Advice You’ve Probably Heard Elsewhere #1 | Disconnect. Write Longhand.

Unplug. Put pen to paper. FFS. I ask this of myself every day. I am more committed than ever to use social media sparingly in order to create more and consume less. Or at the least, balance things out a bit more.

A few weeks ago, I decided to follow through with my intention to unplug and only log on to social media once a week. One day a week is more than enough for me to keep people filled in on podcast and coalition projects. Otherwise I lose track of myself and time itself.

To start, I deleted my email and all social media apps from my phone. And with pesky digital distractions out of reach, I immediately anticipated every day moving forward to yield thousand-word writing days and offer transcendence on tap. But since then, I have spent a majority of my time mostly refreshing the weather app on my phone, and staring at the wall instead of being productive. It’s not an ideal start, of course, but as I take back the wheel of my attention span, my mind is bound to throw a fit before adjusting.

I miss the dopamine hits, the instant connection, the rush of mindless data. I do. It’s taken a lot of effort to slow down my desire for information intake. I recoil against lack of stimulus and even get a little testy sometimes. I resist peace though it stares me in the face, day after day. In certain moments of stillness, however, I become lucid and see my choice clearly: To give in to silence. To the clarity of thought. To the slow crawl of life itself. To accept this slowness, is to settle into a once-familiar default.

I would write short stories in middle school. In my broken English and scant knowledge of craft, I imagined more than I borrowed. In the very late 90s in Wyoming, upon the millennium’s end, I found myself perfectly at ease with disconnect. It suited me. The stories flowed freely back then. I relished the late hours on a school night, severed from the world but not from myself, consumed by the task of putting pen to paper.

It takes time, patience, and quiet to summon yourself out of yourself. Outside stimulus distorts the inner voice, and some of us more than others, need space to burrow into the soil of our makeup to dig up perspective like groundwater.

Yes, it’s disorienting to feel like I am missing out on the latest writing community gossip, or the photos my friends are posting on Instagram. Ultimately, this once-a-week digital check-in is still right for me. I’m too distracted, too aloof to give in completely to connectivity tools designed to siphon time from users. Time is all we have, and it is a currency we can use however we see fit. No shade to those of you out there committing to the social media grind 100%. I salute you, but it’s not for me. Even as I struggle with this habit change of mine, it feels more like a detox than some inhumane digital self-exile.

For now, I double down on this pursuit for quiet and distance in this frenetic world. I will continue to stay off social media six days a week, limit my turn at the digital fire hose, and hang out with my wife and son. Or turn to the sweet smell of an old book. Or check in with family/friends offline. Or take in the calming crinkle of loose-leaf paper. Or simply pausing to stare at the ink smears on my palm when I lay my hand over freshly penned words.

7th grade Jaime would be proud.

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