For several hours this week, Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram shut down. It was for several hours, not days, but the effect was fascinating. There wasn’t something I “had” to do on Facebook (is there ever?) but a boundary was set. It was a kind of default: “You can’t enter here.” “You can’t be connected/ updated/ or spend your precious little free time on these platforms. You have to do something else now.”
It was a mini-wake up call. And for those 5 minutes when I tried to get onto Facebook in the late evening hours (my preferred hours for social media time) I felt the childlike response “let me in!” rising in me, only to be quelled by a more grown-up, “it’s really ok, maybe in some cosmic way this boundary is for my own good.”
It made me think about how I use technology. How does it serve me and when does it have mastery over me? Micha Goodman and Sherry Turkle have written a lot about this idea. While we all need technology to live, work and function, what happens if we live without it, for a few hours, or a day, or even a year? Or at the very least, question it as the go-to wind down activity in the evenings.
Today is Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. There’s a beautiful idea that the Sefat Emet, a 19th century Hasidic master, shares about the new month. He says that every new month is an opportunity “to find newness and renewal …and this is the meaning (and challenge) of Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of each new month)…to find light even in a place of hiddenness…” (Parshat Bo).
Every Rosh Chodesh is like a mini-Rosh Hashanah, an opportunity to start again. To think about what serves us and what doesn’t, what enlivens us and what doesn’t, what can bring a small tikkun (or corrective) into our lives and our shared lives together and what doesn’t.
So let’s use this glitch in our social media platforms to wake us up and ask ourselves:
- In what ways does social media serve you in ways that are life affirming?
In what ways does social media not serve you anymore – what habits have you formed around them that you want to examine?
What is one step you want to take in the direction of holding onto what is life affirming and letting go of what leaves you numb?
While we haven’t begun to touch on the social media habits of our children, being a bit more reflective of our own behavior might be a good place to start.
Wishing you a light filled month ahead,