Unplugged, or, How a 30-Day Social Media Hiatus Improved My Relationship

In December, I went on a “social media hiatus.” It was originally intended to be a break from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram distractions for the good of my finals week productivity, but about a week in, I decided to extend it for the entire month.  I chose to journal every so often here to keep track of how I was feeling, and I made a surprising discovery in the process. Not only did I get an A in every class, but I improved my relationship in ways I didn’t think possible.

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Day 1: I don’t feel quite deprived yet, since it took me almost an hour yesterday to turn off all the notifications on my phone from various apps, reorganize my folders so only the most important, work-relevant things were on my home page, and…create an adorable “unplugged” profile picture for Facebook and Instagram with my Phonto app. Oops.

Day 3: I’ve been pretty good about not checking any social media. But I am realizing how often the urge hits…and how ridiculous some of the things are that I want to Tweet about. For example, I had string cheese for the first time in several months, and felt the need to send a Tweet announcing this to the world (in less than 140 characters, of course).  I realized that in the online world, we make a MUCH bigger deal out of things than they actually are.

Day 5: Aaaand, I relapsed. I logged onto Facebook to ask my friends for massage therapist recommendations because I twisted my back again (I trust people I know a lot more than random Yelp reviewers). The recommendation status wasn’t the problem…it’s the 20 minutes I spent on my newsfeed after I got an answer. But I’ve got a big paper rough draft due tomorrow, so I think I’ll be able to avoid it for the rest of the night.

Day 9: Finals are upon me, and I hardly have time for social media as it is.  I’ve got three large final papers due in the next week, and a couple of presentations to boot. In past years, I’ve blocked social media to make it through finals week, but I don’t even need to block the sites to stay away these days. No time!

Day 13: Taking time off from homework tonight–it’s been a long week.  I noticed this week how much my time off from social media has improved my communication with Nate.  Not that we communicated poorly before, but in a long distance relationship, sometimes the frequency of contact is a point of contention. Now, if I have a unique encounter, see a funny internet picture, or read a thought-provoking article, I send it to Nate instead of posting it online.  When it comes around to our evening phone call, we’ve got even more to talk about than usual.

Day 19:  One paper down, and then computer problems.  Had to write a paper in the car on the 16 hour drive from Kansas to Georgia.  While I wish I wasn’t finishing finals while I’m trying to visit my family, I feel very focused.  I haven’t been tempted to post photos online of our travels or my (adorable) nieces–but of course, I’ve been taking pictures!  I figure I’ll gather them all up and post them in a lump after the trip.  It’s kind of nice knowing I have that option and not feeling pressured to post immediately.

Day 23: Before bed, I usually check my social media sites and catch up on my phone games. These days…I’m chatting with Nate as I fall asleep. I love hearing his version of what we did that day and hearing him describe moments I didn’t notice. I’m loving all the time I’m getting with him this holiday break, and I think we’re both loving how much we’re connecting with each other, instead of social media.

Day 31: Guess what? On Day 24, Nate proposed! It was an absolute joy keeping the secret to ourselves until today. I almost didn’t want to post online about the engagement at all–it feels like suddenly, the whole world is invited into our relationship (which up until now, wasn’t even “Facebook official”).  But, I have a healthy respect for how easy it is to quickly disseminate information to far-away friends via social media, and as long as it’s used responsibly.  I loved reading the reactions of our friends who hadn’t heard the news over the phone, and I screen-shot the congratulatory wall-posts.  There are ways to make this temporary form of communication more permanent, and I’m going to take advantage of them.

This month made me feel free. I stopped experiencing the overwhelming pressure to share that I did early in the month, and I started feeling the excitement of getting to share my day with Nate.  Before the hiatus, our evening conversations would occasionally fall flat, and I couldn’t figure out why.  I now realize it was because I had already shared my day online, and I wasn’t interested in retelling things to him.  Now, he’s my go-to text message or phone call.  That distance doesn’t seem as long when we connect more often throughout the day.  I thought we had great communication before, but increasing the frequency of communication brought us even closer and taught us more about one another. I would absolutely encourage anyone (single or attached) to go on a social media break–and hold yourself to it! It’s challenging at first, but you might start to connect with your friends, family, or partner in a new, special way.

