Communicating Happiness: A Week Without Social Media

As a college senior, I do go out on the weekends with my friends; however, there are plenty of weekends where I choose to stay in–often curled up under the covers with Netflix on my screen and a mug of tea in my hands. Although I choose to spend my night like this, happily, I can never seem to avoid opening up Snapchat or Instagram and seeing friends and acquaintances having a “college” night out. This is at least what I did until I started my social media cleanse.

This past weekend made me remember what it was like before Snapchat–when I chose to do something with my life and didn’t worry about coming across a post shared by friends who must be having a better time than I am. This never really was the case though–others were never really having a better time because remember, I chose to stay in, or I chose to go home and spend time with my family. However, checking Snapchat was such an instinct to see what everyone else was up to, that I would disregard how it was impacting what I was up to.

For instance, this weekend I was able to be home to celebrate a late birthday dinner with my family. It was a Friday night, one where my closest friends were enjoying a night out at school. Without Snapchat, I had absolutely no idea what they were doing. What bar were they at? Were they having a good time? Was it more fun than we had the previous weekend?

These are all questions I could’ve had answered, or at least made assumptions of, had I been able to open up my Snapchat. And you know what this would have done? It would have distracted me from my mom, my grandma, my aunt and my brother who were right in front of me.

This may sound so trivial to someone who has never experienced insecurity over “missing out” after seeing something posted on social media. As a girl who lived through college with full access to social media, I experienced this too often over the past couple years, and I don’t believe it’s the healthiest use of social media. As much as I have tried convincing myself that what other people are doing doesn’t affect me–even though this has improved with age and maturity–I still realize it is easier said than done.

This is exactly why my 100 Happy Days begins with a social media cleanse. In order to focus on my happiness, I want to give myself the opportunity to really live for the now–to live for what’s right in front of me, not what I think is happening 100 miles away.

Without social media, I even decided to completely turn my phone off a few times this weekend, something I probably would not have done had I not deleted my apps. I went out to lunch with my mom and left my phone in my car. There was zero chance that I would even check my phone and become distracted from our conversations and delicious meal. This is something I hope I continue long after my cleanse finishes.

Yesterday, the sunset was beautiful and I didn’t once think to pull out my phone and send the image to someone else. Rather, I just took it all in. No social media post necessary.

With just a few days into the cleanse, I’ve remembered how life does not stop when you don’t have access to the internet for a few hours. I may have lost all my Snap Streaks with my best friends, but you know what I haven’t lost? Connection to my best friends. If I want to know how their weekend was, I make plans to meet up and hear all about it. If I want to show them a picture of something, I send it old school via text message (which my friends were witness to this weekend when the Snap withdrawals were real).

My first week of Communicating Happiness did not have any major life-changing moments in it, but it was a great reminder that this project is going to be positive. I’ve been journaling in my Happiness Planner every night and have focused on becoming more aware of how I am reacting to life around me. One item it asks everyday is to write down what I am grateful for. Every single day I have written: my family and my support system. I’m pretty sure this is going to be repeated another 93 more times too. Just another reminder that no matter what circumstances occur next, I have a pretty cool group of people around me to keep me smiling when I need it.

-Rachel

Communicating Happiness: We Were on a Social Media Break

To jumpstart 100 Happy Days and my #CommunicatingHappiness blog series, I decided I would participate in a “social media cleanse” beginning tomorrow, April 13th. This may seem strange that someone who is building a career centered on digital media wants to remove herself from social media. I am choosing to do this, something I have attempted in the past, because I believe part of my 100 Happy Days needs to focus on being in the present. Being in the present is something we hear so often, I know at least I do; however, I can never seem to fully grasp it.

I’m not saying social media is the root of all evil when it comes to happiness, but I am saying that I often find myself in an endless scroll on so many platforms–opening and re-opening apps–yet never really feeling any sense of joy after finally closing out of them.

I stand corrected on that comment actually, because my friends do know how to crack me up with a good, relatable meme.

