I just did a 7 day social media cleanse. After the onslaught of the holidays, I was feeling a metallic taste in my brain from scrolling and a general feeling of overwhelm. I have a friend in California who recently announced that she was going to be deleting both of her Instagram accounts. When I messaged her and asked how we could stay in touch, she told me that she had deleted her Facebook account too. Even What’s App. So we exchanged phone numbers. It felt like 1999 all over again! I was fortunate enough to connect with her through Instagram last year, and was lucky enough to grab coffee with her in real life last summer in LA. She’s a breath of fresh California creative air and I didn’t want to lose touch. But I liked her leap of faith.
A real life sage burning to kick off my social media cleanse...
I use social media to stay connected with my family and friends back in the states, my friends here in London as well as all over the world. I’ve been able to locate long lost friends, and have made new ones through it. I find it to be a great tool. I have a best friend in Japan, another friend who was working in Vietnam, and a couple of art friends in China. I easily keep up with them online. But when is it all too much? I find myself habitually scrolling on the phone in the morning , during the day, and often right before I go to sleep. As an artist, I love the visual appeal of it all. But what about the inspiration that’s inside of me, still wanting to emerge? Is that being stifled by all of this? And what about the people around me? How am I relating to them from behind a phone? And what about all of this multi tasking? I think my brain is on perpetual overload. Nine years ago, I stopped drinking when I found out that I was pregnant. I loved my daily glasses of wine. Now I wanted to be present for my husband and daughter, it wasn’t fair if alcohol was blurring our connection. But is social media addictive, too?
The first day or so of my cleanse felt weird. I automatically logged onto Instagram and Facebook a couple of times and a wave of guilt and horror washed over me. What? I didn’t even realize that I did it and quickly shut it down. It had become what I expected – a habit that I didn’t realize that I was doing. And at what expense?
On my birthday, I got lots of loving messages from friends and family from all over. It was awesome. But I wanted to step away from the social media screen for a bit. Around that time, I received an email from a yoga teacher that I admire, a new mom, a business owner, a busy woman. She had just unplugged for awhile. I was inspired to do the same.
I joined Instagram in 2012 when our daughter was young and remember one of my first posts – I was at the airport in LA with my husband. I had no idea what to upload or how to use the strange photo filters. It was a new platform, but it seemed cool, a new frontier. So I did a selfie of the two of us. He was perplexed. Another early post was of the steering wheel of my trusty Toyota. Totally an LA moment as the car is of equal importance as a phone in staying connected amongst the sunshine and sprawl. Since then, I have posted over 5000 images – from my daughter, my husband, dog, random bits, my clothing line and boutique, and most recently my art endeavors. It has been my visual diary, a valuable one at that.
Now it was time for a long overdue detox. The first day – January 1, 2020 - of my social media cleanse, it felt weird. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. But it was the school holiday and we had a super mellow time off. I got notice that the book “Then It Fell Apart” by Moby had arrived at the local library and picked it up a couple of days earlier. Wheeee! My new year’s resolution for 2019 was to read a book a month. I failed big time. Not a single book. Just lots of online news articles. Now was the time, so I dove in.
If you know me, you probably know of my love for electronic music and I have always had a strong adoration for Moby. I normally wear beat up (and well loved) noise cancelling headphones when I’m running around London. Music keeps me moving and grounded. I feel like I’m floating, escaping from the buzz of the crowds on the tube and busy sidewalks when I listen to music. It’s my protection. And electronic music - I love it. I had wanted to read this book for awhile and was disappointed when he cancelled his book tour last spring. I was bummed out. This would have been my chance to meet Moby in person. No such luck.
So I plunked down on the couch and got to reading. I love a good memoir, my favourite genre. I’m a couple of years younger than Moby, but could relate most to that early 80’s time of growing up – ackward and not quite sure where my space was in the world. He was a poor kid with a hippy mom in preppy Connecticut, trying to fit in amongst peer pressure and developing his own voice. I had a similar experience but in Jacksonville, Florida. It brought me back to the early 1980’s, the era of the The Official Preppy Handbook, New Wave music, and figuring out my personal style.
I had moved from Okinawa, Japan and was back on American soil - north Florida. We weren’t poor hippies, but arriving in a new city was tough. I went to public school in the beaches area of Jacksonville, Florida and it was a shitshow. Three different schools in 3 years – elementary school where I was terrorized by a girl gang, an ineffective Sixth grade center where we all got bused in, then Junior High. The worst. Picture every single cliché of a bad school experience as a 13 year old, and there you go. Square Pegs-esque nonsense. I would cry to my mom when I came home after being bullied by a handful of students in my French class. The teacher with her southern meets fake French accent that would simply smile as I was being harassed. It was awful. So my mom pulled me out. I felt even more lost.
All of the sudden, I was going to a rich kid’s school on a military brat budget. My grandmother was footing the bill and I am still grateful for the gesture. At the time, though, I had no idea what was going on. At least at the shitty public schools, I had a semblance of my own style. But now I was in a different part of town where I didn’t understand the fashion code. Most of the kids there had known each other for years as they had grown up in the rich area of town. Thank goodness though that the academics there were awesome. Challenging. Yay. And the art program was the best, even better. But back to style - the whole preppy, New England inspired look was the uniform on campus - adopted and worn by many of the students. It fit in perfectly with the dress code.
And so I did my homework, - I bought the The Official Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach. And I took it seriously. Very, very seriously. Much like Moby, I was acutely aware of my peers and wanted to slide right in. I substituted JC Penney penny loafers for more expensive Bass Weejuns and affordable knock off poly blend oxford button down shirts for the real 100% cotton ones. I was resourceful and I did my best. When I read about how Moby scored a polo shirt at the local thrift store to try to fit in with his peers, I could relate. I tried and tried to be a cool, effortlessly disheveled preppy girl, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t me. I laughed when I read about similar experiences in Moby’s memoir. It wasn’t him, either. I was a New Wave girl. I loved The Human League and Missing Persons and looked up to the cool older classman at school who would wear a telephone cord as a tie in the hallway. He ended up being the uber cool fashion photographer Todd Eberle. I can still picture him and his sidekick friend who would walk by. She had cool style, too. They had no idea that I existed, but it didn’t matter. Just seeing them both was a breath of fresh air, coloring outside of the lines of the dress code and I liked it.
That’s me - back left, circa 1983
I continued the preppy charade for a bit, but it really didn’t stick. I just couldn’t. Thank goodness for MTV and minimum wage jobs. I started making my own money and worked on developing my own style, inspired by the likes of Belinda Carlisle of the Go Go’s and the cool mannequins on display at the mall. But I’m forever thankful for my foray into trying on a new look, a new style, even though it wasn’t me. As for Lisa Birnbach, I wish I had saved that book. It’s worth more now than when I bought it. And I would love to just thumb through the pages to reminisce. Maybe “The Official Preppy Handbook” will be next on my reading list. I love how much more time I have from being offline.
1984, in the height of my New Wave love...
Now that I’m back on social media, I have vowed to keep my screen time way down and I’m making room for lots more reading, writing, and daydreaming on top of my art. Inspiration comes from all over. I hope that more will come from beyond the overly styled, scrolled through images on social media. Nowadays, I’m looking more for the nudging of a long lost memory that surfaces from a good book, usually a memoir. Any recommendations?