Please come back down to earth

By February 20, 2017My Blog

I felt inspired and compelled to do a written blog today.

I’m pretty sure we all believe in the power of letting go what doesn’t serve us. But how do we really know what does or doesn’t serve us? It’s not as simple as it sounds!

I want to reflect on something that I have been conditioned to believe not only serves me but is also providing a vital service to the world! Like something you just can’t do without and we wonder how previous generations coped or the world functioned without it! But in reality it is not serving us at all, we are in fact serving it and previous generations got along just fine and we would be profoundly better off without it!

For many years I justified and even defended my use (this should read addiction) of Facebook and Twitter (these were my main fixes although you can substitute them for any one of the many other social media platforms that we become hooked on much like an alcoholic can substitute vodka for beer and still be an alcoholic) as I genuinely believed it was a necessary and available means to reach people, to connect with people, to inspire people, to establish a “voice”, to create evidence of my life and dare I say it to “fulfil my purpose”. I can literally hear myself believing and thinking and saying those things. Right now I am finding it hard and somewhat painful to even write this shit down let alone try comprehend that I was an advocate of it and allowed it to have such a controlling and detrimental influence on my life.

This is the thing with this addiction; it’s socially supported and vindicated and endorsed as all these so-called things it enables are “positive”, well at least they would be if they actually existed! It is unlike alcohol or drug addiction which is socially not acceptable, the negative effects are clear and you will find many people trying to steer you away! Social media is like being offered Coca Cola at the school canteen! Because everyone is doing it and it’s allowed at school it must be good!

I CALL BULLSHIT! (BS!) This is exactly what Mark (Zuckerberg) and the like want us to believe and has made them extremely wealthy! I gotta give it to Mark he is a bloody genius!!

Rule 1 about being an addict is we all believe we are not one! And this is the case even with many people telling you that you have a problem. With social media few people are acknowledging there is even a problem because they are hooked too! A sure sign of an addiction – “I only use Facebook for this.. it works for me.. I don’t use it much… I don’t use Facebook I use Twitter because… I use it in moderation… it’s all about balance… I don’t have an addictive personality… I am the master of it not the other way round… I use it to my advantage… I use it for good.. I need it for my work otherwise I wouldn’t be on it…blah blah!” (These are all things I have said one way or another!) This is like an alcoholic saying I only have one beer before 9am or I only drink beer but never spirits so it’s not so bad! It doesn’t tell the full story! We become professionals at convincing ourselves and others that we are not addicted!

I call BS!

Social media is an addiction. Social media is a disease. Let’s not forget social media is a business that sells us the ideal of human connection. An ideal that is not actually there! In fact I believe social media is destroying human connection. Mark and the like SELL human connection for their profit! Not ours! And it is in their interests that we genuinely believe in the power of it and that it is serving us which is why so many of us defend it so vehemently!

I CALL BS!

Social media does not serve us. We serve it & the Internet billionaires currently sunning themselves on a fat yacht off the coast of Monaco or Miami or the Maldives!

My first AHA! moment came back in 2013 in an unlikely place. I was taking part in the Unogwaja journey across South Africa and we were riding close to sunset near the rural Eastern Cape Town of Lady Frere – a place that can be described as a remote, rural, predominantly non-English speaking settlement in the “middle of nowhere”. It was also bloody cold! A young boy came running towards the road as I was riding past on my bike with my long red socks on – his hand aloft and clenched in a fist shouting “Unogwaja! Unogwaja!” I get goosebumps every time I recall this moment. This boy most probably lived without running water and electricity let alone a smart phone, wifi and social media!

It is not about how you tell the story, it is about the story itself. IT WILL REACH WHOEVER IT IS MEANT TO REACH. I mean explain how the story of Nelson Mandela gathered support from right the way across the globe when he was in prison on a small island off the Southern tip of Africa with total censorship on all communication and media. A special story will always find its way somehow – it always has!

