Social Media is (Still) Shaping Your Body – Podcast Episode #101

You might recall that last year I took a two-month social media break. Not a break from work, but rather a break from using social media for my work.

I did this for many reasons, but ultimately I took a break from the movements social media requires of me: Repetitive movements of the thumb and index finger, movements (or lack thereof) my head and neck, and—ugh—the narrow use of my eyes. Looking at something a handful of inches from my face all the time is really starting to hurt!

Taking a twomonth social media break felt risky, given I depend on social media for my work – or at least I thought I did until I realized that I worked for years before social media even existed.

Even though “break” implies a sort of vacation, I actually worked harder before and during the social media break. I had to come up with systems of connectionsystems that didn’t have the ease of social media. I found myself needing to go back to old processes, like emailing newsletters and live teaching. Processes I had used to build the foundation of my platform to begin with. As you can imagine, despite the extra work to grow a new process, the break felt very healing to my body. Which is why, as a modeler of movement, it was time for me to revisit this process again to see which stones I’d yet to turn over and look beneath.

Although I spend a very large percentage of my life occupying it, I have never actually “seen” the internet. So the idea that it is indeed a structure somewhere, harvesting electricity and hardware, requiring buildings and people in and around those buildings, had never really occurred to me.

Until one day it did. And P.S. I still have no idea what “the cloud” actually is. I do know it’s not as mass-less, ethereal, or located above us as the name implies. But I get that it sounds better than server farms, akawarehouses located all over the world, full of pluggedin electronics to store and cool all of your stuff that you want to have but don’t have the space for.”

Once I knew that my online stuff was taking up space, actual space,  I sat down to figure out all the limbs (or are they roots?) of my internet-tree.

Here’s my tree. Are you ready?

  • Four personal email accounts (each storing thousands of emails, each receiving dozens of spam emails daily). These email accounts also include one from college that was tied to hosting an old website which just seemed like a lot of work to change.
  • I’ve got five websites to distribute my work directly (that’s my actual website,  I’ve got a website that plays my virtual classes, a website to access the books and videos, one to book live events, and one to send newsletters to our community).
  • I’ve got websites that share my podcast (There’s four of them: Stitcher, Soundcloud, Libsyn, and Spotify).
  • I’ve got websites that make my e-books and audiobooks available. I use these social media websites (Youtube, Vimeo, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook).
  • I use a website that allows my staff and I to work together despite living far away from each other (thanks Slack!).
  • And did I mention the over 800 web pages that are currently storing my blog?

When I took my social media break last year, I continued to maintain the volume of my social media container. I didn’t change the space taken up by my social media, just how often I walked into these virtual spaces I’m constantly creating in the style of a Winchesters Mystery House. And I’m sorry, that last sentence is a reference for all you northern Californians. But seriously, you can google Winchester Mystery house so you can have a bit of context.

As already noted, I thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from my social media break for all the reasons you might imagine, but ultimately, being off social media just made me feel better. And it wasn’t only because my neck and thumbs being freed from swiping and tapping. My online presence is what keeps me online. When I’m online I’m not in the world – in the non-online parts of the world – the parts that I want to be moving me. It’s like having a huge house full of stuffed drawers and closets and rooms that collect dust. Leaving my fake giant, stuffed house is hard, and not only because there is so much you need to vacuum. It’s hard to leave because it is a vacuum. My online presence is huge and it’s sucking me in, and friends…it sucks.

This doesn’t mean I don’t see the value of an online presence, just that mine is not working well for me. This doesn’t mean I hate technology or computers or smartphones, but that, like all things, dosage and usage can only truly be determined by the user once they have a sense of just how much they’re currently consuming. I’ve been using my technology as many would a hyper stimulating, low-cost, low nutrient-dense smorgasbord that’s offered and fed to you, in bed, every single morning: too much and in a way that desensitizes me to all the signals that are saying “go out there and get this other thing you need”.
This year, instead of just a social media break, I’m reducing the volume of my internet territory. Instead of simply stepping away and shutting the door to the rooms of daily interactions and observations, instead of not looking at what I’ve created online, I’m going to whittle it down. For me, this is a more #stackyourlife version of a social media break.

I’m not only stepping away because it’s better care for myself; I’m also dismantling some of the wasteful parts of my system. Waste that’s ultimately encroaching on others – both humans and non-human earthlings – in ways I don’t fully understand. Also, the “step away from” is also a big step toward getting the nutrients I’ve been getting online in a more live format.

I’d like to acknowledge that in many cases being online or on social media can bring about immense positive changes, especially as it enables mass mobilization. My choices aren’t a judgment of anyone else; they’re just what I’ve decided I need to do. This year, instead of focusing on a social media break, I’m working on a social media prune.

People prune trees for a couple reasons: to shape the tree to produce a greater volume of fruit, or to prevent something like a limb falling (possibly on someone or a structure). And my reasons are similar. My direct way of using the internet has become overgrown. In my effort to meet everyone’s needs, I’ve created a shape that’s pushing back on me and others as well. It’s an injury in the making. As for fruits, if fruits are “likes” or “dollars” you could say that the shape is working, but we get to name our fruits and these are not the fruits I’m after. Or maybe we all want to be liked and to be able to make a living in our society. In this case, I’d say that for me, the correlation between online likes and the need to be accepted as I am can be done in a way that also meets some of my other needs – for community, less screen time, more nature… or whatever else you can think of.

