I Don’t Want to Live on the Internet

Gimme a break from the social network

I started writing this piece a while back, with intention of distinguishing our media obsessed culture and my place within such a world. But once I began, I stopped writing after a few sentences. I couldn’t really write a piece, if I was still engaging actively online for several hours a day — talk about not practicing what I preached.

So, instead of changing my habits — I made excuses. I can’t possibly take a break from social media, I’m a photographer — my career relies on my ability to share online. If I take photos and never post them, did I ever reallytake the photos? I know you’re probably rolling your eyes right now. But in all seriousness, I’ve been conditioned to equate social media presence with career success — especially when it comes to “making it” in the creative field.

I found myself continuing to post, aiming for at least once a day in order to gain traction and attention toward my profile — a method that many “How to Grow Your Social Network” guides pinned as necessary. And yeah, I gain some followers, I lose some followers and overall I never really feel impressed by the results. Maybe I’m not impressed because I take the lack of interest as a hit to my art — as most artists, I’m pretty sensitive about my work as it feels like an extension of myself. Or maybe it’s because I sometimes have the feeling that I’m wasting time, that the hours I spend online trying to oooh and ahhh the people of the internet could be better spent — maybe with doing things like taking more photographs.. genius, I know.

In an attempt to take back my real life, last week I decided no more time would be wasted on social media — or at least I’d try it out and see how it goes, let’s call it a test run. I decided to solely focus on Instagram, as that was the platform that felt the most social (and sucked up most of my time and attention).

For about a week, I deleted Instagram from my phone. It’s embarrassing to admit how much time I suddenly had to finish other projects. When I wasn’t checking my account or thinking of a photograph to post — I wrote more content, landed 2 photography jobs, finished all the essential parts for my visa application, cleaned my room, talked to my family, texted friends back and discovered I liked being disconnected. Can you believe it? It was as if I had taken my life back from the social media sucker. I started to think that I, like many others, spend so much time connected and dialed in that we forget about the life going on in front of us.

If I learned anything from my week long cleanse, it’s this:

Social Media is a Tool, not a Replacement for Interaction

It’s tough when most people want to connect online, but hardly in person. We’ve become a society that sends invites, follows and likes a profile, without ever intending to meet the individual behind the screen. It may seem beneficial to build your network in such a way, but does that mean it’s healthy? We have to remember that even though social media can help us engage and network with people all over the world, we should still be tuned in to in person, real time interactions. When you’re attached to the technology within your phone, having to document every second and detail of your life — you are essentially removing yourself from the present moment and the people who surround you. Remembering that social media is a tool, not a way of life is vital. And if you ask me, meeting someone in person is way cooler than sending messages on the interweb.

Time Spent on Social Media, is Time Lost in the Real World

We’ve all done it. We log onto an application, intending to browse for a few minutes and check in with our network. Before we know it, it’s an hour later — you still haven’t made dinner or folded the laundry or showered. Time on social media is a vortex where all real-life productivity goes to die. For me, I never find myself spending a ridiculous number of hours online, but I spend enough for me to question my behavior. If you put down your phone, you’d be surprised at how much can be accomplished within a day. Instead of browsing, surfing and searching we should be acting, doing, building. Value your time — spend less on the intangible, the illusions of the Internet and more within your own focused and achievable reality.

There’s No Shame in Logging Off

I think most believe that switching off our devices will leave us in a negative state of disconnect. Because we’ve formed countless relationships on the Internet, logging off for a bit may deteriorate these encounters, right? Believe it or not, there was a time before the Internet and technology where people actually lived without always having to be intertwined and available. Think back to a time when people sent letters as communication, not reaching the other for weeks on end. Or when there was no such thing as the cell phone, you’d call a landline and if the person picked up — great! — if not, well you’d have to call back later. These simpler times didn’t ruin relationships, they reinforced them. We need to not be wary of taking a break or going old school in our communication methods. And even despite it’s rapid and continual growth, social media will never be a replacement to true human connection.

Although I ended up re-downloading the app — the week I spent off of social media did make me realize why in today’s state of technology, a social media cleanse is often neccessary. I think now more than ever, we need to realize that technology is a tool, not a way of life. Use it with intention, allow it to help your ideas grow, but take a break once and a while — your mind will surely thank you.

Why You Should Travel Alone

In September of 2016, I moved to Paris, a city in which I had never been to before, alone. Speaking not one word of french (hello, goodbye and thank you being the exceptions), without true understanding of the culture or lifestyle and knowing only one friend, who was also moving to work as an au pair, and the family I would work for, who had hired me through an interview via Skype.