And a special story does not become special because of the number of people that it reaches. It is either special or it is not. Have you seen the total shite on You Tube that gets millions of views? Versus the incredible, genuine, authentic, powerful stories that are lucky to scrape together 100 views? That’s because a lot of “successful” You Tubers do not share epic stories they share content that “works” according to a formula. Ultimately this is making You Tube richer and richer and I don’t think any of us are getting as much benefit as we think! Other than losing brain cells and disconnecting ourselves from reality perhaps?!

This reminds me of a wonderful story I was privileged to hear from Ariella Caira at her old school reunion where she spoke so beautifully from the heart. She recalled a moment in the journey of her band when they realized they no longer made music that they loved. They made music and put together performances and outfits that “worked” and the corporate world loved and paid for. Their instrumental band would definitely be considered a success according to most people’s measures, and for a South African instrumental band to make a good living from their music is something that many musicians and bands have failed to achieve and they must be commended for. However something was missing and it was this awareness that took them back towards creating music they loved playing irrespective of who was listening! Her value as a musician should not be determined by how many people book their band or buy their album.

And one day soon after this realization and transformation they were in Port Elizabeth preparing for one of their few public gigs. Prior to the gig the local radio station interviewed the band and played some of their new songs! A mother and father who happened to be listening became transfixed on their son who couldn’t hide his joy from listening to their music. They had never seen him so alive, expressing so much joy! Something inside him was moved by the music, something he and they had never experienced before. The young boy was in a wheelchair and contended with various mental and physical challenges. Up until that day nothing had given him as much visible joy as that piece of music. WHEN YOU PLAY MUSIC FROM THE HEART IT WILL REACH WHOEVER IT IS MEANT TO REACH. And have a more profound impact in ways you could never imagine on yourself and people around you.

Social media is essential for telling stories, connecting people, impacting the world.

I CALL BS!

This is the story that Mark and his buddies want you to believe ! This is the story that is sold to us and we have become brainwashed by to the extent that we even passionately defend and justify our position and how we use it, and completely ignore the harmful effects.

I can remember countless conversations where I simply dismissed anyone who tried to question my use of social media and told stories of how life was before it existed and became such a formative part of our lives. Nothing ever came close to hitting home. I always had what I felt like was a logical excuse or justification and often convinced myself (especially if it was someone from the non social media generation) that they just didn’t get it! This Osho quote springs to mind “If you have ready-made answers in your head you will not be able even to listen to the question. You will be so full of your answer, you will be incapable of listening. You will not be available.”

In fact it was me that just didn’t get it and wasn’t open to seeing it! I was so full of my own answer!

The very tool that was supposedly connecting us is having the exact opposite effect. It is systematically disconnecting us from ourselves and each other. And my biggest break through has been fully realizing what it is taking away from us and being able to articulate this!

OUR PRESENCE!

Social media is consistently taking us away from the present moment, the real world and into a virtual, digital, illusionary, delusionary world.

YOU CHOOSE WHERE YOU WANNA BE?!

The present moment is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and it is right in front of us but we are too busy seeking validation and connection from people who are not here! WTF?!

We are putting our value in the hands of others. Our value has NOTHING to do with anyone else and the moment we claim this back is the moment we change our lives.

Talk to your partner. Look at your partner in the eyes. Touch your partner. Bloody well get to know your partner’s smell! Do anything that explores each other’s presence – the stuff that is right in front of you. Do you even know what it feels like to be in each other’s full presence? How does his/ her presence make you feel? (This has nothing to do with what you do, your achievements, blah blah. It’s just got to do with tapping into the feeling you experience in each other’s company. No words, photos or anything else needed!) If you and your partner were blindfolded in a room full of people do you think you could find each other by touch and smell and no words or sight? Pay attention to your partner and you will! Everywhere I go I see couples in public spaces clearly with each other but it’s clear it’s only physically that they are together as their minds and attention are in another world and often fully occupied in their phones!

Marta just sat next to me. She is from Switzerland. I have been fully immersed in this blog and she just brought me back into the present! Thank you Marta. I told her I was writing a blog about Facebook as she logged into Facebook (poetic!) on the computer next to me. She said “once we are on this it is impossible to get off it (well said!) but it does help us keep in touch with so many people while we are traveling”

I CALL BS!

