Back in May I spent a solid three weeks in the US, connecting with old friends and getting some much-needed fresh air in my lungs. It had been a while and as such, I packed my adventure full to the brim with as many special moments as possible. It is by far my favourite way to travel; visiting friends or family in a destination that’s exciting to me. I get the comforts of home in a foreign place, a familiar face to contemplate life with and the inside knowledge of the best places to, well, do as the locals do.

I encountered a strange situation on this trip though; one that was entirely new to me and has stuck with me ever since. It was the act of sharing photos on Instagram without giving away the exact location. Because, who was I to disclose to the world a secret spot that I was fortunate enough to have been given the key to? Who was I to shatter the pristine and silent wilderness that had been entrusted to me by those who enjoy it as their backyard?

We live in a strange age where we can be connected to each other via social media every second of every day, if we want to be. With that comes great power, but also great responsibility. Primarily for our own sanity, of course, but also when it comes to maintaining that which is sacred.

Travel is a luxury that not all of us can afford, but there is certainly a growing number indulging in jaunts across the globe for work or pleasure. It’s one of life’s most wonderful gifts; experiencing new cultures and everything that delights the senses as a result of that. Travel is something that enriches our lives and makes us better people. It teaches us about others, helps to eradicate discrimination and gets us in touch with the natural world.

But as more of us travel and wish to excitedly share our adventures, there is a growing fear amongst some (now including myself) that those sacred spaces that hold enormous appeal are becoming fewer and fewer. Pristine wilderness untouched by the footprints, toilet paper and granola wrappers of man slipping through our fingers.

Are Instagram and Facebook to blame, I wonder? With each of us seemingly trying to outdo one another with the most beautiful and inspiring photographs of what are now iconic ‘wanderlust musts’ around the globe, are we propelling ourselves directly into that which will destroy the very thing we hold dear? I see photograph after photograph of Antelope Canyon and Joshua Tree and I realise that the chances of me getting to go to those places without a single tourist in sight are almost nonexistent. And that’s incredibly disheartening.

If you’re like me, you travel to get away from all the hustle and bustle; away from all the connectivity to instead gain perspective on what truly matters. My favourite moments in the world; the ones I hold closest to my heart and help me settle to sleep are those are those where I am truly immersed in the wilderness. There’s nothing but me and a couple friends and real, untouched terrain. With a growing population and many of those in power giving, well, not a flying fuck, about preserving these spaces, it then becomes, surely, my responsibility to protect them?

So adventure and share photographs, I did, but the exact location of some of these has remained inside knowledge. Is it wrong of me to think that the best spots in the world should be reserved for locals and those who happen to find them of their own accord? No, I genuinely believe not. It’s so easy to scour Google for the best places to eat, mountains to climb and beaches to surf, but can you really call it an adventure if a search online from your couch was all it took to get there? I hardly think so.

It’s only natural to want to sing and dance and shout about the most phenomenal places in the world. It’s why there are a thousand blogs and books written about the topic and a thousand more Instagram pages dedicated to it. But would it maybe serve us better to hold off a little on the exact coordinates? In this age of know it all, leave just a little something to the imagination? Leave a little mystery? After all, it might just make us talk to each other a little bit more and adventure a little further if it took more effort to get there.

I don’t ignore the fact that shining a big, bright light and lots of publicity on certain places has indeed helped them gain protected status. And that’s great and one of the pros of social media acting a vessel for the coming together of conservation enthusiasts. But travel all for the sake of getting the shot so you can show others just how great of a time you’re having? That just doesn’t cut it, in my eyes. You can’t really say you’ve been somewhere if you haven’t made that emotional connection with the place. I don’t say that to sound pretentious, believe me. I say that because I bet your bottom dollar that the next time you really go somewhere and experience the stillness and serenity of a land untouched by tourism, you’ll think of this. You’ll recall this idea of preserving sacred spaces a little part of you will experience the sensation that you don’t want the world to know about it. It’s the realisation that you don’t want to risk anything destroying it. And that’s okay. You go ahead and keep it sacred. I encourage you to do so. And I only hope that one day I discover it on my own so I can understand just how special it is and exactly how it made you smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve come to realise something that’s really thrown me. And if you know me well, you’ll know that I live for this kind of stuff. I’m game for anything that turns my thinking on its head and forces me to reassess my perspective and where I stand. Because after all, what is life if not one big, long, lesson? Some parts more comfortable than others.

