So Much Noise

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Are you ready to put guardrails on your consumption?

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Everywhere we turn, there’s noise. Some of it out of our control, but much of it is related to our media consumption.

Yes, I know. My house is noisy. We have low ceilings, tile floors, and seven people living here. Bryan and I go to bed with one of us speaking the words, “Alexa, play White Noise for Sleeping for 8 hours.”

Currently, I’m in my bedroom tapping on my laptop to the sounds of a gardener’s leaf blower and children on break clamoring in the distance.

But this isn’t the noise I’m talking about.

Social media keeps getting louder, and it’s giving me a headache. I realize that is ironic since much of my work is on social, but it needs to be said.

The world is getting too loud.

I tried Substack for awhile where I originally thought things would be distraction-free, but there’s noise there, too. I know how the internet works, really, but it continues to surprise me feeding me information I wasn’t ever looking for.

No matter what platform you use, unless it’s a dedicated blog, you’re going to be fed extra information you weren’t in the market for. Or didn’t think you were.

unmanned lifeguard tower on empty beach.

We need quiet.

We need to be alone with our thoughts. And the world won’t let us.

Not without a fight anyway. Last fall, I unplugged from Instagram for a full three days. I hadn’t done that in years, if ever.

It turned into a very quiet weekend, and I learned something profound.

Social media was giving me a false sense of connection.

Realizing that was a game-changer. I recognized that as a massive introvert, I don’t keep a huge circle of friends and my social life is pretty quiet. I like it that way.

But, Instagram had been a crutch in many ways to my being social in real life. Again, ironic that it’s called “social media”.

I made two big changes.

Stephanie and jessica near a plant.

I reached out to friends.

I specifically reached out to my real life friends on a more regular basis and even reconnected with those I hadn’t been in touch with for years.

My social circle is still not huge, but I have cultivated more intimacy with important women in my life over these last six months. They don’t know each other, and I know them from different avenues of life. And that is really cool.

And yes, I met two of them originally via blogging! Ha! But, we have met in real life; they are real people; they have become friends.

This regular contact has provided what I didn’t know I needed.

  • a respite from the noise
  • an ear to listen and give me personalized feedback
  • someone to pray for and someone to pray for me
  • real life connection that no computer can replace.
iPhone in green case on black table.

I unplugged.

My Great Unplugging lasted far longer than I thought it would. And it did more good than I expected.

From February to May I went cold turkey, completely off Facebook and Instagram as well as limited phone usage and no binge-watching TV.

It was wild to see how addicted I had become to my phone. Seriously. I had a problem.

Detaching from my phone and some of the things that gave me massive FOMO was really good. More on that soon.

Again, a respite from the noise, but more importantly, a chance to hear my own thoughts. To hear God’s thoughts. To form thoughts based on me and Him and not on what the world — or some influencer — was saying.

For the most part I’ve stayed off Facebook and only this week ventured back to Instagram stories. I’m not sure what I want to do there honestly. It’s all too easy to get addicted to my phone again.

view of empty train track with blue sky and a hotel in the distance.

Putting Up Guardrails

My guess is that you, too, are overcome by some of the noise. So, like the inbox, we need to assert ourselves.

Unlike the hundreds of posts out there on the internet that tell you 50 things to help you unplug, I’m not going to do that. We don’t needs rules as much as we need guardrails.

Only YOU — and the people close to you — can decide what those should be.

I will offer a couple suggestions, though.

Check your screen time usage.

You can do this pretty easily on iOS. I don’t know about Android. Just go to the settings and scroll down until you see Screen Time > See All App & Website Activity.

screen usage in screenshot.

You will have to do this for every device you use. On my iPad, I clocked 5 hours in Goodnotes (which is my planning and journaling app), but nothing else of significance.

As you can see, back in January Instagram sang that siren song for me that I needed and wanted to adjust going forward. So, we’ll use this as an example for “guardrails”.

Possible options to consider

If we are to curb the noise that we’re encountering, we can do one or more of the following:

  • delete the app and go cold turkey – this can definitely be helpful in breaking bad patterns.
  • curate the feed more carefully – IG is gonna show you what it wants, unfortunately, as will every other app, but we can do what we can to unfollow the accounts that aren’t bringing us value. I deleted 20 accounts from my feed. You can also mute them which I have also done. I’m not sure what other platforms do, but definitely dig into the one that sucks you in and see what you can do to reduce the temptation to scroll endlessly.
  • set time limits – Both iphone and Insta provide ways to set time limits on the app. I have tried these in the past, but I would override them on a whim. Going cold turkey was really helpful.
  • delete the app and load it back on certain days – One of my favorite Insta accounts, the LA Minimalist, who has been largely absent for months, is fantastic at keeping healthy boundaries. When she was active on IG, she only posted on Tuesday, Thursdays, and Sundays. She just deleted the app on the other days.
two people walking on a path in the countryside.

Get more interested in real life.

This is probably the best recipe for us all. Obviously, my job relies on the internet, so I selfishly don’t want you to become a Luddite, but I know that none of us needs 24/7 online options.

Smarter people than me have done more research and pleaded the case for unplugging.

But, in general, I think we need to get so interested in our real lives that we don’t need to zone out online.

  • May we not need distractions from our real lives.
  • May they be so interesting and compelling that they hold our focus more than our phones.
  • May we have control of our thoughts, minds, phones in 2024 and beyond.

More Thoughts on How We Live Our Daze

What works for you?

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  1. Agree to all of this. I need a reset. The beginning of summer when I go on summer break is a great time for me to do this.

  2. One hundred percent agree.
    I’m a middle school teacher and I spend most of my day encouraging my students to put away their devices. Now that it’s summer, I find myself wasting time on mine. It is a struggle!