That's how long it's been since I've last blogged, and since I last posted anything of significance on Instagram or Twitter. The reason? I needed a break. Between crazy current events and the time suck that social media has become, there was just too much unwanted noise in my life.
The stress of it all didn't seem worth it. So I stopped. And I listened. And I used my time differently.
For me, taking a break didn't mean disengaging from the political reality/hellhole in which we now live. It meant taking a break from my own creativity. For four months, I didn't publish or amplify a single blog post. I didn't post anything on or look at Instagram. I didn't check Twitter. And for one month, I didn't touch Facebook.
Here's what disengaging from social media taught me:
Burnout is not always recognizable.
So much of my photography business is about getting eyes on my website, which means keeping a blog. Even when I don't have photos to share, I feel the need to find something to write about. That means brainstorming ideas, writing posts, keeping an editorial calendar, amplifying my blogs on social media, and engaging on those platforms as much as possible. It is enough to be a full-time job, except that I already have a full-time job working in the labor movement. Between photos, blogging, general business running, and labor activism, I can easily put in ten to twelve hours a day every day. And that's what I did for months on end. I was so wrapped up in all of this work that I failed to realize how much I was working. I know, that sounds weird, right? But GO became my standard mode. Resting, relaxing, and doing things deemed "unproductive" started to become foreign concepts to me. I didn't realize how extreme my situation had become until I forced myself to stop creating and start living.
There is value and joy in just being.
Not only had I forgotten what it was like to read a book, watch a movie, or just have down time, but I failed to recognize how important tranquil, unproductive moments in life really are. Yes, much of that can be attributed to working too much... but taking a break from social media also made me realize just how much time I spend at the computer. Time that could be spent doing other, healthier things: like engaging in conversation, walking outside, listening to music, or just thinking. That's the problem with social media--even when we're alone with it, it takes up space in our mind. There is something truly beautiful and peaceful about having the freedom to turn inward and tune out the rest of the world. Too much time on social media took this away from me.
Comparison is a dangerous game.
As a photographer, I look at images. Lots of them. All the time. This includes images of other photographers, no matter their genre. Any good photographer will tell you not to compare your work to the work of others. I've told myself and readers of this blog that many times. But it's always easier said than done. Before I gave up social media for four months, comparing myself to other photographers became a daily routine, and a depressing one at that. Where I saw perfection in others' images, business models, and success, I found only flaws and failure in mine. Taking a break from social media gave me much-needed relief from this self-depreciating behavior and, as a result, I feel more confident in my own self and my work.
Change is okay.
Checking social media multiple times each day became part of a regular routine. Breaking that felt strange at first, but it taught me that change, even in this one, small way, is good. It's healthy.
Creating can be therapeutic. It can also be a shield.
During times of high stress and uncertainty (say, like... now) there is no denying that art, be it writing, painting, photography, dance, or theater, can be incredibly therapeutic. But it can also act as a near-impenetrable shield from life. In the months before I hit my breaking point, I was so focused on work and churning out content for this blog and my social media channels that I didn't have the time or energy to fully digest the news or engage in discussions or debates about current events. Why does this matter? Because conversations matter. Shielding myself from the raw reality of our world prevented me from growing, learning, engaging, and acting. Since taking a break from social media, I've been able to do deep self reflection, learn from the world around me, and make changes in my personal life that align with changes I want to see in the rest of society.
I am happier.
Less stress. Less drama. Less fucks to give about things that don't actually matter.
I've missed you, @Yogitastic.
There is one down side to my break from social media: I've missed out on happenings in my community and the musings of my neighbors... including the hysterical rants of brain buyer and yoga instructor Sam, aka @Yogitastic. Seriously, people. If you're looking for a little humor to go with your anger, this is the account to follow.