Let’s backtrack for a minute to last September when this all started. I took a month off social media and boy, was that a good call. You can read about it here, if you like. It allowed me to gain some all important perspective on why it was causing me so much stress; why I was oscillating between trying to convince myself I could handle it one minute and then wanting to run in the other direction the next. The lesson learned was simple, really. I was struggling because I’m a human. An imperfect, emotional human. And last I checked, everyone else using social media is human too (alien conspiracy theories aside), which must mean that the things I was feeling were being felt by everyone else too. More on that later.

The entire point of life is to experience joy and make connections. No, not the superficial kind consisting of follows and likes, but the kind where communication takes the form of body language and expression. The kind where ideas are encouraged and something beautiful churned out because two heads are better than one. Meaningful relationships where we see the bad alongside the good in a person and accept it; supporting them and understanding why they are who they are by really seeing them through walking a mile in his or her shoes.

But we’ve walked a dangerously sharp knife edge as we’ve let social media rule our lives in recent years, without really understanding that it cannot ever be a substitute for genuine, human interaction. It isn’t a supplement; It’s just another way that we can spend our time.

As soon as I realised this, I was freed. It was really that simple. I had wriggled free of its tight grip that had suffocated me for so long. That, and realising that it was a tool that I could use to start conversations and implement social change; a way of sharing my lifestyle and beliefs in the hope that I could encourage others to make different choices; choices that I believed were kinder to our environment. But don’t get me wrong; I don’t know all the answers and I openly welcome a discussion around anything that I post about. It’s how I learn. I’m self-assured, but at the same time I understand that I don’t know all the solutions and sometimes I am wrong.

When I came back from my month off social media last year, I also made a pretty huge life choice; I came off hormonal birth control that I had been taking for near on a decade. That’s a whole other topic (that you can read about here), but one that also fits into the puzzle. It allowed me to get to know my true self for the first time in years. Kind of a big deal. And in the process of transitioning from numb human to sprightly self, I realised that something else had been bumming me out as I’d been trying to “do” social media; I wasn’t really following those who inspired me. So, I switched my focus from brands and individuals who didn’t seem to have values that aligned with my own and I tell ya, it made all the difference.

These days, I relish the fact that I’ve been able to cultivate some really special connections with actual humans who are passionate about the same things that I am interested in. We encourage each other, educate each other and shine as bright little beacons in a world that often feels very dark and cold. It’s a world that feels like it can break you and beat you down and, well, win. And that’s why social media isn’t the problem. It’s the scapegoat.

The various avenues of social media have never been the cause of our anxiety, misery and loneliness as I’ve seen them portrayed to be and as I, too, believed. They’ve never been deleterious to our health. What we have been and continue to struggle with is our own shadows; the work that we need to put in for ourselves to be better, to heal and to succeed. We are a broken people raised by parents who never knew any better and brought up in an education system that does us no good. We are square pegs meticulously forced into round holes and we’re deeply unhappy because we have this yearning to be more creative than society is set up for us to live and thrive in.

We’re expected to be happy and have our shit together at all times. Because God forbid we openly admit that we’re not doing so great. God forbid that we ask for the world to cut us some slack and give us some breathing room. There’s money to be made and mouths to stay locked and emotions never allowed to see the light of day.

Only, time’s up, isn’t it?

Ah, yes. We’re at tipping point. In all aspects, from all angles, a paradigm long overdue a shift in a different direction. Because the world will keep on turning and technology keep on churning and there’s only one way to keep up: to wake up.

I look at social media now and I see it for what it is: a marvelous, beautiful, expansive tool that can be used to change the world for better. And I’m already seeing it: exponential growth in encouragement and cultivation of ideas and momentum continues to build each day. If you’re struggling, know that you too can learn to see things from a more positive place, but only if you put the work in first. We need to stop blaming social media for all of our problems and instead look in the mirror. All that social media does is highlight our shadows; those parts within us that need care and attention. It’s hard work and perfectly natural to want to turn the other way rather than put the effort in, but use those uncomfortable truths as focal points for where change needs to be made within yourself. I cannot encourage you enough. Only when you’re all right shining a light on yourself because you’re proud of who you are and truly want to encourage others to be their best selves and the world a better place will you feel comfortable using social media. 

Take the time off, do the work and come back stronger. You can change the world, but first you have to change yourself.

perspective

I’m back! After the better part of a month away from Sphynx, I’ve returned with some much needed perspective.

My last post – looking at it retrospectively now – was a haunting way to leave the blog. I had essentially reached a point in the centre of a vacuum and simply needed to get myself out.

The problems all stemmed from trying to navigate cyberspace and feeling that I was using social media in a way that didn’t feel good. That term actually began to spark a low concentration of vomit, gurgling just below the surface. That’s how sick I was of talking about it. But that’s only because I resisted it. Something about it made me visualise an army that I was trying to fend off all by myself. Something about it felt oh so invasive and destructive and warrented my tactics of protection.

