“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life, which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” -Thoreau
In early January, as 2019 began to unroll its wide ribbon of possibility before me, I was already busy at work on a few writing and publishing projects that I thought would carry me all the way to 2020 and beyond. Believing they would provide the right balance of flexibility and consistency when laid alongside the commitments and priorities in my personal life, I immediately dove in - giving my website a facelift and mapping out timelines. While this was going on, I was also maintaining my usual diet of digitally-based interactions, discussions, and activities.
I’ve read a number of books about social media and I follow tech-related news, particularly stories that cover issues pertaining to privacy and the social/psychological impact of social media and digital communication. I even started a #mindfulsocialmedia thread on my Instagram account, which ended up being fairly short-lived. The irony of that particular endeavor was that I was spending more time on Instagram in an effort to encourage less time on our smartphones. So that was that.
The short version of this story is that 2019 has turned out to have different plans for me than what I saw just a few months ago, and in order to give them my full attention I am taking a much more disciplined, minimalist approach to all things digital. Simply put: the more time I spend looking at a screen, the more time I take away from any number of far more meaningful pursuits - ones that involve real, lived experience, all five of my senses, and the act of making something with my hands. I am declaring that convenience is no longer my number one goal and I am reclaiming things like solitude, silence, and privacy.
With this in mind, my Rules for a Mindful Life series will be much more sporadic than what I initially planned, and I am stepping away from Instagram until I have something worth sharing. I will continue to see what my friends and family are up to on that platform, but I’m not going to be doing much, if any, clicking, liking, or commenting (read Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport if you’re curious where that particular intention came from.)
While this is (er, isn’t) happening, I’m in the early stages of the creation of a new body of artwork. Or I am at least in the early stages of seeing if what I am pondering is going to work. I am giving myself a gift I’m not sure I’ve ever given myself - a long stretch of time to explore some ideas, contemplate the meaning behind it, and to do so without documenting the entire process for public consumption. There will likely come a day when sharing this work in public, digital realms will feel supportive and meaningful, but right now what is needed is time and s p a c e that is free from digital interruptions.
It is not an easy thing to pull back from all the platforms, apps, and channels that most everyone takes for granted and agrees is the best (as in, most convenient) way to stay connected. I have been sitting with the question of whether or not to even write about this for weeks, knowing it wasn’t likely anyone even noticed I wasn’t around much anymore, digitally-speaking. I decided to share this for the same reason I’ve shared anything on a public platform - because I hope it offers some kind of encouragement, particularly to anyone reading this who has questioned whether or not all this digital activity is really the best we can do.