Something has been worrying me for a while now. Something has felt “not quite right.” Internally I have been struggling, but I haven’t been able to put my finger on the WHY. My outer world is good. My family is healthy and well. My home is safe. My work is going well. So why the dis-ease?
What’s missing is community. I was used to teaching 15 public yoga classes each week. I would see at least 100 people each day. Face to face. Real interaction. We would run challenges which would inspire community members to rally each other. Friends would grab friends at lunch hour and bring each other to class. Questions would be asked in real time, solutions were created and real conversations would be had.
Community is the most powerful asset we have as human beings. Community inspires joy, accountability and is a support system that we all need (introverts and all). Community offers connection that can’t be found digitally. Community inspires us to be better humans, to work together and to better the world.
When I originally closed my yoga studio in 2020 I thought it would be only for a few weeks. It ended up closing for 8 months, and eventually closed for good as the bills became too much and the end of the pandemic was never in sight. Fitness studios, restaurants, churches, sports teams and the like all suffered this blow. In response to this, businesses pivoted and shifted everything online. We created online communities. We offered our services digitally. We created on demand shopping, on demand fitness and on demand everything.
In the beginning of the pandemic, we had no idea how deadly this virus actually was. We were locked away in isolation and had all community support systems taken away. We desperately grasped for apps that would connect us but this way of communicating is not satisfying. We went from Houseparty and Zoom hangouts…to group texts and messages….and eventually began to just “like” and comment on things on social media accounts.
We started to convince ourselves that this was all just really convenient. That it’s great that we can work out at home, work from home, shop from home. We did our best to stay positive but the underlying tone of it all was a mix of gratitude and despair. We were grateful that we could work from home but we also felt depressed, isolated, lonely and anxious about group interaction.
It’s important that we recognize this. That we recognize the detrimental effects of this social isolation. As the world begins to open up we are STILL leaning on superficial means of communication. COVID showed us how easy it is to live digitally. We got to slow down, we don’t have to drive places anymore and it’s super easy to just stay at home.
I’ve noticed that I myself have begun to prefer home life. That I have shifted from an extrovert to an extreme introvert. That I rely on online shopping, FB, IG, and group texts to communicate. I like spending time perfecting my home, and doing my daily routine.
Community is normal, this is not
Alone time is important. We should spend a little time everyday in quiet reflection. This is healthy. What we’re doing right now is not healthy. It’s causing collective generalized anxiety, social anxiety, depression, and malaise. It’s killing our creativity, our ability to communicate and without trying to sound dramatic……our society as a functioning whole.
Community can help support you during crisis. It can be a remedy for your anxiety and depression. It reminds you that you are connected to the world as a whole. It’s important to participate in real life activities. To join churches, temples, yoga studios, sports teams, book clubs and the like. THAT is normal. Social isolation and chronic independence is not. Our reliance on social media channels where we collect a large amount of followers is a facade of community. In the past we had small groups of people with deep relationships. We relied on each other for survival. As larger cities developed we started to lose this. As social media grew we lost this further still. We are becoming complacent to our loneliness, isolation and separation and THIS is the most deadly disease of our time.
Independence or loneliness?
I am a solopreneur. I work alone. I build businesses behind the scenes. I rely on social media to spread awareness about my work. I use these apps a lot. I create on demand content, I have zoom meetings and I spend a lot of time in the digital space. This has allowed me to become successful. This has brought ease to my work life and family life. So how do I continue to be successful while managing this very real danger.
I tried several times to break free from the social channels for my personal life. I wanted nothing to do with social media for my personal life. I didn’t want to be in the group chat, I didn’t want to comment and like things on facebook and I didn’t want to see perfectly curated photos on instagram of my friends on instagram. I tried to leave. I thought to myself “I just won’t participate.” I’ll call people. I’ll arrange dinners. I see them in real life.
I eventually found myself in even more isolation because the rest of the world hasn’t followed suit. If I didn’t participate in digital means of communication, I would just lack community altogether. People found it strange when I would call them out of the blue. People are more reluctant to gather in person. Yes there is a disease out there that we need to monitor with caution and yes we do need to be safe out there…..but this new disease is just as bad.
What Does Social Media Actually Do to Us?
When we portray little snaps of ourselves in social media we are only providing a small snippet of who we are. A carefully curated, digitally altered image of who we are. We post a photo and a little quote and that’s who we are now. We then comment and like each other’s curated image and think “there, I have connected today.” Commenting and liking are not ways of communicating. They are empty. We have been trained to believe that this is real. Companies and corporations want us to believe this is real because they want us to spend as much time as possible on these apps. We become lonelier than ever when we spend time on these apps. We get anxious and alienated and we spend our time trying to make ourselves feel better by…..spending even more time on the app. We buy things, we scroll, we make purchases to get that hit of dopamine.
