The topic of truly being present in life is one that has been discussed on every blog, every magazine, and every self-help book that has been published within the last decade. And today I clicked on a link posted by a Facebook friend that lead me to yet another article about being engaged in what is going on and being present in life. If you wish, you can read that beautifully written blog post by clicking here. As I read the blog post I realized that I, like most people who have grown up with technology, struggle with truly being present. My mother will be the first to tell you that my attention has a tendency to be on my phone 85% of the time her and I are together. And that is a bit of a problem.
I started thinking about how much time I spend on my phone looking at other people’s lives and experiencing life from the point of view of someone else. In those moments instead of my story reading “Courtnei/she went to coffee with so-and-so” it reads “Ingrid went to coffee with so-and-so,” and that’s just not cool. I don’t want the pages of my story to be filled with moments that I wasn’t even a part of, moments that have nothing to do with me (except maybe give me a bad case of FOMO). Even as I type this I find myself opening and closing a tab for Facebook just to scroll for a few meaningless minutes through miscellaneous postings.
Now there isn’t a problem with social media and wanting to see how your friends and family that you only see every now and then are doing. The problem is when you find yourself NEEDING to check any social media platform. When you find yourself constantly refreshing your feed to find out what so-and-so is doing or how many likes that #nofilter selfie you posted (which was actually heavily filtered) got. It’s when you start living your life just so you have something to post about online. There’s nothing wrong with posting things online for others to see, but when that becomes your primary motivation for doing anything, it’s time to pump the breaks. When you find yourself watching live behind the screen of your camera then you need to set the phone aside and take a breath.
If you can relate to any of the things you just read you, like me, need to remember what being present in the moment looks and feels like. It’s time to put the phone, tablet, laptop, etc. away and focus on the people who are right in front of you. It’s time for eye contact and to actually listen when someone is talking to you. When you put the phone away and out of sight then you can truly focus on what the person you are with is saying to you, rather than only half-hearing what they’re saying. If you only half-listen to what the people in your life are saying you’re going to find yourself saying that wrong thing at the worst time. You’re going to find yourself nodding when you should be shaking your head profusely in disgust at whatever horrible thing your friend is clearly disgusted about. So maybe if you put away all of the distractions and told yourself to stop worry about what your favorite youtuber is doing on snapchat, you can focus on having a meaningful interaction with the person across the table from you.
Spending time living life through a lens or a screen means that you miss all of those small moments to connect with the people around you. You may think that stalking your best friend on social media makes you a great best friend because you’re in touch with everything she posts, so if she were upset or having a rough time you would obviously know. But see that’s the trick with social media, people only post what they want you to see. When I’m having an awful day I’m not likely to post it online because who wants to hear about that? Who wants to be the person who overshares their actual feelings online? Definitely not me. And not only that, I don’t want to post a sad depressing post only to find out that no one truly cares if my day has been horrible. A majority of the people you know online are only going to post the good stuff going on in their lives, and if they post about something bad it’s most likely really bad or something that’s #sorelatable that they know someone, somewhere will comment on it.
So, in honor of the completely cliched “new year, new me” saying, I am going to try, not to be a new me, but to be a present me. I’m going to try and live in the moment and not let myself get distracted by other people’s moments. I’m not going to go crazy and quit all of my social media, because I do enjoy editing and post pictures on Instagram, live-tweeting my favorite show, and checking-in on family and friends that I’m not super close with. I am, however, going to cut back on how much time my eyes are on my phone screen when there’s an actual human being across from me or next to me. I’m going to live a fully engaged life and be truly present in the moment. I’m going to take time to have meaningful conversations with friends and focus on what they are saying rather than what picture from this evening am I going to share with my other friends. I’m going to take time to nurture my current relationships and cultivate new ones with people at my work and any place else I am stumble across someone. And I am going to take time for myself, time to focus on doing things that I like to do instead of wishing I was doing what they were doing. Spend more time reading piles of books, writing things that mean something to me, learning about my faith, myself, and my ukulele, taking pictures of beautiful moments that are just for me to keep, and singing along to my favorite pop hits when no one is home.
So if you’re like me, I think it’s time to make 2016 a year that doesn’t flood your time hop, but one that fills your heart with special moments that last forever. Time to sit back and enjoy the life that you have been given and thank God for all of the candid moments, like the one captured in the picture at the start of this post.