It’s all an illusion! Well played Mark! I must give it to you, you have managed to brainwash millions! Since I have been off Facebook I have connected more meaningfully with more people and stopped connecting meaninglessly with many people! I have also been so much more available and open to meeting people in person and seeing magic right in front of me that otherwise may have passed me by unnoticed!

But what about all the amazing videos and content we otherwise wouldn’t see? Social media is amazing in the way it makes everything so accessible!

I CALL BS!

We can’t possibly process all the content, and information and stories landing in the palm of our hand. It becomes “noise” that is cluttering our minds and taking us away from being present in the moment because we have so much going on in our heads. I can assure you we will be able to access the information we feel connected to and not just access information for the sake of it because we are connected! FOMO won’t exist anymore! It’s killing us! We just do things and watch things for the sake of it rather than an inner feeling of “I want to do this”. We don’t even know what we want these days (or even who we are?) because we have no space for ourselves in person we are too busy flying in the digital super highway.

Please come back down to earth. Feel your feet in the ground!

Another common argument for Facebook use is especially popular with travelers. People say it’s a great way to find out who lives where you are going so you can connect with them. I have found that you will meet these people anyway if you are meant to and all this does is prevent you from arriving in a city and being fully present in what’s there and seeing where this leads. This leads to new horizons. Unexpected by chance meetings. Beautiful friendships carved out of nowhere. Serendipity. The universe playing its part! Going through Facebook is so mundane and keeps us traveling along the same path connected to the same people!

What about when you meet someone new. And the first thing they do when they meet you is ask for your name on Facebook. It’s a nice thing when someone wants to friend you and therefore can contact you but there are other ways and you know that their attention the moment they find a gap will go into this virtual representation of you and away from you – the person right in front of them! I can’t tell you how amazing it is not to deal with this and see what happens! I have gone one step further – I’m currently not even going by my birth name. I received the name Bodhi in India which has absolutely no “social media” existence whatsoever so even if people want to google me they gonna struggle! They just have to settle with what they see in front of them! Imagine that!! It’s pretty radical and allows me to feel the full possibility of the present and where it can lead without the past dictating or prescribing or pigeon holing me or people thinking they know me from the image they create from Facebook! You will even notice my website – it used to be full of bios, media, frikkin testimonials – a corporate orgasm, one big masturbation of me, proof I exist or matter, keeping us in the past! It’s now just my blogs/ podcasts and a contact me section! No need for the rest!

Probably THE most popular justification of Facebook is how it enables us to stay “close” to loved ones who are far away. How wonderful?! And who can possibly argue with that?!

I CALL BS!

It’s a f@cking illusion! All that is happening is that you think you are close to these people but you are anything but! You are “forming an illusionary relationship and view” of these people and the grey area between Facebook and reality is getting even more grey! In fact the expression “if it’s not on Facebook it didn’t happen” isn’t far from the truth as we struggle to differentiate. This is also why we struggle to let go of Facebook as it is becoming the only evidence of our existence! We are more concerned with keeping up appearances on Facebook than actually being fully present in whatever we are doing. We will remember to take a photo of our food to Instagram it far quicker than we remember to actually chew and savor each bite and taste, or have any appreciation for where that food came from let alone being present and enjoying the presence of the people we are eating with! Actually enjoying the moment is totally secondary to documenting it and receiving acknowledgement from our “friends”.

A special friend of mine captured this beautifully in one sentence I think; “why paint the sunset when it is already there?” Thanks for this Kiki and thank you for introducing me to life on a slackline – the ultimate practice of the present moment that I may have missed if I was “somewhere else” instead of right there that day in Sea Point.

I mean according to Facebook I got married the other day (and not for the first time either!) and I received hundreds of likes and comments. It couldn’t be further away from the truth but I have learnt that the “truth” these days is only what Facebook interprets, the actual truth is irrelevant! It also reminded me of how “false” and far away these connections we hold so dear are! It’s not surprising people feel lonely despite having so many “friends” on Facebook and how so many couples create their own “Facebook fairy tale” to live up to which only puts more and more pressure on their reality which is often worlds apart! Out of all the comments and likes on my “wedding picture” (which was from a TV commercial I shot in Cape Town that has been released this week in UK & Ireland – its for FBD insurance) I could count on two hands how many people called me! We are so used to not feeling and not being present that we feel clicking a button constitutes friendship and connection!

