I personally stopped posting on social media several months ago. Then I deleted Facebook from my phone. I also opened a new email account just for friends a while back, sending everything else to a locked box. I revived our dial-up phone, the one that takes about 30 seconds to dial nine numbers, as a reminder of what it means to value patience.
Since those changes, I’ve met several wonderful neighbors while walking our incredibly wise dog, enjoyed Nature in ways I haven’t in years, and have found time to enjoy new hobbies that have nothing to do with technology.
Since those changes, I’ve found time.
The opinions of others? Our dog is so much more enjoyable.
Yes, I know, everyone has all sorts of reasons why they post pictures of themselves, their children, their pets, a news article, or whatever. I did too – it let me stay informed, stay connected, see pretty pictures. But when I kept asking myself a few months ago why I was posting those kinds of things, I didn’t like the honest answer – please see me and all the cool things I do. Won’t you please like? Please?
The technology companies have designed social media and the phones we have in our pockets to be addictive. Worse, they have designed the interactions we have with each other to encourage contentiousness and jealousy. If it bleeds, it leads… i.e. creates more clicks, makes more money, for them.
Facebook, and other social media sites, have contributed to the polarization the world faces today. They have caused us to lose friends, to lose weird Uncle Al who used to be tolerably annoying, but is now advocating racism. They tapped into our most basic instincts (the toxic desire for validation and drama), leveraged our shadow selves, and turned the results into lots, and lots of money, for them. In the wake, leaving us more lonely.
I’m no longer interested in facilitating the destruction of boredom-bred creativity, elevating external validation, and fostering the loss of self. Detox will take a bit more time, but I’m ready and willing.
As the director of an environmental non-profit, it seems a path that puts distance between us and social media is a ridiculous decision. On the other hand, an environmental non-profit that is dedicated to helping reconnect us all to Nature and the wisdom it can offer, the decision makes perfect sense. Therefore, as of today, the California Chaparral Institute will not longer participate in social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook), and Twitter.
After checking in this morning and reading comments to this post on our Facebook page, it is my personal hope that those who jumped immediately to judgment, to emote, to construct an argument about why what I wrote was wrong, to reflect for a moment.
Would you have said the same thing had we been sitting across from each other at a coffee shop, if you had assumed positive intent?
The tendency to immediately dismiss, judge, or ridicule is now a cultural staple that has been, in part, embedded into our minds by our interactions via social media. That was one of the basic observations that I mentioned in my post.
The good thing is that our minds are extremely flexible. We can retrain them.
While others certainly impact our lives, we have the power to decide how to react to those impacts. Instead of getting angry and allowing another to control how we feel, I’ve found it especially helpful to ask, “What emotional pattern within me is causing me to react in the way I am?”
The answer is usually uncomfortable, but necessary to consider.
Of course, my immediate reaction focuses on what a jerk the other person is, defending my opinion as the right one. The thing is, our opinions are reflections of our own sense of reality that exists no where else other than within our own minds – no where else.
After fighting for Nature the past 15 years, I have found that anger can certainly motivate. Anyone who has witnessed our commitment here in responding to detractors as civil as we can knows this. But on the cusp of a policy implementation that will destroy a quarter million acres of California native habitat per year (Cal Fire’s habitat clearance program), I have come to realize a fundamental truth – anger only leads to defeat, resignation, burn out, or worse.
The only way to cure a disease is not by only addressing the symptoms (anger, depression, environmentally destructive behaviors, the climate crisis), but by also addressing the underlying cause – failure to reconcile our fragile personas with our true, inner spirits. Until we do, we will continue to not only lose wildlands, but our souls.
I believe Nature can provide the safe space to begin this process of addressing our inner conflicts. Hence, my personal decision to neuter the forces designed to serve our personas at the cost of preventing the discovery of our true selves.
It is impossible to be callus, to ridicule, to destroy the natural environment when one truly embraces the idea that we are all struggling to achieve the same thing – embracing life as is “can” be, rather than what it “should” be.