All I needed was a break. It’s been a break to gain perspective, as I say. It’s been a time to go about life in the way that feels best to me – most natural to me.

A most unfortunate side effect of using social media – at least to me – is the pressure placed on oneself to be the very best at whatever it is one is trying to achieve. It’s the constant comparisons we draw and the subsequent feeling of lack. At the touch of a button we can see into the lives (albeit the strategically captured lives) of people all around the world, seemingly living the dream in a way that we may not feel we are. This of course sparks feelings of sadness, moments of questioning self-worth and worst of all, a total lack of appreciation for what’s right in front of us. For me, it took looking at real life – not that behind a screen – to bask in the feeling of good fortune.

Make your life small again and your focus is then limited. You’re not seeing millions of peoples’ lives, all around the globe. You’re only seeing your own and the lives of the people you know in your physical existence. It’s a bit like choice: if it’s chocolate or vanilla, chances are you’ll make an instant decision. If there are 100 flavours to choose from, you’ll spend minutes agonising over which to select. Less background noise can make us focus on what’s real and what our choices are in the here and now. Overwhelming possibility doesn’t always feel good as it can emphasise how far away we are from what we might want. If we don’t have that dangled in front of us, our focus is brought back to reality.

Perspective. It’s so important to pause and get it back again. However you need to do it, make sure you make that move. It’s for your own success.


Photo via Unsplash

 

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Smartphone-addiction

I was late to the game with every social media platform. Except maybe for Xanga, back in the day. Who remembers that one? I got a smartphone after all of my friends, I still don’t really understand Tumblr and there’s something that feels inherently cringey about trying to promote myself across the platforms as a ‘brand’ of sorts.

These days, everybody is a brand. Everybody a CEO of their own life. We all show our best side. We tailor our pages to give our viewers, followers or friends a specific kind of perception of us. We display ourselves as we would like to be perceived. Is there anything inherently wrong with that? I mean, I guess not. You can be who you want to be, so long as you aren’t hurting others or yourself. Social bashing is lame, of course. Cyber-bullying is cruel. But perhaps what’s worse is the way that we’re corrupting ourselves through our use of them. Or maybe I should say misuse.

Below are the main ways I’ve felt social media to be detrimental to my own life. The platforms themselves are not toxic, but my nature as a human being is vulnerable to exploitation.

Addictive Perusal

This is perhaps the worst of them all. Having a smart-phone on me at all times and therefore access to the whole world at my fingertips constantly creates the perfect environment for a kind of passive, mindless scrolling that so many of us indulge in. If I’ve got time to kill, whilst of course my best intention would be to read or write or call a friend or people-watch, I find myself more often than not engaging in zombie mode. By this I mean checking all the platforms, even if I’ve just checked them moments prior as though not doing so will result in FOMO.

It’s utterly ridiculous. There’s so much irrelevant crap that circulates on all of these things for one, but secondly the good stuff isn’t going anywhere. So why the constant need to check? I put it down to a bad habit. It’s ‘dog chewing on furniture’ syndrome, as a good friend of mind puts it. The mind craves to be engaged, fed food for thought. The bad habit of constantly checking feeds that don’t really satisfy you result in nothing but a dark, vicious cycle of anxiety. It’s anxious tapping and it only gets worse the more you do it.

Skewing your Creativity

Each of us creative types has something unique to offer. But it’s so easy to cast your eye on the page of somebody who has massive interest and following to see that it’s really just like middle school all over again: certain things are popular, other things not so much. If the narcissist in us all wants to be adored, we can change ourselves to fit the bill. But what is that achieving? You’re then not being authentic.

With every gal a wanderlusting, yoga-obsessed, beach body, taking pictures of her legs as she lounges by the pool-side, taking staged photographs of her and her friends sipping out of coconuts, capturing a fully made-up face whilst lying in bed with the caption ‘woke up like this’, it’s no wonder that we all feel like the only way to get your name and material out there is to change what you’re all about all for the sake of being #popular.

I have found Instagram to be the worst for this. When I first started using the platform, I didn’t know that hashtags were a thing. I didn’t notice that successful pages had a similar theme. I simply captured my life and posted it as an easy-to-share album. A year or so later I noticed that it was popular to take pictures of your coffee, your face with a scrunched up ‘look how cute I am, even though I’m pulling a silly face’ expression, yoga poses and the sunset. Slowly these things have infiltrated my mind and I find myself taking pictures of them too. This makes me vomit slightly as I upload. But I do it anyway.