The point though, is that as much as I love sharing images and life moments on platforms like Instagram, I still find myself feeling more negative than positive feelings as I lock my phone. And this is coming from someone who is an honest advocate in not sharing photos just “for likes,” but rather for the love of the photo or the moment. Even with this mentality on sharing posts on my own profile, it’s still as if this system with a sole purpose of “connecting,” disconnects me from my own life.

I’m attempting just 21 days (not 100) of closing my apps because let’s be real, social media is still a huge part of my life and the industry I am beginning a career in. I do hope that taking a break will allow me to refresh and connect more with myself and support system, rather than trying to connect with the lives of strangers on digital media.

I just want to reiterate that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with social media, although I do believe there are plenty of misuses and abuses to the digital world. I think this break will be a nice chance to focus on the backbone of communication. Communication is not only done through digital forms, even though this has become the new norm. The foundation of communication is the same as it’s always been, no matter what new tech apps launch next. It is sharing stories, speaking with people, listening and being fully engaged, writing, and emphasizing physical, authentic relationships.

I must place a disclaimer on this “cleanse” because I will continue using Facebook as the sharing platform for my blog and keeping up with events on my campus, and obviously I’ll be on LinkedIn as well for professional reasons. Additionally, I’m going to be taking the same pictures I always do over the course of the next month, so be prepared for plenty of #latergrams coming your way on May 13th.

And if you try to contact me via social in the next month please remember:

-Rachel

Communicating Happiness: 100 Happy Days

Tomorrow marks my 22nd birthday, a little horrifying to say this because 22 is that mark of reality–the year college ends and life as an “adult” begins. As much as I say I’m ready to start my post-grad life, this doesn’t mean I’m not a little weary of graduation, especially after this past year. It’s been hard to be happy and optimistic during my time in college just due to circumstances out of my control; however, I do want to be happy and optimistic. And I want to be happy and optimistic before the stresses of the “real world” begin to unfold. This is because I want to be prepared for whatever comes my way, strong enough to face whatever is next, and not obsess over how I have handled adversity in the past.

With this being said, tomorrow begins my “100 Happy Days.” You may have seen people do this on social media over the past couple years; however, my 100 Happy Days is a reaction to a birthday gift I received from one of my best friends. Called a “Happiness Planner,” this gift is a tool designed to help its owner (me) “reshape the way I think and to shift my focus to the positive.”

It’s funny how this idea of “happiness” has been popping up in so many facets of my life. In one of my communications courses, I contributed to a presentation on the book The Happiness Advantage, which shares principles that can guide a person to create happiness. The Happiness Planner that I was gifted just this week, is the perfect complementary tool for practicing the principles I just studied in my class. It’s as if now is the time I’m meant to reevaluate how I react to this life, and regain control of the single thing I do have control over: my attitude.

Returning to the concept of my own 100 Happy Days, I plan to document my next 100 days in my planner and also within this blog through what I’m calling “Communicating Happiness.” Don’t worry though, it’s a weekly blog series not daily! I’m going to take readers on the journey with me as I make my way through the next few months. A lot is about to happen in 100 days–birthdays, senior events, graduation, wedding fun (Maid of Honor duties!), a trip to Disney, moving in with my grandma for the summer, calling NYC my work home for a couple months, starting a career in PR and communications, and of course spending as much time as possible with my family.

I didn’t realize how much actually happens in 100 days until I looked at my calendar and wrote that list out. I know there are going to be plenty more bumps in the road, and plenty in those next 100 days; however, my focus in this blog series isn’t going to be on the bumps. Rather, it’s going to be how I can grow from any falls I may have and plan for the happiness that’s coming next.

Here’s to Day One of #CommunicatingHappiness.

-Rachel

 

World Poetry Day

On my final night of spring break before heading back to my last block of college, I couldn’t sleep. Instead of sleeping, I found myself putting words together in my head: a poem. I haven’t written a poem in years. This is why it’s so strange that the night I wrote a poem was just a couple days before today’s World Poetry Day.

I was a child who loved words. I even received a collection of poems one early Christmas because of my interest in poetry. I was one of the few students who adored the chapters in high school English when we analyzed poems; however, since attending college I have lost touch with my love of poetry. My mind has been so focused on research papers, social media writing, blogging, writing for professional communications. I forgot that I once admired creative writing, embracing imagery in my words, sharing emotion with a reader.