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Things I Take For Granted

The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it.

-Richard David Bach (Author, 1936 – )

A few posts back, I wrote about some of the benefits of long-distance relationships. You learn so much and come to appreciate one another in a wonderful way. But I would be remiss if I didn’t let myself have a pity party once in awhile, and as he prepared to leave tonight and drove away, I found myself desperate for him to stay and just be “normal” for a little bit longer.

One of the hardest things about living alone in a strange place is the lack of human contact. As I said in a previous post, when I walk in my apartment after a goodbye, I am suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of “too quiet, too empty, too lonely” (if you know me, this is rough going!). I can go several days at a time with minimal conversation, just because of the nature of my lifestyle. I know I can go out and about, but what I miss the most are the gentle moments of a hand on my face, laughter from the other room, the presence of someone I love next to me on the couch.

In light of all these fresh feelings, I thought I would compose a brief list of things one can enjoy when sharing time with a loved one–things that I especially miss when we are apart. I hope you will find your significant other and take a moment to appreciate the following things:

  • Calling out “I love you” from another room and hearing them call back.
  • Holding hands in the car.
  • Shutting the front door behind you and sitting down to relax instead of packing up their things.
  • Watching shows together and high-fiving at all the best jokes.
  • Having someone to help with cooking, the dishes, taking the trash out, etc…. 🙂
  • Getting a back rub and calming words when you are sleepless from insomnia.
  • Making weird noises to yourself and hearing another’s laugh.
  • Being cared for when you’re sick.
  • Date nights.
  • Slow dancing in the kitchen to no music.
  • Sharing desserts (this might be a downside, now that I think of it…)
  • A hug whenever you need it.
  • Always celebrating birthdays, Valentine’s Days, and anniversaries together.

This list could go on forever! I know that we are blessed to live in the 21st century, and we take advantage of all the communicative technology available to us as often as possible. But nothing will ever compare to having someone next to you when that’s all you’d need to feel a little better.

Thanks for putting up with my brief pity-party! What things do you appreciate most about your significant other?

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Setting the world on fire.

I’ve now been hard at work for two full weeks…only to have my schedule change with classes starting tomorrow!  I love the office that I work in, my supervisor is fabulous and fun, and with students on campus everything feels more energized (or maybe that’s just the sense of reckless confusion mixed with the sweet smell of stressed out academic advisors).  Also, supervising a student staff feels great.  They are so excited and motivated to do their jobs, and I couldn’t ask for more reliable students to work with.

I am nervous for classes to begin.  Sure, I can handle my job when that’s all I have to focus on, but graduate level courses add whole new challenges to my time-management capabilities.  At least I’ll have some work to fill the more lonesome times!

Being away from Mr. Photographer is manageable…we are both very dedicated to the well-being of each other and our relationship.  But saying goodbye to him after a visit…that’s where I struggle.  The most difficult moment is walking back into my apartment after he’s driven away.  Things are quiet, his things are gone, there are dishes in the sink, and I am suddenly very aware of how alone I am.  But my independent spirit hasn’t failed me yet, and having a fulfilling job and work that demands my attention certainly helps.

I did read a quotation yesterday that has been on my mind:

“Absence is to love as wind is to fire; It extinguishes the small and kindles the great.”
          —  Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

I find this to be beautiful, absolutely true, and much more powerful than the usual ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ business.  When you’re apart from someone you love, you don’t want to waste precious time sweating the small stuff.  Time together or conversing is precious.  The meaning of “being a couple” comes to be defined by the big picture stuff, foregoing petty arguments and trivial attitudes (extinguishing the small).

The beautiful thing (the great that has been kindled) from this challenge we have taken on is that when it’s over, we will be fully prepared to take on the world together.  If we can cope, communicate, trust, problem-solve, grow, and display appreciation for one another because of and in spite of distance, we are maturing together and gaining skills we’ll use to work through any obstacle life throws our way.  Hanging onto these thoughts and feelings is how I make it from visit to visit.

