Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to Get Unplugged

Last week in my Media Studies class my professor showed us a video by Essena O'NeillThe video is of her sitting on a sofa speaking into the camera and telling the viewer about how she decided to disconnect from social media. She used to get paid to wear a dress from a fashion company, take gorgeous photos of herself wearing the dress and then post it on Instagram. Social media was her life.  She said that she measured her value in the number of likes each post received. Then she had a breakthrough. She realised that her whole life was fake. Her "candid" photos were not candid at all, but carefully calculated and manipulated until she achieved the perfect pout. She felt as though she were living a fake life so she disconnected her YouTube channel and her Instagram account. "I am free," she said in the video. That is amazing, but is "unplugging" really that liberating?

She wants to get away from social media, yet the format which she uses to talk about all of this is a video which she posts online. My class discussed this irony at great length. We sat through the entire twelve minute video, because our professor thought it was hugely significant. Essena is telling us how she wants to disconnect from these all-consuming media outlets via a online video! She wants to break free, yet she still gets super excited when Elle Magazine emails her and when thousands of people responded to her confessional video. Our question is, "Has she truly disconnected even though she is just as big as she was when she was a model?"

Some people were on her side: "She is using the tools that she knows how to use, namely video-making, to tell a broader audience about her breakthrough. She is contradicting herself, because she knows that this is the only way people will listen."

Other people were a little more skeptical: "She tells us that she is not wearing make-up and that this video is totally candid, yet she is falling out of her sexy top and the background is pristine. What about this  is supposed to make us believe that she really has no interest in being fake?"These people were annoyed that Essena didn't go far enough with her plan. They wanted her to drop off the face of the internet entirely. "If she were really serious about this scheme of unplugging she would just drop off the face of the internet entirely."

My thoughts about Essena? I think she is sincere. She is a beautiful girl who would look stunning no matter what she did or didn't do with her body. By switching over to a website instead of social networking she will have more control over her content and be able to share her profound thoughts. I visited her site and thought it was full of interesting content. But my dream would be for her to get off the internet entirely for a year and write a book about it. It would be an awesome book, because she is a young lady who is already capable of speaking into the lives of many people. She already has a captive audience.

So what about us? Should we unplug? I thought about that while sitting in class watching Essena's video. Should I delete my Instagram and Facebook? Should I throw my smartphone onto the train tracks behind my apartment? Do I define my worth through a number of "likes" as opposed to my actual values like my mind, my kindness or my status as a human created by God?

I fall into doing that, yes. I confess that I am addicted to checking the stats right here on my blog. I check them all the time to see how many readers I have. If I don't get a certain number then I feel my heart drop a little. Even though I have good intentions of growing this blog into something of worth that many people read, I am too focused on numbers rather than just making good posts. My focus should be on doing my best rather than becoming "successful" in a numerical sense.

In order to help me do this I started fasting from checking my stats every Sunday. From 3 AM to 3 AM on Sunday I do not let myself look at them. It helps me to have greater peace during the day. I would recommend incorporating something like this into your week. Create space in which you do not have to check a device every ten minutes. Do it for and hour or a day. Read. Walk. Sit. Think. Unplug.


  1. I think about this often as well. I think about deleting my social medial accounts and going back to communicating via email and good ol' letter writing. But then I become afraid that I will be forgotten and irrelevant… especially since I live so far away from my family. Not everyone would be able or willing to send me pictures of their kids and write an email now and again to let me know how their family is doing, let alone call me. Any advice, Oh Wise One?

    1. Wow, I totally feel that pressure to remain current with the modes that people are using to communicate. I think that people who live lives split between two widely distant places have a different set of worries. I think for us the main thing is Keep in Touch By Whatever Means Humanely Possible.

      Being so far away from a lot of our loved ones means that we are more willing to forego what may be our preferred mode of communication, like letter-writing or phone calls, in favour of whatever the other person is comfortable with, because we realise that if we don't do what they find easiest or preferable we might not ever hear from them. And there is no way we will "run into them".

      I think that means for us that things which other people whose family and friends live closer together or even just LIVE IN THE SAME COUNTRY can forego like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, we take far more seriously. For families who all pretty much live in one country those things are extra commodities, which we can do without. For us they are tenuous lifelines of communication.

      What do you think of this? Do you think I am on the right track?

      Lucy Rose

  2. Wow, Lucy! Thank you for this post. I had never heard of this Essena girl. But, I guess I am the only one who hadn't, haha. Maybe being 50 has its privileges. But, I went to her "last youtube" post. It must not have been the one you watched in class, b/c in the one I saw, she wasn't falling out of her shirt. She was in a long sleeved t-shirt with a neck collar. Anyway, her post was so touching. Wow, how that publicity hurt her. How honest and transparent she was. I know that even at age 50, I care if people respond to my blog as well, or to my group emails, or to a facebook post (yes, I am so old, I still actually use facebook!). Anyway, I am glad you wrote about this. I am going to pray about where I need to "unplug" as well. Of course, living overseas, I don't want to unplug completely, b/c that is how I can connect with my kids in the States and with my mom and dad, etc. But, I could still spend WAY less time online, and connect in real ways with people I can touch around me. Thanks for this post. And, by the way, I am mom to one of your roommates. I will let you guess which one. :-) She is such a sweetheart. And evidently, from your posts, so are you! Please give my "little girl" a big hug from her mom for me.

    1. Dear Anonymous Mother of Unnamed Roommate,

      Thank you for you thoughtful comment. I LOVE when people take the time to a) read my blog and b) make a comment. It really touched me that you did that.

      I can really relate to the need to keep the lines of Facebook communication and other modes of social media open due to the huge gulf between myself and family and friends in the Czech Republic. Whenever I hear somone preach about getting off of certain social media I am like, "Woah! But what about all my Czech friends?!" I think that is one of the gifts that all of our new technology gives us: we can stay more "connected". I think the thing that Essena is combating are the shady sides of all this. I am glad that you went and looked her up for yourself to make your own assessment of her. I will go ahead and watch the video you mentioned, that sounds good.

      I think that for most people "unplugging" takes various forms. I liked what you said about praying about different options for doing it. I think I should be doing that too. I have been without phone service for a while and it has been so fun not to worry about it. In fact yesterday both your unnamed daughter and I lost our phones ON THE SAME DAY. This is how I know that she and I are kindred spirits: We lose things together.

      Once again, thanks for responding. It was a joy for me to read your thoughts and hear from you, since I have now met two whole members of your family and heard lots about you.

      Sincerely, Lucy Rose

      PS I will give a very warm hug to your little girl, who is actually about half a head taller than me. She is wonderful. I love how wise she is and she makes me laugh more than most people, which is a great boon at Wheaton where we tend to get very serious and stressed.

  3. PS The post I watched was "To my 12 Year Old Self" or something like that. It was quite good. I think I found the one that your prof had you watch. Was it "Why social media stinks"? (I hate that other word, so I changed it to stinks.) Don't feel you need to post either of my comments! I don't want to embarrass Hannah by having her mom post on her friend's site! She told me about your blog, btw. She said she thought I'd like it and that it is good - which it is! :-)

    1. Oops. I already published them. Should I take them down? Should we ask Hannah?

      For the record, I feel fine having them here, but it is up to you guys. I can do whatever.