Unplugged

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A few weeks ago we took a break.

We headed east then south in search of the sun. I needed to remember what it feels like to have the sun on my face, what it feels like to remove a few layers and feel the breeze on my skin. On my skin. Not on my sweater or my jacket. On the skin of my shoulders, my ankles, even, my belly. Like an animal I put my soft belly to the desert sun in one part playful unveiling, one part surrender.

Around this time of the year, I deeply miss the light. I grew up in South Carolina. In April, in South Carolina, it is warm. It is lovely. The flowers bloom, the air is tender and you can wear your Easter dress with sandals. In Montana, well, April is not warm. I suppose, by some calculation, it is spring but it usually involves at least one day like we had last Sunday where we kept looking out the window wondering if it was going to stop snowing. We went from, oh-look-it’s-snowing to it-looks-like-a few-inches to I-think-we-should-dig-out-the-car all in a matter of hours. We awoke to shoveling a path under the budding lilac and constant eye rolling on my part as I muttered, “This isn’t spring!”

And to my Southern soul, snow will never be springlike. So in late March we will probably continue to drive south looking for it. This year we found it by a tiny creek in Utah. We found it on slick rock in a twisty canyon where the walls rose high and red and the floor bloomed green.

The drive from Montana to Utah is, at times, through some desolate country. As we headed farther south there was a point when searching for a cell signal did little except drain my phone of its battery so I turned it to airplane mode and left it there for most of the trip. I took pictures with it but that was about it. I didn’t tweet, I didn’t update my Facebook status or mark our trip by posts with photos of my children. I unplugged and, like the spring I was looking to find, it felt free and light.

I’ve seen a lot of news stories lately about the brands we all create using social media platforms. We paint a picture of what we want other people to know and leave out the parts that don’t fit into that brand image. I do it too. We all do. One of the more brilliant depictions of this phenomenon in a news story describes a couple going out to dinner. The food was bad, the company so so but it didn’t matter because the picture of the two on Facebook looked as though they were have a great time so, at least in the world of social media, it became so, complete with likes and comments.

My week without social media got me thinking about why I engage in it. What do I get out of it and what does it take from me? It’s the last part of this question that I’ve really been mulling over since I got back. Is facebook taking more than I’m getting in return? I’m still trying to figure that out.

We left Utah on a bright sunny morning. During the past few weeks I’ve slowly waded back into the waters of social media, using it a little more selectively than before. Like any other powerful tool, it demands caution and like any other relationship, it demands assessment. And lately, that’s just what I’m giving it and nothing more.