Call it a side-effect of working full-time on the internet, but I’ve made a (not really) shocking discovery lately.
Happiness does not come in the form of a text message.
It doesn’t exist within Twitter followers, how many people like or don’t like you. Tumblr. Instagram. Pinterest. YouTube. Group text messages. Facebook messenger. Snapchat. In fact, the more you hold worth in these things, the more up and down you’ll find yourself. Things become too black and white, like who you are and what you have to offer the world could ever be properly tied up in something 6 seconds.
Now are those things all fun and great? Sure, and I say go forth and social media your heart out. But they do not fill holes. They cannot bring lasting self-esteem. Cheesy as it is, they just can’t hug you at night.
They are only a means of communication, not a means to being happy.
I have learned the moments you’ll feel it the most. When you are truly alone and turn to something cold and mechanical to feel a little less lonely. As if a phone can really say something back. As if a computer can really replace human interaction.
It is in the moments before you fall asleep, when you place the glowing screen down and are left with nothing more than an internal monologue. You see how little those things matter. That an entire world can be cheering you on and if you don’t find your own path to self-love, it’s all a bunch of white noise.
We are so addicted to this white noise. We want to muffle everything a bit. Make it palatable. If someone is texting you, it’s distraction. You want to wake up to a reminder that you matter. A message. A retweet. A temporary validation that you are seen. But it doesn’t do much in the long run. Is it fun? Of course. Can beautiful relationships form from all the extra ways we have to stay in touch these days? Yes.
But it isn’t enough. Or maybe it’s too much.
Nobody can teach you how to love yourself. They can lead by example and lend a supportive hand. We can lift one another up and remind them how worthy they are. But there’s a reason we say self-care. Self-love. Self-esteem. Ultimately, it is a solo journey of the self. And you won’t get there simply through text messages.
We are the generation of constant communication. And I was always so Team Millennials, ready to defend us and our desire to be plugged in until the very end. But then I became plugged in 24/7. And life didn’t become magically better. It just gained a layer. It gained a sheet I could place over things. A bandaid to momentarily stop the bleeding, ignore the issues, to keep myself focused.
Focus. Focus. Focus. Click. Click. New focus. Change. Text. Check messages. Text back. Look at the typing bubble. Here! I’m here! Look I’m here!
So why was I always feeling numb? At any given moment, I could be “talking” to someone, yet it never felt like I was. Why was I so disconnected when I was connected to EVERYTHING?
Because I wasn’t. I wasn’t taking the simple time to go outside and be alone. I had the safety net of my phone, ready to pull it out and distract myself from discomfort. From sadness. From disappointment. But it just delays the inevitable: facing your own reality.
This may sound silly, but I’ve found putting my phone away a weirdly liberating thing. I make it a point to take a walk and leave all forms of social distraction behind. I remember to look at the people around me. Check in with how I’m feeling, is something bothering me? Have I done proper self-reflection today? What can I do to not only feel better today, but to BE better today?
I’ve always known I don’t have the answers. I’m an early 20-something trying to find my own path, just like the rest of us. But there’s a lethargy we millennials can fall into – this plugging in and plugging out from society. I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to be present. I want to go out and meet interesting people. Take an actual adventure that isn’t just me running away from reality.
Perhaps the happiest aren’t those with an inbox filled to the brim, but a heart filled with real connection.