Speaking of visits…the next will be our one-year anniversary!  Thank you to everyone who has loved and supported us so far in this journey.  We’re just getting started and it just keeps getting better!

“Not all those who wander are lost.” -J. R. R. Tolkien

Time to break in this new blog, don’t you think?

This is probably the last post I’ll make from Nebraska. I say probably, because while I’d like to think visits to Mr. Photographer will include endless hours of dinner dates, cuddling on the couch, and him showering me with attention, the reality is…the guy likes his video games.  But as of Monday, my permanent location will be Lawrence, Kansas. If I don’t already have your address, you should make sure I get it soon, so I can send you a “look at my new address and computer skills!” card in the snail mail!

Up until recently, most of my stresses concerned things like: What if I can’t talk to Mr. Photographer for a whole week?!What if I get lost on campus?!; and What is the dress code in my office?!  Now, I’ve focused my energy on more realistic concerns, like the general notion that I will soon be a graduate student and assistant, navigating the water on the other side of the desk, challenging myself academically, and being expected to advise undergraduates on major academic and life matters…um, what?!

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

No quoting of Spider-Man. Be mature.

I wonder when I’ll truly feel like an adult.  Part of my issue is that I’ll always be a child at heart. The other part is that I remember my first year of undergrad like it’s a bad dream I had just last night.  Since I’ll be working almost exclusively with first-year students, that will probably lend an ear of empathy to the issues I know they will encounter.  But it also makes it harder for me to make the transition, because I don’t feel very removed from that time in my own life.  Concerns like these are ones that will only be dispelled with time, education, and practice. I’ll get there.

Right now, I have a move to worry about.  This will be the first time in my life I’ve lived on my own, paid monthly bills, and gone to work and class every day on a consistent schedule. Luckily, I thrive on habits, patterns, and schedules, so I suspect I will enjoy it for a while.  The new scenery will be a distraction from some of the feelings of loneliness I know I will encounter.  I know I have the right people in my life to help me through it, but being geographically distant from all of them adds a new level of nerves to the change.  Having Mr. Photographer staying for the first week (thank you, Doane bosses) will be wonderful. Having my dad and him go at the same time, leaving me “all on my own” would have been a bit much for me!

Above all, I know that this next step is something I NEED to do.  For my personal and professional growth, securing a future for my family, and learning everything I can (either a compulsion or a necessity, or both).  On top of that, I WANT to do it.  I am ready for new places and faces, and to begin to grow into a capable adult who is knowledgeable about and potentially influential in my field.  I am an innately passionate person, but I have never felt so passionate about a life choice.  I am certain I am meant to do this with my life, and through all the stress and worry, I am comforted by that thought. (I’ll refer to this post when I’m toiling over my textbooks on a Friday night.)

One minute I’m a bundle of nerves and can’t stop worrying about it, the next I’m enjoying my last few days in Nebraska, drinking wine with my second family and not even thinking about it.  Then I get in my car and I can’t see out the back window, and the process starts over! I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others in the past few years of undergrad, and I am certainly ready for something bigger and better.  But no matter how you feel about a place, there are things that make any change bittersweet.  I’ll take a mental snapshot for my scrapbook.  Life is waiting.

Hello world!

I am a recent Doane College grad, about to navigate the waters of graduate school in Higher Education Administration at the University of Kansas, while maintaining a long-distance relationship with the love of my life (my favorite photographer!).

Here, a place for me to blog about my favorite things,what I’m learning and doing, the joys and struggles of living on my own for the first time, surviving in between visits with my boyfriend, and making an apartment a home!

I’m holding on to my independent spirit, my faith, and my passion so I can focus on the things that are most important to me:

My new home—(Lawrence, Kansas)

Strong Hall, KU

My work—(Click for more info about my assistantship)

My studies—(M.S. in Higher Education Administration)

Nate

My relationship—(Loving a photographer is easy, being away from one is not)

Point of focus? My future.

-L