Such an experience, that when told to others, comes with questions and awe of how I could make such a move by myself. In truth, I never worried too much about this detail, of moving and traveling to a foreign country alone. Conversely, I embraced the idea of solitude and singularity. As much as I enjoy traveling with someone else, traveling by yourself is in itself a worthwhile journey. Let’s talk why your next trip should be one with yourself:

You Can Do What You Want, When You Want

When on a trip with other people, there will always have to be compromise. The hard truth of vacationing with family or friends is that not everyone will want to or agree to do, eat, see or experience the same thing. In order to keep the group’s spirits high and not spoil the entirety of your holiday, sacrifices will be made for the greater good — a dilemma that does not exist with solo travel.

When traveling alone, you make the rules. You determine the schedule; when you wake up, where you want to eat and how you choose to spend your day — you needs and wants are the only ones that matter. For me, being able to choose how I spend time in a city is ideal. I tend to be an early riser and jump at the first chance to walk around with my camera in hand. Rarely, do I want to have a period of rest or want to turn in early to my room — for me a vacation is about doing as much as I can with my given time. So, if you’re an explorer or relaxer — taking a trip by yourself allows you to dictate your day, without having to answer to or please the other people of your group.

Solo Traveling Forces You to Interact with Locals

In most situations, solo travelers don’t take trips because they want to be alone, but rather because they can be alone. In fact, situations may vary as to why one would choose to go on a such a trip. Whether it is because they couldn’t find someone to accompany them (mostly due to reasons pertaining to finances or pressing responsibilities), they are going to a place for work purposes or because they truly have a desire to be somewhere and embrace the experience despite having a companion — traveling on your own doesn’t always result in solitary confinement. In fact, traveling alone allows you the most opportune chances to meet and interact with the locals in ways you may not experience when traveling with someone else.

For me, meeting locals is a great way to have a true feel for the culture and lifestyle. Having traveled across Europe for a year, I met people from all walks of life with varying stories and experiences to share. When I think back to the times I have spent in different places, the people I meet seem to leave the truest imprint. Whether I befriend locals or other travelers like myself, connections and lasting memories are made. If you’re traveling alone, don’t be scared of consulting other people for local tips, directions or introducing yourself in a social situation, at the beach, a restaurant or bar. You’ll be surprised by the eagerness and kindness of strangers when you’re willing to open up and engage. And if you’re lucky, these people you meet along the way will become some truly great travel companions.

You Have to be Financially Independent

When traveling with friends, splitting the bill is the norm. You share accommodation, the price of meals and methods of transportation, which in result decreases the financial burden and makes a trip more manageable. Now, I’m not saying that solo traveling has to be expensive, in fact whether you travel with others or alone, you can make traveling affordable to you. Rather, I am saying that when you split the cost of a trip you are in essence financially dependent on the other person to hold up their end of the payment.

When taking a trip by yourself, you are forced to pay in full for everything you want to do, thus taking on the role of financial independence. If the thought of footing the entire bill scares you, I would encourage you to take a trip alone. Funding your entire trip makes you responsible and teaches you the value of saving and allocating spending. Whenever I want to take a trip, I research the most cost effective way for me to arrive to my destination, where I can stay that will allow a balance of a decent price with a memorable experience and estimate the amount I will spend on food, excursions and social activities. This forces me to realize the importance of having a budget, finding out ways to save up for my trips and spending my money on only the things that will make your trip worthwhile.

You Learn How to Enjoy Being By Yourself

If there is one thing I do believe, it is that there is an art to being alone.You’ve probably heard people talk about how you have to love yourself before you can love someone else or how it is important to be happy with who you are because you’re the one you are spending your life with — all advice that is essential to remember. Yet, even though we know we should work towards being content with just ourselves, it is very common for the concept of being alone to be translated to loneliness.

Alone and lonely are two very different concepts. Being alone does not mean you are lonely or missing the company of other people, but rather is the act of you doing something in a singular fashion. Too often I hear the idea of being alone associated with negative feedback: I could never eat alone, go to the movies alone, shop alone or travel alone. The horror! But, why do we view acting alone as negative? Is it pride, self-esteem or the perception of others that makes us believe that being alone is looked down upon?

If there is one thing we must learn it is to enjoy being by yourself. More times than none, you will be alone. You will live alone, go to work alone, grocery shop alone and engage in various tasks daily by yourself. Instead of being scared of such a concept, embrace it. Enjoy the moments of selfishness and choose yourself over anyone else. Plan the trip you’ve been dreaming of, book the ticket and bask in the beauty of solo traveling — just you and a great adventure.

What I Learned by Moving in With My Parents

At twenty-four, the idea of moving home wasn’t quite what I had in mind. The thought of returning to my hometown, a place I tried hard to escape, and reverting back to the sheer adolescence of living under my parents roof made me anxious. Yet, sometimes we have to accept the harsher realities of existence, that life doesn’t always give you a choice.

