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

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