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“I’ll be [core state] when I have [circumstance].”

Author Jamie Smart presents this equation on the first pages of his book, Clarity. Makes sense:

I’ll be [clean], when I have [a bath].

I’ll be [warm] once I [put clothes on].

But be careful, says Smart. This same equation is also a trick. He calls it “the hidden hamster wheel” and it looks something like this:

“I’ll be [awake] once I have [coffee].”

“I’ll be [happy] once I have a [glass of wine].”

“I’ll be [relaxed] once I [meditate].”

“I’ll be [healthy] once I [join the gym].”

You get the idea.

I could tell you right now that I’ve never been addicted to anything because I don’t smoke and limit my drinks to weekends (and Wednesdays. “F” Wednesdays). But based off this equation, I’d be lying. I can’t deny needing that glass of wine on the weekends, I feel that something is missing if I don’t [fill in the blank].

Smart writes, “We’ve been conditioned to believe that there’s somewhere to get to, and that “there” is better than “here.” “

As a digital media manager who works remotely, alone and in another country filled with people that speak a different language (cue the violins), “there” is a state of being I know far too well. For one thing, my job requires me to spend time on different social media channels so it’s hard to avoid getting sucked in. And let’s face it, any job, with or out without the need to use social media, is fueled by the accomplishments of the future and not the now.

But more than my job, it’s the yearning to stay connected to friends and family that keeps me scrolling.

“Oooo, Joanna can now do handstands?” Like and comment “Get it, JoJo Binks!!!”

“Paige posted a video about Beyonce.” Share.

“Jason shared a “DIY” on how to make a massive pizza made of tacos.” Like, share, take notes.

There it is again – the damn hamster wheel.
“I’ll be [connected] when I [scroll through Facebook and Instagram].”

The moment I wrote out this equation, I’ll be honest – I was (and still am) embarrassed. Do I really need a piece of software to feel, well, not alone?
According to this Thrive Global article titled “The Apps That Make Us Happiest are The Ones We Spend The Least Time With,” I could be onto something. “Psychologists are beginning to say that the human brain expects to have other human beings around it, so software [like Facebook] is helping to fill a core human need.”

While it was certainly a relief to know my data (or lack thereof) was being used up for the sake of human connection, this fact freaked me out. So, I did the “unthinkable” and decided to delete all social media apps off my phone for one week (and only use my desktop for work purposes).

It has officially been a week and here are my three biggest takeaways:

1. I’m addicted to consuming information.

After deleting social media off my phone, I noticed my brain was hungry for something to consume. It immediately gravitated to the news and podcast apps and those things called books. I could sense my brain taking in other forms of content and information like an ex-smoker takes in a sucker in place of a cigarette.

The good news – I’m much more informed about this world (thank you NPR) and I now have an equation for happiness (listen to this The School of Greatness podcast). The bad news – I can tell my brain is just looking for more ways to stay busy, or as Smart would say in the “there” versus the “here.”

      2. My time is conditional, e.g. it’s 100% dependent on how I use it

“Well, duh, Charlotte!” I know, this point seems obvious but hear me out. The minute I got rid of these two apps, I felt like I had just gotten my tax return in the form of time. I now had more hours to spend on other things, and actually found myself spending them on moments that landed me in the “here.” Like writing more, working out, and falling asleep faster because I didn’t feel the need to get my last Insta-drag in before hitting the hay.

   3. I am a human being that needs and wants to be around other human beings.

Those psychologists were right. While Facebook and Instagram were giving me the quick fix I needed to stay connected, I quickly realized that my urgency to pick up my phone while surrounded by people on a train, in a cafe or at the dinner table was screening me from the real thing. I had replaced pixels for people and didn’t even know it. But beneath my nose, was a bright (non-LED) light of clarity –

I freaking love people. There, I said it! Human beings are interesting, weird and complicated and I don’t just need to be surrounded by them but want to because humans make me more human.

Now, my hope is that you won’t see this as your mother’s “put your phone away” manifesto and/or a plea to delete social media. In fact, as you read this, I’ve redownloaded Facebook and Instagram and my phone naps silently by my side, waking up every so often with a notification.

But I will leave you with these parting words found tucked away in the book, Clarity:

“If you were to be presented with the evidence that one of the most widely-held beliefs of modern society ([circumstance] causes [core state]) was in fact a misunderstanding about how life works, would you be able to listen with an open mind?”   

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