Like walking through a large, empty house snapping off a bunch of lights you’ve left on on, I’m cutting down on my personal online wastefulness. Keep in mind this doesn’t automatically mean I have to reduce the use of what I have figured I require at this time, just the use of the stuff I don’t. I teach movement. And I know (because I’ve done it for at least a decade before doing it on line) that it can be done with my person. My teaching movement does not depend on my avatar.

I’m gonna read a list of what I’ve decided to prune this go-round. Like a keen arborist, I’ve walked around the tree, considered what shape I’m after, and thus chosen which branches I can gently remove.
This is what I’m finding easy to let go of:
  • The two old email addresses from 1998 and 2000. I mean, this is a lot of storage and spam and clutter. I see old email accounts as huge junk drawers stuffed with outdated address books and folders of emails from personal and business relationships long past. I lost both my dad and my best friend last year and even though these email accounts are full of love letters from them both, I’m closing them anyway. I read through a few of them but I realized that, while I love knowing that those letters are there, they aren’t required reading for accessing my memory or gratitude for our time together. So…DELETE.
  • An old website that I’ve been hosting. DELETE.
  • My Myspace account. DELETE. Just kidding. I don’t have a Myspace account. ANY MORE!
  • Twitter(s). So, I’m not a huge fan of Twitter and can’t see how it relates directly to anything I’m trying to get done in the world for my work. Twitter has been an easy way to read thoughts of people outside of groups that I spend lots of time in, thus they’ve been catalysts for personal growth and positive changes. However, everyone that I to stay connected with has alternate methods of sharing their points of view. And it’s also nice to just listen versus talk, so I can read Twitter without feeling the need to shape the conversation to what I think. I’m happy letting other people’s thoughts grow in my brain for a while. Also, I just realized that I have TWO Twitter accounts – one which hasn’t been used for a couple years. Nice! DELETE, DELETE.

This is what’s more challenging to let go of, but I am working on my exit strategy:

  • Facebook. There are 50 thousand people connected to my Facebook, which I could argue is beneficial, but I’m not convinced this platform is necessary. It’s just easy. Just as I do with the social media break, I’ll let Facebookers know where to find me (newsletter, podcast, Instagram), and that if they subscribe, I’ll find them. Meanwhile, I’ve created what I’d like to brand as “Live Facebook Live” events. And this is where I come and talk to groups of people in rooms of various shapes and sizes just as one would do for the people in the “virtual room” that is Facebook. This could go viral, mark my words. (And in case this doesn’t translate, this is me doing sarcasm. I just mean that I’m going to be able to do more live events instead of presenting things to people on Facebook.) If you are currently following me on Facebook and want to keep hearing from me after I exit, which I’m not sure when it’s going to be. It could be anytime between the end of this summer and more towards the end of this fall,  go sign up for my Vitamin Community Monthly newsletter and subscribe to my podcast right now. I will wait.
  • I’m also going to be downsizing my own website. This has taken a bit of creativity, but it’s sort of like, my website is this huge home that I was describing and I’ve realized that the life I’m seeking requires a tiny-house; a house with many similar features as my large home but using much less space. I want a Tiny Website, people! I need a website that’s figured out how to get a guest bed stored in the wall, and cupboards built under the kitchen table, and whatever the internet version is of a loft. With lots of windows. I mean, I don’t want a bed in my actual website, I just want all of this built into my tiny house website. It’s an analogy, people. “Keep up.” – Bruno Mars.

This is what’s not going right now:

As a mover and movement teacher and natural quantifier, really, I cannot escape how clearly I see that the environment I’m in most often is not my house or walking on flat and level surfaces or even that I’m in footwear. The environment I’m in most often is on a computer that’s online. My body cannot move online, and I’m not talking about my thumbs. My entire body and all the systems within it are in an online cast and these are the steps I’m taking towards actual stepping in the non-online world.

I am fine with social media as a tool – using social media to facilitate the work that I do. I’m less fine with social media being the work I’m doing. There are so many different ways to be online less. One of those ways is to have less online. I’m doing a social media prune so I don’t break.

And P.S. I am also taking a break from social media July and August. I won’t be on Instagram during that time, but I will be putting out my newsletter and my podcast so you can subscribe to these items to stay connected. (Below are some sample images of what I do to alert people to my break!)

There’s lots of information headed your way even while I’m “on break”!  If you’re new to the show and are wondering how or why one steps away from social media when they use it for work, listen to podcast episode 80 and check out the show notes for this and that show—there you’ll find steps and samples of graphics that help you communicate your intentions well with your online community!

P.P.S. I am excited to announce I am not taking a break from podcasting through the summer. Instead we’re going OLD SCHOOL ALIGNMENT MATTERS! And for those of you who’ve been requesting I record an Alignment Matters audiobook, the answer is still “No”! But, I will be reading and commenting on essays from that book, grouping them into, I hope, entertaining ways. Trying to create essentially a funny, light, perfect summer series (or sorry, Australia, winter) to weed, walk, or work along to.

That starts in July. I cannot wait!

I will be back next week with a regular show but until then, keep this in mind, friends: “Yep, I said it before and I’ll say it again. Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” 


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