A social media friend just posted that she is going to be doing a "digital declutter" experiment, going offline for 30 days and rediscovering other aspects of her life that she takes pleasure from.
I realize what she does or doesn’t do is none of my business, but it has me thinking about my own use of social media as it relates to my personal use of silence, and about what amount of noise I allow into my life.
Grabbing a dessert treat with a friend last week had me remarking: “It's so noisy in here.” From the staff behind the counter yelling out the customer orders, the kids with their families crying or yelling because they wanted their treat now and not later, to the radio station coming in more loudly than clearly over the speakers, there’s a lot of noise to contend with in the world today.
Perhaps it’s because I was raised an only child, but I love the silence. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being with people too, but it is in the silence that I connect with God and receive insight and guidance on various concerns of my heart.
But that way of being isn’t always comfortable for many. We rush to fill the silence so that we don’t have to confront our truth, or answer the call to action that we might most resist. I joke with friends the reason movie theaters are so crowded during the holidays is because people can still say: “We had a nice time with the family” but don’t have to really talk to them, thanks to the distraction and noise from the big screen.
For many, silence equals oppression, but that is not my point here. I can use my voice for good, but that comes from the inspired action I receive from God, in the silence.
Would taking a break from social media help me get there faster? I tend to think that making the act of being in silence more of a daily spiritual practice would be more effective for me. Its something that I implement just about every day, and my pals and I have a good laugh when they call in the early morning and my voice is raspy. They wonder if I might be coming down with something. I assure them I have been up for hours but am just easing into the day. Indeed, prayer and meditation time, article writing and email answering have happened much before that first phone call starts, but doing it in the silence is soothing to me, allowing my brain to wake up and focus first.
For me, silence and peace are best friends. They can be in a room together for hours and never have to utter a word. They just know what the other one is thinking. I recall the television commercial from years ago (though not the product it advertised) that told us, “If you want to get someone’s attention, whisper.” Even back then, speaking softly was enough to jar others from their noise and get their attention so that they could truly hear you.
It’s a gift to be truly present in a conversation and an honor to be heard by someone we care about, without judging the outcome or assuming the need they might have, until they themselves tell us.
As a professional listener, I’d like to think I have this skill mastered. But I know that there is always more to learn and ways to grow when I can pause, pray and hear from God.
Ann Leach is a life coach based in Joplin. Email her at ann@AnnLeach.com.