When we do gather in person, or go out on dates now we stare at our phones instead of the person in front of us. We post our displeasure about social issues on these platforms and pat ourselves on the back for “good work” without actually getting our hands dirty and participating in the work. Instead of watching the concert, the baby laughing, or the sunset we film it with our phones. We are obsessed and preoccupied with our phones and this digital culture. We are losing our ability to be present.
So I’ve created a digital community. An online studio. An on demand library of content. I also build my business on social media. What now?
I obviously see the value of these platforms because I am so thoroughly invested in them. I have benefited tremendously from these forms of media. I took 8 life changing trainings during the pandemic that never would have been available to me in real life. I studied with teachers in New York, Colorado, Europe and India. I connected with hundreds of yogis, leaders and philosophers. I found connection and value in the digital space and I am grateful (and continue to be grateful) for it. What’s different is the content…and the way these programs were run. We were engaged in deep content, philosophy and service based material and we discussed things in real time, in groups.
My students tell me that because of my online content, it’s possible for them to practice yoga. That they have multiple young children or live rurally and now they finally have the ability to come to yoga. What a blessing that is! My clients that I coach can meet me anywhere in the world. They can call me when in distress and I can help them 24/7.
There is convenience here. There is possibility here. There is opportunity for growth.
The problem is when we use this convenience for all areas of our lives. When we avoid phone calls, in person shopping and community gatherings. That convenience is seductive. What’s important is realizing that that convenience can also lead to complacency, isolation and separation. It’s destroying our local businesses, our society and is brainwashing our children.
Convenience and Immediate Gratification
Notice how triggered people are these days? Do you notice children behaving badly. People exploding in the lineups at stores? We demand immediate gratification. In the past we had to save and wait long periods of time before we got anything. We were patient. Now we flip out if we have to wait 1 minute for anything, be that a hospital bed, or something from walmart.
With children at home all day long, we struggle to entertain them. Parents are throwing devices at their kids at the slightest complaint or sound of “I’m bored” Instead of sitting down for board games, shooing them outside or just letting them be bored. Boredom is highly beneficial to children by the way. It inspires creativity.
So How Do We Meet in the Middle?
I will continue to work in the digital space. I will continue to serve up on demand content and I will meet my clients on zoom. This is my work. Where I draw the line is the mindless scrolling. Shopping online when I could walk into a store and meet people. I will call my friends and set up dinner dates. I will push past this social anxiety that these circumstances have created and meet people face to face in REAL community gatherings. I will put aside the seductive desire to stay at home when I could be actually living my life. I will monitor my time spent on screens. I will take the screens away from my children altogether (that’s a whole other article) and I will spend more time living slow, in the present moment, paying attention on purpose to this life that I am living.
Living on a screen is not real life. I choose to be present. I choose to not be a pawn in the corporate agenda. This push for society to live on their screens and be complacent consumers. The only answer to our feelings of social isolation and anxiety…..is community.
Slow Your Roll and Choose Your Scroll
When we use screens, we need to use them consciously. I get real value from reading elevated material like blogs, philosophy and educational content. I get real value from seeing my clients on zoom and having a face to face discussion. I get value in teaching and participating in online yoga classes.
Participating in a group training, a zoom call or an interactive program is much different than just liking things. I feel like I’m in community in these places. There’s real dialogue. There’s expression, there’s emotion. You can definitely create a positive online community.
What’s important is we don’t make this our only source of community. I no longer see any value in artificial means of communicating and living my social life on a screen and I hope you are starting to see that too. This anxiety that you’re feeling? It’s a product of what the world is creating, and it doesn’t have to be your reality. Anxiety is caused by circumstance. By habit loops and by conditions that we create around us. Anxiety is the human condition of the times. Created by outside conditions and treatable if we are able to stop, slow down and investigate how we add to this emotional state.
As I continue to be more conscious with my social media consumption, I will continue to write and create content that supports people’s mental health. Mental health conditions are significantly on the rise, and so is our consumption of social media. If we’re on here, we should be paying attention to its effects on us. We should be conscious consumers. Know that these apps can be useful…..but they are not a substitute for real community. Notice where you are shying away from your life. Choosing convenience over community.
While I continue to work in this digital space, I am excited to also create in person gatherings, retreats and trainings. You can expect a phone call from me, instead of a DM. You can expect real conversation. I would like to live my life, not watch it go past me on a screen. If you’re feeling isolated, anxious or down….please call someone. Go out and BE with someone. This is real community.
With grace and grit,