In an attempt to be candid, I lost my job and apartment in one swift movement while living in New York. At the time, such uprooting was devastating — emotionally, mentally and financially — making my already mixed feelings about New York intensely magnify. In fact, for the entirety of my time in New York, I had feelings of wanting to move back to Europe. So, when the space opened up to make a change, I ran with the fate of the universe — back home to rebuild my life and prepare for a move back to France.

I lived in my childhood home, in my old room from February to June — 5 months of shelter, comfort and picking up the pieces of my disheveled experience. And even though I wasn’t thrilled — an independent creature by nature, asking for help and giving up control is a challenge in itself — I knew it was the right decision to reach my next goal. With my attempts to swallow my pride and recognize the need to take a neccessary pause, it just so happened that my resistance and discomfort turned out to be a lesson in adulthood.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

What I find often to be true is that many of us are afraid to ask for help, in fear that we may be perceived as weak or unsuccessful. I had always been the type of person who was ready and eager to take on the challenges of the world — with so much passion and excitement that I placed an unrealistic amount of pressure on myself to thrive and succeed.

I had hardly begun to realize how hard life can really be those first few years out of school. We spend years in a sheltered environment, surrounded by positive affirmations and support in our future endeavors. Molded and concocted to be these adults that feel confident to take on the next step into career and livelihood. Yet, what no one tells you is that sometimes the jump toward a career isn’t so swift and quick. In some cases, you find that choosing a slower, alternate route helps you to figure out your end goal.

In this case, I had little to no idea how I had wanted to live my life after college — and spoiler alert, I still am missing some definitive pieces. But not knowing what I ultimately want isn’t the problem — it’s that I thought I had to go through the struggles alone. Independence became a shield from allowing any form of help to surface and I was ashamed to admit that I needed guidance.

We need to place our pride to the side and realize that asking for help is healthy and normal — there are some things in life that no matter the persistence we have, are unachievable when completely alone.

Having Your Shit Together at 24 Isn’t Realistic

I want to shatter this whole illusion that being an adult means having all your pretty little ducks in a row. In fact, being an adult is a draining experience. When we’re young, we seem to look toward the years of being older, more mature and grown up, but omit the effects that come with such independence.

Being in your 20s in a time where you think you know it all and realize you know very little. You have youth on your side, but are constantly plagued with the questions of who you are and what you want to do with your life. You are in a tumultuous state of self doubt and self inflicted stress.

Knowing this, we are now more than ever in a rush, hurried to succeed and thrive in all aspects of our lives. Blame it on the social networks and overconsumption of everyone’s daily movements, but our pressure for success makes us feel like failures if we haven’t reached benchmarks by a certain age.

It is not realistic or healthy to think that I would have everything figured out at 24. Yes, some people succeed and thrive young — but most take time to formulate the person and professional they aim to be. We have to stop looking at age as a measure of our successes, but rather choose to embrace the messiness that is our 20s.

We Have to Appreciate the People Who Let Us In When We Need Them

If I learned anything from living back home, it’s that I was lucky and fortunate to have a place to go home to. I have parents and family that care about me in a way that their support of my future is what fueled my motivation to start over. Even when my dreams are to move away to a foreign country, they gave me a place to live, food to eat and the comfort I needed to rebuild my emotional state.

We too often disregard the ones who really care for us in our journey to find our individual self. Although we should aim to be independent and find our own path, we can never forget the people who have instilled the confidence and support in us to achieve.

Even when it’s hard, asking for help and swallowing your pride teaches you a lesson in the importance of appreciation and humility. When finding myself in such a predicament, going home was the only solution. As much as I felt the need to assert my adulthood, claim back my pride and heal my self-esteem; I could have never recovered had I not taken the time to pause, recharge and reset my focus toward a new goal.

In our attempts to be mature, self-sufficient adults, we have to realize that the world can be a rough and daunting place. More often than not, we are unprepared for the true breadth of growing up that takes place within the first few years post-college.

And even though it may seem less than favorable to return to our roots, we have to remember where we came from and to value the people who take us in when the going gets rough. At any moment, you can choose to change and rebuild your life —realizing that no matter what you’ve endured, it can be so beautiful to start again.

How Mental Health Affects Creativity

A few months back I started to attend weekly therapy sessions. Having always believed that I would benefit from discussing the inner workings of my mind with someone other than my family and friends — the final push to seek some professional guidance came at a breaking point.

I started to feel what most people experience from mental cloudiness — a proclamation that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I had suffered since adolescence from feelings of depression and anxiety, but never felt strong enough to talk about it. In fact, I didn’t give myself any kind of empathy or concern — instead I forced blame and told myself that I was stronger than my weak state of mind. You’re an achiever, a go-getter — you can’t let every little thing bother you.

