We all find ourselves somewhere else every now and again. We’re half-heartedly listening to that coworker who always has a complaint about something, or trying to catch up with a friend who hasn’t been in touch for months, or absent-mindedly murmuring consents to our family members who are some tangent or another. We skim the Gchat from a friend because we’re reading emails or scheduling a doctor’s appointment, and shoot off an “lmao” or a “good luck” without really paying attention to the other person.
If you’re like me, you feel bad about the dozens of thoughts running around your head that are pulling you away from what should be a meaningful and fulfilling interaction with someone in front of you. It was only after I had been treated like this by a close friend time and time again that I took a few steps back, and realized that I didn’t want to be casually present in my friend’s lives — or the person who half-asses a connection with dozens of people. I wanted to be there fully, every time someone needed me.
It saddens me that it took one of my best friends from college constantly sending back distracted replies to get me to this point. But there was a point after the 15th “Hope you’re doing well!” got lobbed at me that I realized I wanted to be the antithesis of this person. It all goes back to the golden rule: treating others the way you wanted to be treated. I noticed that, when I put down my phone, and thus became more purposeful about my interactions with others, people tended to respond in kind. And those who didn’t? I didn’t need them, anyway.
1. Ditching Your Phone As Much As Possible
The first thing I did was make a conscious effort to put away my phone and disengage from social media. I deleted my Snapchat account because it had only been used to send *fire* selfies when I was dating a particularly misogynistic fuckboy. The other times I used Snapchat had been to share snaps of my travels, my best friends and my culinary exploits, and it all seemed to become a competition. It was a constant back-and-forth of “I’m living my best life, are you?” On a backpacking trip in New Hampshire, I decided that if I was truly satisfied with my life, I wouldn’t feel the need to compete with others and showcase what I have. Furthermore, Snapchat is not a way to have meaningful connections with people and, in my opinion, it’s no way to stay in touch.
Part of my cellphone cleanse was putting it down when other people were around. Hanging out with my boyfriend? No phone. Waiting in line at my takeout restaurant? No phone. Visiting my best friend in Massachusetts? No phone. Day to day, the only notifications enabled on my personal phone are for texts. No Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram.
2. Reading A Book
For me, part of remaining present in the moment was practicing that intention in my daily activities. I’ve always loved to read, but in college and my first postgraduate, year I let that hobby fall the wayside. Late in 2015, I resolved to read a book month in 2016, and spend at least ten minutes every day reading, just to get back in the habit of it. Ten minutes of focusing on the pages in front of me and nothing else. No music. No phone. No TV in the background. Nothing but the pages of the book and my favorite cozy spot.
Doing this helped me to regain my much-abandoned sense of focus. The intention and the attentiveness I gave my book, I started giving to other people as well. (This also worked for me with taking a walk, hiking, riding my bike, painting, or doing 15 minutes of yoga in the morning.)
3. Prioritize Who Gets Your Attention
Since I was a little kid, I’ve given too many bad people the time of the day and stretched my energies bare trying to be everything for everyone. Spoiler alert: it’s not healthy. In my post-grad life, this means I’ve spent a lot of time on people who don’t feel the same way about me. Whether it was in a friendship with a colleague who constantly wants advice but doesn’t reciprocate, or with a guy who was unclear with his intentions, I found myself overwhelmed and not being present where it mattered, because I was focusing energy on people who didn’t deserve it.
It’s something I’ve grown out of and I simply decided one day that, if I didn’t get fulfillment from our relationship, we weren’t going to have one. It’s a tricky business, but by choosing to invest in a few meaningful relationships, I have been able to really cultivate them. As an added the bonus, the people who took and took my interpersonal energy didn’t seem to notice or care about me when I stopped supplying it. Hasta la vista, deadweight!
Kathleen is a news reporter in Connecticut who gets a lot of joy out of budget vacations and cooking with bacon. She has no regrets about abandoning Snapchat.
Image via Unsplash