those many. But among those crazy/beautiful journeys I've departed and will continue to ride, there will be days when I know that it's time to disappear again and returning after — with a full heart as fresh as it feels every time the sky gleams with hope after the storm.