Do you remember The Cranberries?
Not, like, the tart fruit that grows in bogs. (Yes, bogs. Ask me about my childhood school field trips one day.) The band. Personally, I’d label them a bit iconic, at least in the world of a 90s kid. I mean, they were pioneers of alt rock, and who doesn’t remember Dolores O’Riordan’s gorgeous wail?
If you have no idea what I’m talking about: here.
One of The Cranberries’ chart-toppers was Zombie. It’s a song you’d know, no doubt, even if you never heard it on your local FM radio driving home from school in the back of your mom’s car. What most of us will recognize and sing along to are the refrain lyrics:
In your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie, oh
Poetic, I know. (No, seriously though. Turns out, this is a protest song, which my adult self now has extra respect for. It is poetic.) And that most essential kind of poetry can inspire the best, and sometimes most surprising, kind of deep and critical thinking.
So I can’t help coming back to this stanza as I consider my relationship (frankly, all of our relationships) with social media.
Lately, I’ve been having a lot of conversations and thought around social media use, personally and professionally. As I’ve shared already, I’m going to be deactivating all my accounts in about a month. After almost fifteen years of being attached to and immersed in the world of social media, I’m letting go. Like, really letting go.
I tested it out last year for a while. I read Digital Minimalism at the suggestion of a friend, and we both, along with our husbands, took a 30-day digital detox. It was, in a word, awesome. Even so, at that time, while I was feeling the weight of what social media did to me, I still wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to it completely. It didn’t stick. I sort of crept my way back into posting, then rolled back into scrolling. Pretty soon, I was just as obsessed as I had always been with the dopamine and the validation and the FOMO. Even though I had reflected and processed a lot of my feelings around this stuff, apparently, I hadn’t let myself really understand them.
Social media has a way of doing that. Of keeping you from yourself.
So here we are a year and a half later, and I’m literally in the exact same spot. How frustrating is that? This outcome feels both totally out of my control (the psychology of social media is real), and totally within it (hello, we humans are blessed with free will). Fortunately, I’ve done a ton of work over the years to detach judgment from this less-than-ideal outcome, so I don’t feel like a total failure or anything. But I am seeing it as an opportunity. (Again.)
It’s an opportunity to understand myself better. To go inward. To learn even more self-trust. With absolutely nothing as a veil or a barrier or a filter in between myself, my thoughts, my soul, who I am in this world.
And this is why I keep coming back to the Zombie stanza: What’s in your head? Removing social media from my head will allow me to actually find out.
A lot of the conversations I’ve been having about this have included this lament, this deep, unsettled feeling that our thoughts are not our own. That we have to check into social media to make sure our thoughts are right, or OK, or simply not insane (And I say that not with a flippant ableism toward mental health conditions. I say it because in the last six months? It’s been a bit more challenging to manage and interpret our own thoughts and feelings and brain chemistry.) Or that we’re not capable of drawing our own conclusions without checking in with the internet and its perspectives.
Somehow, it’s become harder to remember that we’re capable of independent thought without first passing it through the filter of someone else’s opinion, or “thought leadership,” or “expertise.”
But when we do this, all we really do is give up our power, our identity. We discount what’s in our heads. And, uh, sometimes, it makes us into zombies.
I’ll be the first to admit to feeling a little like a zombie in the last few months. Ambling along, broken, unengaged, angry. But since I’m not an actual zombie, there comes a point when I can see what’s happening, and then take action based on that awareness and observation. As in: my social media engagement and consumption is affecting my ability to do my job and live my life in the ways that I want to, it makes me feel like shit, and rather than just sigh and shrug and keep ambling along, I can acknowledge it’s well within my control to do something about that.
In just a couple weeks of putting this intention out into the world, clarity has come back to me. Time and space have opened up. Ideas are flowing. Connections abound. I feel more like myself, and less like some hollowed out version of who I used to be, or think I should be in the future. Maybe most notably, I know once again, and trust without a doubt, what’s in my head.
So, here’s the thing – none of this is to say you should pop off social media forever, like me. (Although, if that feels like the ultimate trigger, perhaps it’s a distinct possibility for you to entertain.) Again, to reiterate times a thousand, you are the one in charge of your life, and you are totally capable of independent thought and analysis!
It is to say that now is a fantastic time to connect with yourself – not with another “friend” or follower. To ask what’s in your head – not in a talking head. To get familiar, and perhaps uncomfortable, with where and how you might have been acting a little like a zombie.
And then do something about it.
Because honestly, the last freaking thing anybody needs right now is zombies – figuratively, or frightening in its possibility, literally.
For the record, I’m doing a lot of this inner work on my own, but a good portion of it with help. A coach. A therapist. An accountability group. Understand that there’s a difference between an assist, a mirror; and an influence, a manipulation. Whenever you feel ready for an assist, I’m always here to help with coaching.
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