October 1, 2020
While feeling overwhelmed about the prospect of teaching during a global pandemic, I decided to delete instagram and facebook from my phone for one month — something I haven’t done before.
Could I REALLY go a whole month without watching The Birds Papaya’s or Jillian Harris’s instastories? Could I stay connected with friends? Could I resist sharing my thoughts on the US (and now the BC) elections?
My complete disappearance from social media came as a shock to many people. I received MANY concerned messages from friends about whether or not I was REALLY OK.
Here’s the story of why I stepped back, and what I learned.
Facebook and instagram have become a part of my life. It’s how I learn about most of news and share my thoughts. It’s how I connect with my friends and family. It’s also how I make money as a side hustle.
But the thing is– social media has become part of my stream of consciousness, a part of how I make sense of the world. This sounds scary, but I’m sure many of you can relate– even if you haven’t admitted it to yourself.
I felt this before watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix, but things cemented while watching it.
At the end of August my phone was blowing up with anxious messages about returning back to school in a pandemic. Some were from people I know in real life, but many were not.
While I felt honoured that so many wanted to share their stories with me, I also needed to set some boundaries on my time. I just wasn’t able to listen and offer reassurance to everyone that everything would be OK.
I knew what I needed to do. I announced on my instagram page that I’d be logging off for the rest of September. This felt both radical and freeing.
Stepping away from social media allowed me to focus on adjusting to work on the front lines and transitioning our son back to face to face classes. It’s been great to see my students again, and we’ve created a strong culture of mask wearing in our classrooms. Things are very different now, but we’re still able to talk, joke, and inspire one another. Neither my school nor my son’s school has had a COVID outbreak yet. For that we are grateful.
I snorted with recognition when I read this passage from Stephen King’s On Writing:
“I liked my coworkers and loved the kids–event the Beavis and Butt-Head types in Living With English could be interesting– but by most Friday afternoons I felt as if I’d spent the week with jumper cables clamped to my brain”.
Multiply this by 10X when teaching in a global pandemic.
After asking around, it seems I’m not alone in finding that wearing a mask all day makes me feel WAY more tired than usual. It’s one thing to wear a mask for 20 minutes in a grocery store, and another thing to wear it at work. Maybe it’s all that warm, wet air. Maybe less oxygen is getting through the fabric. Maybe it’s all in our heads. Who knows?
A friend reached out to suggest that we’re all more tired because we need to be more animated and expressive to try to communicate with others while wearing masks. I agree with this.
If anyone has a miracle cure for MASKNE, please let me know (no MLMs, please).
I’m sharing this to be real– not for pity. I’m just one of 43,000 teachers in the province, and one of hundreds of thousands of frontline workers- doctors, nurses, custodians, grocery clerks, social workers, cashiers etc.
We’re all in this together as essential service workers.
I’ve thought of taking a month off of social media before, but couldn’t wrap my mind around HOW to do it. I managed to re-jig one contract, and said no to all the rest. It took some pre-planning and less money coming in.
I’ll admit, the the first few days of social media detox were HARD, but it was actually easy to disconnect. I felt a weight lift off my shoulders, and like I’d been given a permission slip to focus on school… and on life.
Sure, I missed my ‘internet friends’– those wonderful fellow mamas and working women. I find tremendous comfort in their relatable, funny and inspiring content.
So what now? Well, I signed up for another UBC Writing Course, and am pivoting my business model to (GASP) rely LESS on social media.
I’m excited to share that I’ll be logging off of social media Sunday evening-Thursday after work.
Now that I’ve re-installed Instagram and Facebook on my phone, they’re not on the first page of my homescreen– I have to swipe right 3 times to access them. All notifications are also turned off in my settings.
This will let me be more present for the bulk of my work week, and to give me time to focus on other things– like all the good stuff above, as well this blog.
I also realized that strategically taking a month off of social media is something I’ll do more often. If it’s something you’ve thought about trying, I highly recommend it. Social media will always be there waiting when you’re ready to come back.
My favourite bamboo breathable masks are by NXTSTOP, which I wear every day. I love the adjustable ear straps and nose piece. The breathable fabric also stays wrinkle-free after washing. Warning- These are so lightweight that they get sucked into my nostrils while breathing. (TMI, I know). I fix this by wearing these with a silicone mask insert (see below).
After watching Samin’s Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix, I knew I needed this book. Half helpful cooking class, half recipes–I’m now obsessed with finding a balance of flavour in everything I eat. The Buttermilk Chicken and Fattoush Salad are winners!
This choice may seem funny, as the borders are closed. I’ve been to Disneyland, but didn’t get to know LA beyond that. Jonathan Gold was the only food critic to win the Pulizer Prize, and I’m absolutely loving reading his thoughtful restaurant reviews. I’m reading it like a novel. If you read only one food writer, make it Jonathan Gold.
Perhaps another interesting choice, as I’m not really a Stephen King fan– until now. This memoir touched me as a mother, English teacher and aspiring writer. It’s full of helpful tools, strategy and business advice.
Of course I’ve heard of this small writing book before, and have even read photocopied parts of it in English classes. Stephen King recommends it in On Writing, so I finally picked up a copy. I see why it’s stood the test of time since its inception in 1913. I especially like this edition because of its amusing illustrations.
A co-worker told me I NEED to read this. I’m compelled by the idea that humans thrive in a crisis and that our innate kindness and cooperation have been the greatest factors in our long-term success on the planet. 2020 has been such a challenging year, and I think the world probably needs this book.
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