An island girl living in Canada, what could possibly go wrong? Well, let’s talk about the elephant in all Canadian rooms from the start—the weather.
The Canadian winter is unreasonably cold, and for someone who is used to +30 degrees Celsius, it doesn’t get easier. During the winter months, I find myself more drawn to social media than I am at any other time of the year, and what I find myself searching for are pictures of home.
Home, for me, is the tiny island of Trinidad located in the Caribbean, and it is where my family still resides. I have completed seven winters in Canada thus far, and I would be lying if I said I was starting to appreciate that particular change in season.
While I do not think the day will ever come that I will actually like winter, I have realized the benefits of living a more present lifestyle and being where I am rather than where I believe I need to be.
During winter, when I am mindlessly searching through Facebook and Instagram, I see photos of friends and family and always wish that I were somewhere else. But what I noticed this past winter is that seeing these photos brought an overwhelming feeling of not being present.
When I looked at these pictures, I became restless and more unhappy with my current location, and rather than continuing that behaviour for the length of winter, I took action.
In order to help myself be more present, instead of adamantly wishing to be somewhere else, I removed myself from social media for six weeks. During those six weeks, I deleted the apps from my phone and did not login on my laptop. I informed my closest friends and family members, and so it began.
The first two weeks of my ‘cleanse’ felt the way I imagine quitting sugar feels. During those two weeks, I thought about social media more than I ever have, and it felt as though that withdrawal period would last for the entire duration of the cleanse. At that time, I honestly considered getting back on, because I was devoting more time and attention to it than I had before, and what was the point in that?
However, being a strong-willed person, I persevered and eventually noticed there were long periods of time during which I didn’t even think about those apps. Coming up to the three-week mark was when the magic happened, and I stopped caring about what was happening back home and focused on where I was and who I was with.
I am not sure whether ridding myself of social media for those six weeks helped me cope with winter any better, but what it did help me do was stop wishing I were somewhere else. Yes, I still got pictures from my family members, and of course the message I sent back was always, “Wish I was there!” but it didn’t hold the same longing as it did in previous winters.
While social media does many amazing things and connects people like never before, I do believe there is something lost in knowing what is happening every second of every day. The urge to go out and discover things on your own is not as prevalent as it once was, and this was definitely a factor in my decision.
Having a conversation with friends and family without knowing everything they had done and who they were with last weekend gave a new dimension to my conversations, as there was far more to catch up on.
Stimuli are everywhere
Becoming fully present is something I have needed to work on for the past few winters, as they all followed the same theme of willing myself to be in a warmer place. During this challenge of being fully present, even when times were tough and I wished myself anywhere else, I came out stronger.
Being present is difficult, especially for this generation, as there are stimuli everywhere. From interactive advertisements to social media platforms, there is always something engaging us.
The constant expectation of being entertained made it difficult, at first, to remind myself that there are things I enjoy that don’t involve screens. This challenge gave me more free time, and I rediscovered my love for drawing and other indoor activities—it was still winter!
I am extremely happy with my decision to temporarily break my ties with social media, and know that I am now better able to give my attention and time to the people I am with. There is much to be said about the conversations that take place when we allow content to happen organically and not on an app.