Life On Mute

Three weeks ago I muted my phone before going into a meeting. I still haven’t turned the volume up. I put my life on mute. And it’s been wonderful.

Two years ago I cancelled my cable subscription. A few months ago I deactivated one of my social media accounts. A week after that I made my activity private on another site. A few weeks later I uninstalled one more electronic social party from every device I use. Still another week passed and I removed all but a handful of follows and followers from the last site with which I interact. I use this term lightly, because I log in seldom more than 1x per day and it’s often closer to once a week. And, given that I only follow a handful of organizations with whom I wish to interact, my ‘feed’ is quite small. I’m finding this new, more ‘disconnected’ way of life suits me. It’s not just the loss of extraneous noise – it’s the lack of needless, purposeless distraction that I am enjoying. Mute is a lovely way to live.

Disconnecting from others, from life, is not always practical however. We are meant to live in community. We evolve with different skills and abilities in order to efficiently support each other in communal settings. There is purpose in connection. Fostering that connection in positive, productive ways takes effort.

I was touched recently by an excerpt I read from an interview between Jennifer Aniston and Arianna Huffington in which Ms. Aniston says that being off social media does not make her feel like she’s missing out, but rather that she’s a bit behind. I was intrigued by her perspective. Perhaps this is what truly drives us to want to be constantly on line – the fear of falling behind. But, I think opening too many channels to try to take in everything does leave us behind. It’s too much input to try to sort out what is important or relevant to us. We miss the critical factors when they get muffled within the horde of information inundating us. We need to carefully select the stories and people we follow. What we review – what we read and listen to and watch – it is how we grow. When we take the time to select those areas that are important to us, our growth is focused, determined, and (likely) more productive.

This is not to say that flippant follows are wasteful. To the contrary, I also believe that allowing yourself to follow or study an artist, not to learn how to make art in their style but simply because their art brings you pleasure, is an important part of growth. Tweets that serve as a comedic break, Facebook memes that make you smile, Instagram pictures that inspire some travel or daydreams….these are all ways to expand who we are. I believe it is important to find opinions that differ from our own and read them carefully and thoughtfully. I believe that re-viewing literature from our younger years can bring us new insights. Listening to lecturers outside our frame of reference – topics ‘over our head’ – is a wonderful way to expand our understanding of the world.

Finding the balance between noise and mute that works for you will take work. Continuously. It’s not a one-and-done proposition. I am adjusting my balance every day. I give myself permission to leave a book unfinished when I do not feel it is enhancing my life – through knowledge or enjoyment. I listen to podcasts on subjects I know nothing about. I seek out teachers from arts, sciences, literature and philosophies. And these topics change as I grow and learn and get frustrated and fail. This will continue, as long as I am able to participate in life.

I stand tall when I say I don’t know the latest song or fad or joke going around social media. It has taken a while to reach that point. I left the sites without news or fanfare. It was done in quiet. I typically find one of two reactions when I admit that I have deactivated social media accounts. Some people are shocked and ask why, to which I give the fairly vague response of “it’s not the right space for me.” Other people look at me longingly and say “good for you!” To these weary spirits I say “you can, too.” I then hear the litany of excuses why they could never leave the social media sites. The same excuses I once used. I have found other ways to connect, to get necessary (not superfluous) information, and stay in contact with my groups. For those groups or friends that I have not been able to find another way to connect – it’s a loss I’ve adjusted to. It wasn’t meant for me, and that’s okay.

A little less noise in life is a good thing at times. But, life on mute can only be sustained for so long. Don’t lose all contact, that’s not the answer to overload. Reduce the noise a little if you can. I’m glad I did.

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