Do I actually enjoy capturing these things? Sometimes. Do they ignite the hot-spot of my brain that is inspired? No, of course they bloody don’t. So why am I doing it? Why I am clogging MY SPACE with stuff that isn’t really ME? Stuff that isn’t what I’m trying to create?

Fear of Speaking your Truth

This runs along the same thread as the aforementioned point. With the pressure to put forth your very best side, it’s easy to get into the habit of withholding. The other extreme is being that person (and we all know one) who uses Facebook to moan about their friendship issues with vague, attention-seeking comments. Don’t be that person either. But at the same time, don’t be somebody who withholds their truth because you’re worried about what the masses will think of you.

Whether it’s an interest, topic, creative expression or whatever else, if it feels innately you and you wish to share it with the world, don’t give a flying fuck what anyone else thinks and do it! There’s always at least a handful of people that it resonates with. And that – my friends – is how connection and thus friendship is made.

The Bedside Takeover

It’s like I blinked my eyes and became one of those God-awful people I swore I’d never be. Most nights, the last thing I do before I go to sleep is check my social media. And the first thing I do when I wake up? Lurch for my phone and repeat the process. This is an utterly shameful habit and I hate that I do it. Pre-smartphone, I would wake up with a regular alarm clock and then start my day with a coffee and the radio, perhaps doing some yoga before going anywhere near my computer. I’m a morning person so I’d still start up my laptop pretty early in the morning, but by the point I did I felt ready. I felt prepared.

Now, I am doing things back to front. I’m doing all the checking of stuff that I’m really not gaining anything from and then stumbling into the kitchen to make tea or coffee.

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I’m honestly ashamed to admit all of this. I feel embarassed that I’ve become one of these people and I also know that it has to stop. Writing will always come first for me – without a doubt – but I’m done trying to be the well-rounded social go-getter because it just isn’t me. I find it a burden, to tell the truth. And the process does not make me feel good.

 

Photo: Flickr

 

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Sat at the bar of my favourite tapas restaurant on Friday night, I was aware of the energy of the place and how influential it was to my evening. Deep in conversation with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, I was subconsciously mulling over how nice it was to be somewhere surrounded by couples or small groups of people simply enjoying life’s greatest pleasures: food and friends. It made for a wonderful, relaxing evening where the pace need not go at any rate other than what we desired. There wasn’t a smart phone in sight.

I got to thinking about how crucial the atmosphere of our surroundings is and how deeply it affects our mood and interactions. If you’re planning on heading out to a bar or club, you want the place to be busy but not overcrowded and you certainly don’t want to turn up and be the only one there. Why is that? Chances are, you’re not going to interact with anyone other than the party you show up with, so why is it that we care so much about strangers and what they’re doing? Is it that we get social validation for our choice of activity that evening? If the place is busy, does that re-affirm for us that we chose wisely in our pursuit? Is it that our reason for these social outings is a longing to connect with others, even if we don’t actually end up talking to them?

It is fascinating how little a lot of us realise the importance of community. And no matter your level of introversion, you still – as a functioning human being – desire to be a part of something. So if that is the case and we are all deeply affected by what everyone else is doing, I wonder if that translates to a bigger scale; I’m talking globally here. Can we think of ourselves as one collective organism? Or are there simply too many of us to do so? If we can, what are the implications of this? That would mean that if one is in pain, all are in pain; one rejoicing, all rejoicing. If one location on Earth is in turmoil, we feel the ripples around the globe and if one is flourishing, we can experience waves of enlightenment.

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Because of technology, we have increased our connectedness, the speed at which information is shared and our ability to either conquer or divide. Unless you’ve thrown away your computer, phone, radio and television and refuse to leave the house, you’re going to pick up on what is happening around the world.

We’re incorporating more and more technology onto our person and it’s now a rarity to be off the grid completely and with this comes great fragility. The fragility is born from hyper-awareness and sensitivity. With information being bombarded at us almost constantly, there is a hell of a lot that we have to process. And whilst we try to do so in a logical manner that our brain deems most effective to our well-being and understanding, we simply aren’t robots and as such can’t keep up with the pace. This results in over-whelming confusion about our emotions, where we stand on these matters and our sense of power.

We’re playing catch-up right now – catching up with what is the all-consuming force known as ‘social media’. We can’t sit here and say that we should have been more prepared, because like so many things that get thrown at us on this planet, the advances often happen before we’re truly ready and instead we have to learn how to adapt. We are a fragile but capable people and must evolve to not only utilise this connectedness, but respect its faults and limitations. If we want to share all aspects of our lives with each other – emphasis on strangers here – we need to realise that we can’t overlook pain occurring elsewhere and expect our own health and happiness to be unaffected. News travels fast and we have entered a global community.

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