Now let me get one thing straight–I was no young Maya Angelou; however, I did enjoy the challenge that poetry brought with it. The vulnerability you must have to put emotions into words and find the right word that feels perfect for every line.

I wrote the following poem while sleepy, emotional, and desperate to put words to paper (or my phone, which I probably need to stop sleeping so close to). Again, I’m not saying I’m a poet, but that’s not going to stop me from writing. Just like being on the verge of tone deaf doesn’t stop my love of showtunes.

This is what those words became.

Titled: “We Overcome”

Children play
In fields of freedom.
With innocence
And superficial fears.

Time passes,
As it does too fast.
Play lessens,
Fears deepen.

Dark clouds,
Halt children at play.
Storm looms near,
Air thins.

Or so it seems.

Time passes,
As it does too fast.
Play lessens,
Fears Deepen.

Clouds part,
Light emerges.
Storm distances,
Air is plentiful.

We overcome
Our loss of innocence.
Freedom is near,
Angels at our sides.

-Rachel

A Few Deep Breaths

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

I can hear my dad’s voice now. In order to explain what this means I have a short, well semi-short, story to share.

I used to be a basketball player. Pretty amusing to think about as I am 5 foot 2 with zero capability of sprinting up and down a court at the moment. Basketball was never my favorite sport. Soccer held that role in my life; however, for a while prior to a few injuries, I played all the sports my friends played. Basketball happened to be included on that list. I was usually a point guard, shockingly not a post I know. Before almost every game I would get rather worked up with nerves. Who knows why I was so scared to go out and play a sport for my high school; nevertheless, it happened.

I recall when I would get this worked up, my dad would occasionally hit me with the “you need to relax, Rachie.” My parents were never competitive when it came to my sports, only supportive, so I never felt forced play them. This is why there was zero pushback on their end when I did choose to prematurely quit basketball and forgo my inevitable WNBA career.

As I mentioned, my dad would tell me on many pregame car rides, “you need to relax.” He always told me, “just breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.” He would repeat it until I was actually back on track, breathing calmly.

This was one of my dad’s “phrases.” Whenever I would get anxious whether for my school assignments, sporting events or theatre performances, I could always hear him saying “breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.” It never mattered if he was actually reciting it to me, I always heard it.

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Now, in February of 2017, I still hear it. When I feel myself getting overwhelmed, I hear my dad’s voice in my head: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. I may not be instantly relaxed, but I definitely get on my way to it.

It is something I know that I will hear forever. And forever in his voice.

Okay, so I occasionally overreact to situations. I over think far too much, and with that comes anxiety at times. When I reach these moments, Dad’s voice will always be there to calm me down: Rachie, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. And of course when I actually am overreacting to a minor situation I’ll hear the just chill out, you need to relax. It will remind me to breathe. Because what I am making into a big deal, is really no big deal at all. At least not something that cannot be fixed with a few deep breaths.

-Rachel

When Beyond Stressed, I Write.

The past few weeks have definitely taken a toll on me. Surprisingly not about my personal life, but all with college. When you are deep in group projects, applying to jobs, preparing for internships and traveling to a conference out of state, it gets a little hard to breathe. Let alone enjoy the final semester of college. 

This week was one where I saw the downfalls of being a perfectionist with my work; however, as I have recently told many people, it is because I truly pride myself on the work I produce. This can be difficult when it comes to working on so many group projects in our communication major. Everyone has different perspectives, different motivation levels, and different styles for producing their own work. None of this is necessarily bad, but it definitely is important to understand that work and leadership styles vary from person to person. This is why the past few weeks, and few days in particular, were a great learning experience because I was able to take away personal notes for improvement. I understand what my strengths are, but I realize what my weaknesses in group dynamics are as well, and how I can better cope under stress.