THIS IS NOT A TEST RUN! THIS IS YOUR LIFE!

PLEASE COME BACK DOWN TO EARTH!

Switch it off. Let it go. It’s not an easy thing to do. Any change is never easy let alone to something that has been at your core. I have made radical changes but up until recently I had justified in my head that I could use Twitter only. It felt like I had worked so hard for my Twitter following and I couldn’t just throw it away plus I tried to convince myself it wasn’t as addictive as the other platforms! That’s exactly what they want us to believe! This was the addiction speaking! Trust me! I feel so free now! Like social media was a prison I locked myself in! You will never look back. Or around at anyone else. You won’t have any need to. You will be so enthralled with what is right in front of you and the magic of what is called the present moment and the feelings of being alive! But be warned – you are gonna love it and you may just experience beyond your wildest dreams and the full potential that lives inside you!

And if you wanna know what serves you or not – ask yourself the simple question. Does it help me remain in the present or not? If the answer is no, say goodbye to it!

Gotta finish with an Osho quote:

“There is no future for political revolution. Only one kind of revolution is possible, and that is spiritual revolution. Each individual has to change in his being, and if we can change millions of people then the society will change. There is no other way, there is no shortcut.”

This blog was inspired by the late Aunty Thelma. I had the great honour to do a reading at her service recently. She led a truly remarkable life. She was 95 years when she passed. And not a day spent on social media and yet the depth of the impact she had on other people was truly immeasurable. Many of whom hardly knew her or spent much time with her at all. I now can appreciate why she had such a profound effect on us all. It was because whenever you were with her she was nowhere else but right there with you. Her full being was present in you. She used to say “hello my man” like you were the only person in the world that mattered. After all if you were in her present moment you were indeed the only thing that mattered!

Thank you for lighting up the way for us Aunty Thelma!

The depth of your presence will determine the depth of your happiness and impact you make on this world!

Please come back down to earth. We need you here.

John

About John

John McInroy is a South African born author, social activist, humanitarian, social entrepreneur, ultra endurance athlete, international field hockey player, actor and vegan yogi.

8 Comments

  • Lesley Snow says:

    Thank you for this John. You took the words right out of my hubbys mouth. He does no fb or even sms. If you want to speak to someone then give them a call. He has only recently started using the atm. He would rather join the queue and chat to strangers while waiting to see the teller. His mothers child. I was so privileged to be part of Queens life. Mrs Snow. Hello.

  • Larry Maxongo says:

    Thank you John…

    • John says:

      I’m really happy to hear from you mfowethu. Please keep in touch. You are a champion. Send my love to Aneesah and the ladies at the bank!

  • Lynda says:

    Hi John

    So true this….all of it.
    We here at Robertson Backpackers have noticed how the guests do not talk to each other or share their
    travel stories with other travellers anymore. they sit on social media for hours chatting to folk back home….!!

    Sending love and light to you on your new journey….all the best

    Lynda
    Robertson Backpackers

    • John says:

      Lynda! So happy to hear from you. And thank you for sharing your experiences. It feels as though the “positive points of social media” are completely blinding us from the overwhelming negatives which are changing the way we engage with people in our worlds. Connection is becoming to mean “with everyone who is not here” and we are forgetting what’s right in front of us where I believe the real magic lies!

      Lynda & Kevin – I feel so grateful to you guys on so many levels! Your quiet understated kindness and willingness to support Unogwaja since 2011 fills me with so much hope and gratitude! Thank you both! Huge love!!!

  • Candice says:

    Thank you so much for this post! Albeit it has completely thrown me off what I should have been doing shows how late I am to the party ha ha. I literally have to beg friends to not post anything and everything on Facebook because the picture painted is often complete bullshit and not what is happening behind the scenes. On another level though, I’ve seen how FB can support and encourage those going through crappy times. Very well written piece.

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