But, mental health doesn’t work like that.

I sat in my new therapist’s office — a mid sized room where I was directed to find a spot on the couch as she rested in a chair in front of me. In the corner was a shelf of children’s toys and a standing air unit that buzzed and hummed through the entirety of our session.

Therapy is like telling your secrets, only to then dissect them and direct the conclusions back to instances in your life in an attempt to discover where the problem arose from. We talked about my childhood, my family, my relationships and career goals. We talked about my intention to move back abroad and my plans for the future.

In my two quick months of therapy, I often heard that the source of my problems (or what I believed to be problems) all came back to the idea of my unwillingness and inability to live in the present moment. I either focused too much on the past and became depressed. I worried too much about my future and felt anxious. There was hardly ever the space for pure contentment and peace that can only be achieved by living in the moment.

And yet, with such realization we always came back to the idea that I was an artist, a creative and that my mind doesn’t always work in “normal” ways. It wasn’t that I couldn’t move on or slow down the motion of my thoughts if I tried, but instead that I was plagued with such instability by my own self infliction. I was using these past moments or future worries to build and shape my existence and to create a story that felt worth telling.

My Depression as Inspiration

Most people can let things go easily without even a glance back at the remnants left behind. But when you suffer from plagues of restless mental health and bits of unhappiness, you tend to focus on every minute detail with excruciating certainty.

I found that through experiences I had, mistakes I made or emotions I felt with such intensity were always the driving force of my creativity. I chose to represent my personal feelings in a tangible way through creating photographic scenarios infused with my ill sensibilities and less than cheerful demeanor. Everything I wanted to write felt as if I were this bleeding heart oozing out onto the page. An accumulation of artistic sorts, all originating from the story I felt that I needed to tell.

With mental health, the idea of being depressed has always seemed taboo. I felt that talking about being sad or unhappy would cause others to tip toe around my feelings and give me special attention in fear that I would lash out otherwise.

Again, this is not how mental health works.

My depression was a result of thinking that my past was better than my present. Feeling incredibly crippled and frozen by the thought of not being able to create and experience such memories again — I convinced myself that I was had lost my shot at a happy life.

Even though it doesn’t seem logical, mental health like creativity is at its core illogical. I cannot explain why I harp on certain aspects more than others, I can’t control the way memories and moments take shape and shelter within my brain. I can only recognize my pattern of thinking to then use this as a catalyst for something beneficial.

My issues with sadness, depression or a unenthusiastic feeling about my life was the source of my inspiration. We have to take the upset, hardship and transform it into something that speaks levels for our art. Pinpoint the feelings you have and think of how you can express them in a way that benefits your emotional and mental state. Use the past, the experiences and even the mistakes as your inspiration.

My Anxiety as Motivation

Anxiety is the devil on my shoulder that tells me I’m not good enough. You’re not that great at photography, there are more talented people than you, you will never get what you want, you should give up now before it’s too late.

I worry, I fret and I overanalyze the motions of my life with such precision that you would be tired living just one day with my brain. Anxiety is a pattern of thoughts that focuses on things that haven’t even happened yet, instances I have zero power to change and situations that truly hold no meaning. It is a lot of “Well, what if this happens” or “This is the way this scenario will play out” — followed by mountains of stress and uncertainty.

I know that deep down, anxious tendencies are rooted in my wanting to thrive and succeed. I am anxious because I truly fear failure and living a life that doesn’t live up to the idea I have concocted inside my head. I let thoughts circle the drain for hours on end, before I can even realize that I need to pull myself out from under the weight of my own stress.

Anxiety plus creativity equals motivation. I began to realize that my mental state is a muscle that will always need to be worked on and strengthened. I will not wake up one day with all my problems having disappeared. Every day will have to be a battle against myself to overcome the issues I face in order to live a functional and happy life, free of obsessive nervous thinking.

In my work, my anxiety to succeed and thrive causes me step up my game and use this internal panic as fuel to the artistic fire. I worry, but instead of lying in bed trying to find a solution that doesn’t exist— I work instead. I increase my productivity to match my qualms about the unknown of the future. I use this unrest as motivation — never allowing the fear of what could happen hinder me from making things happen.

Use Your Mental Health as a Catalyst

It wasn’t easy to turn negative attributes into positive action. Had you met me at the beginning of this year — we may be having an entirely different conversation, a far more negative one to say the least. Yet, the ability to have an open conversation about our mental health and how it affects our daily lives is essential in realizing how to combat such turmoil.

I look at the uncertainty I face each day with more willingness to change and use these feelings effectively in my work. I can either allow my worries to define me or choose to alter and redefine them to create something with truth and meaning. This is how positive mental health works.