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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The hardest part of the journey is taking the first step.

Happy New Year!

Wow. My first semester of grad school brought with it a ton of crazy adventures.  And by crazy, I mean exciting, frustrating, challenging, emotional, and educational…not the same kind of crazy you might be thinking.  I didn’t post very much, mostly because I didn’t have the energy and I was focusing so much attention on getting the most out of my job and searching for a new one for next year.

I just can’t hold it in: I have to announce that starting in August, I’ll be working at Baker University as an Area Coordinator/Graduate Assistant for Student Activities & Community Service!  Baker is a small, liberal arts school about 15 minutes south of KU. I am SO EXCITED about this opportunity.  Making the move to a small school now is going to be a great fit, and really get me the experiences I need to apply to similar institutions for after graduation.  That is such a strange thought…a year from now I’ll be looking into post-graduation jobs.  I know that Baker is the right place for me at this point in my career and schooling.  For now, I’ll keep throwing my energy into making the last semester of our freshman scholar program the best it can be, while looking forward to what’s to come.

I’m also in the process of applying for summer internships. No official news yet, but fingers crossed!

Now that (some of) my ducks are in a row as far as work is concerned, I’ve really decided to make 2013 a year to work on myself. This is the last full calendar year I’ll have being a student, and even when I go back for my PhD I’ll be working full time and balancing family. So I figure before I “grow up” once and for all and focus more energy on my loved ones, I’m going to try really hard to get myself in good mental, physical, and spiritual health.  Really, “working on myself” is a job that should never be finished, because I know I’ll be a different person each new day until my last. But I’m blessed to have the time, energy, and resources at this point in my life to make it my number one priority, and that’s my goal.

I talked about “mindfulness” in my holiday post.  That’s part one of my journey.  Part two of my journey is physical health.  I have joined myfitnesspal.com and started logging my meals and snacks (if you’re on there, add me! Username: lauraejacob). It’s amazing how little I knew before I started about the nutritional content (or lack thereof) of what I put in my body.  The site also includes a feature where you can input your exercise for the day, and it adjusts your calories so you can still lose weight, but fuel your body enough to work out.  Using the university rec center (I pay for it in my student fees, why wasn’t I using it before?) and my trusty Biggest Loser DVDs at home, I have been working out at least 5 days a week.  I have a great support system of fellow grad students and friends, and we all help to hold each other accountable.

It’s a choice to stay unhealthy, and it’s a choice to be healthy. Why wouldn’t I make the choice that has benefits for me?  When life is feeling out of control, the one thing I have complete control over is my health.  Along the lines of being mindful, I hope that proclaiming my goals for the world to hear is going to hold me more accountable.  I have a lot of good reasons to be healthy, and here are some of them:

  1. I’m young. I am energetic. But I don’t have a body that allows me to express that. I want to have a family and not only be able to keep up with my kids, but instill in them the values of health and fitness.  I can’t do that if I don’t make it a priority myself! Now is the best time to start, because I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me!  If I get healthy now, I might have even more years ahead of me.  My key word has been: lifestyle.  This is not a diet, phase, health kick, or resolution.  It’s a commitment to a lifestyle that I will maintain for life.
  2. Okay, call it superficial, but it’s motivation: I want to wear all of the cutest clothes!  For me, it’s all about confidence.  It’s rough waking up each morning and hating what I see in the mirror. Nothing seems to fit right, and I can’t shop online and just assume that I will fit into the clothes I like. If I can continue to reach the goals I set for myself through the end of this year: shopping spree for a new, size-appropriate wardrobe!
  3. 2013 is going to be a big year. Starting my second year of grad school, a new job, and–fingers crossed–getting engaged to the love of my life.  When I show my engagement (and later, wedding) pictures off 20, 30, 60 years from now, I want to look like the best version of myself. I want to be proud of how I look and the journey I started this year.  No more bad photos!
  4. Day to day health.  People in healthier bodies, with healthier habits, get sick less. Already, I’ve experienced some of the health benefits of working out and eating right: better sleep, a quicker recovery time from that cold I thought I was getting, not getting as winded walking up the massive hill upon which KU sits.  I feel like an ex-smoker…the health benefits will only keep coming, if I just work for them!

So there you have it.  Some of my goals for my journey!  Along with the many other things I’m working on this year, I’ll keep you updated on my progress.  Don’t be afraid to ream me out if I say I’m not going to the gym, or if I try and justify eating something unhealthy! I can take it. 🙂

Tell me: what are you going to do this year to put yourself first? Do you have something that’s motivating you to get healthy?  Remember: the hardest part of the journey is taking the first step.

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Reflecting and Renewing

Happy Holidays!  

After completing a November of appreciative “thankfuls” (once-a-day Facebook statuses detailing something you are thankful for that day), it seems December is the month for reflecting and refreshing, as we gauge how the year has gone and look forward to a new one.  This is certainly the case for me.  It’s been a big year!

This semester, I lost track for a short while.  Within one month of being in Kansas (still adjusting to the new apartment and city), I learned that two of my supervisors were leaving for new positions, and the program with which I hold my assistantship is ending in May 2013.  Cue the downward spiral and sad trombone sound effect.  For someone who invests a lot of energy in constant improvement, the news presented a unique challenge: once an event was over, there was no reason to reflect on what we could do better next year. I found myself feeling depressed and pointless some days.

Sometime during the semester, in the throes of challenging coursework, a centipede-ridden apartment, long-distance struggles, and pinching pennies for groceries, I decided that I needed to make the most of the disruption.  On one hand, I could seek out a new position that included as many elements of my current one as possible, thereby ensuring I had a full two-year experience of what I had signed on for.  But that wouldn’t really be my style.  So I started pursuing opportunities that are way out of my comfort zone, in the hope that cramming as much learning and growing into my graduate school experience as possible will make me a well-rounded practitioner.  In January, I will apply to new offices and ideally, one of them will offer me a position and I will finally have next year’s plans nailed down.  Who knows what I’ll end up doing?

But this whole semester has been a waiting game–and as a planner, I have struggled.  Some nights I go to sleep praying that just one thing could finally go the way it’s supposed to, finally work out the way it does in my head.  Looking around, it seems like everyone else’s lives are stable–they are keeping their jobs, their programs still exist, their bosses aren’t going anywhere.  But so much of my character has been formed by the challenges I’ve faced, so I’m not sure why graduate school would be any different.  I have my ups and downs, but generally, I’m thankful I wake up each day a stronger person because of what I faced yesterday.

At the NASPA Region IV-W conference in South Dakota this year, I attended a session all about “mindfulness” in student affairs practice.  This field is full of such dedicated people that we often put our students before ourselves.  The session emphasized that being “mindful” (constantly present and engaged in our surroundings) can help us to focus on our own health and well-being, making us better practitioners.

January is a big month: hearing back from assistantships and internships, applying for scholarships, making permanent plans for next year.  Regardless of how it all works out, I know I’ll breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I finally have some kind of plan.  Then, I’ll make it my goal for the new year to be more mindful: relaxing and engaging in each day in a new way, trusting that in the process the future will work out.  I promise to share all my news with you here.  Until then, I’ll be spending my time reflecting on where I’ve been this year, where I want to go, and how its all helped me grow as a person.

How about you? How have you grown in 2012?  What will you do to be more mindful in 2013?

Peace, joy, blessings, and love this wonderful season-

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