I’ve mentioned this to a few people jokingly, but recently I took a personality test. Yes, it was online, but it was quite a substantial test for something I found shared online. Anyway, the test showed me that I have a pretty high level of anxiousness; however, that level also matched my high level of orderliness. I joked about this finding in that I may get a little anxious, well a lot anxious, during times of stress; however, the project is going to get done, and it is going to get done with 100% of my effort.

Hence, the blessing and the curse of being a perfectionist, and why I have learned over the past few years to not overcommit, to say no, and to remove myself from situations which are not positively contributing to my life.

Mental, emotional, and physical health should always come first. When I have high expectations for myself and others I am working with, it is sometimes hard to distinguish when these three forms of health may be taking a toll because I am so focused on the end product.

What’s cool about understanding all this at my age is that I’ve been able to really narrow down where my passions lie, and what pieces of my life I choose to commit 100% to. Although I’m a little sleep deprived right now, I chose to commit everything to this project because it’s a project that will honestly benefit my passion in the long run. It was a creative project, based on branding and design and I had a leadership role. Although I was not a perfect leader, as I mentioned earlier, I learned a lot about myself during this short project which I can take with me as I move forward in my career. I know you may be wondering why I put so much thought into a silly group assignment in college. Well, this project is just a small glimpse of the type of content, style of project, and leadership situation I hope to see myself in for many years to come, on a larger scale of course.

It’s just another reminder that I’m entering a career field I’m supposed to work in, one that I’ll enjoy working in. 

-Rachel

My Next Move

Today marked the first day of my final semester of my undergraduate career. After eighteen years of education, I am down to my last four months. It is a little surreal to think about how structured my life has been up until now, and that my world is unknown in four months. No more summer vacations, week-long breaks, or winter recesses. Currently I have jumped right into the job application process, applying to agencies left and right, hoping that I will have some idea of my short-term future by May.

As I began my day this morning, returning from a five-week long hiatus from Ithaca College, my focus was not exclusively on classes. Last night I returned to Ithaca with bittersweet feelings. This winter break was filled with a lot of heartache and emotions, but I was able to experience the heartache around my family—my rock. Now I must revert to my routine, group projects, work, applications, gym sessions, and time with my good friends who I will be parting from in a just a few months.

Not only has my personal life been filled with emotions, but I also cannot seem to go on social media without a sense of stress and sadness over the divisive rhetoric of my newsfeed, nationwide. Although it is hard to remove myself from social media, I seem to close out of these applications feeling more agitated than I ever have before.

With this being said, I have found myself thinking a lot about my next moves in life—mentally, emotionally and physically—over the course of my final semester and post graduation.

The past six or so years have not been easy. I know what some of you may be thinking, I am 21 years old, how hard could my life have been? To a certain extent, you are correct. I have been surrounded by people who I love and who love me. My college experience has been difficult, but I had the opportunity to attend two amazing institutions to learn about communications and have only benefitted from the networking, education, and of course the friends I have gained at both of these schools. Additionally, I am a healthy individual. My mental and emotional health may have taken some hits with the events that have occurred over the past few years; however, I have been able to continue working, going to school, sharing my voice with you all, exercising, laughing with friends, and loving my family.

It is easy to get sucked into the negativity surrounding our lives right now, but my next move is this: I choose my path, and I choose positivity. Those who know me have seen all my sides, but recently my closest network of loved ones may have seen a lot more pessimism than optimism in the past few years. That changes now.

Life is by no means going to get easier. Negativity will continue to surround me; however I want to do my best to be positive in the moments I have left in college, in my job search and the start of my career, with my friends, and with passing strangers or followers on social media. We are so blessed with the ability to share our voices. What power that holds.

The voice you share may hold a different opinion than the person beside you. I know mine has at times, but I try my best to remain positive even when sharing a different opinion. We should never hold back our opinions, while making sure we do so respectively. How else will we bring positive change to the world and society without sharing these voices respectively.

At this particular moment in life my positive contributions may be small ones, but they still matter, such as listening to friends in need, successfully completing my part of a school project, complimenting or acknowledging someone, calling family members, reaching out, and facilitating open conversations with those around me.

My next move for 2017 is to practice positivity, what is yours?

-Rachel