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Lent

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. Lent is a season in the Christian liturgy that lasts for the 40 days leading up to Easter. For a lot of folks, it’s a time of cleansing or focus on renewal. Often, people will give up a thing or number of things — or incorporate new items into their daily routine — the honor the season and better themselves or their spiritual practice.

I’ve wanted to participate in Lent for a while but quite honestly kept forgetting about it until partway through. And though I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, the thing I like a about Lent is, quite frankly, that it ends. It’s about implementing a change for a season, and choosing something that matters to you.

This year I finally remembered, and because I am already working on adding in some personal goals, decided to give up shopping on Amazon and beef. Though I’m not cutting it completely, I’ve also set stricter limits on my use of social media. These are already things I’ve been trying to consume less of, but for me they are conveniences that I enjoy, but which (for the first two) contribute harmfully to the environment and rarely make me better in any way. For social media, though it does have positive elements, it can negatively affect my mood and becomes a place where I waste time instead of doing other things I enjoy that offer greater reward.

When I think about these things over the next six weeks or so, it becomes a reminder to pivot my attention to things that do make me better, whether that’s reaching out to a friend, taking some time to meditate, or just thinking of something I’m grateful for.

I’m really looking forward to how this goes, and hoping that this season also provides opportunities to learn and room to grow by emptying out some of the time I used to fill with stuff that doesn’t really benefit me.

This sort of self-reflective initiative is one of the things that I’ve been discovering is both incredibly important and incredibly difficult to follow through on as an emerging adult, but it’s one I really believe in, and I hope that others also see the value in.

Do you participate in Lent or similar seasons of change? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because I am very much ready for spring.)

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Sometimes social media is way too much. Let me preface this with the fact that I am (hopefully obviously) in no way against social media outright. I think it’s useful, I appreciate the benefits, and overall for me the pros outweigh the cons. But some days, the cons loom really, really large.

As emerging adults — and specifically Millennials/Gen Z — we’re young enough to be native to the latest technology, and old enough to be responsible for the ways we engage with them and allow them to affect us. That’s no small ask.

If I’m being completely honest, there are few things that get under my skin more than older generations bagging on younger generations for being plugged in to technology. I’m on my phone a lot. But most of the time I’m using it to stay in touch with people whom I otherwise wouldn’t be able to, whether it’s messaging a friend about a joke I heard or Facetiming my family across the country. Following that, I’m likely using it as a tool; my navigation, calculator, news, to-do list, and more are all contained in that one handy device. And sometimes, it’s pure entertainment. I’m looking at cute animal videos or playing the one game I have and am completely okay with that.

Of course, there are times to put the phone, or other tech, away. It’s never cool to be disruptive or impolite at a show or event. When you’re having more than the most casual of conversations with someone, they deserve your attention. Sometimes it’s just time to go to bed or go outside or read a book. But I want to be clear that the issues arise in when and how technology like phones and social media get used, not the fact that it’s used at all.

Including the ones for this blog, I consistently use six social media accounts on four platforms. I have limits set for all of them to keep any from becoming too much of a rabbit hole — or at least, from letting myself go too far down it. Some of them have time limits or a number of posts I’m allowed to scroll through before moving on, some of them I try to check a limited number of times per day. A couple of them are more of a self-contained “honor system” where I’m honest with myself about when it’s no longer serving a good purpose and I put it away.

But sometimes those don’t work. This morning I opened up my phone and within a few minutes just felt inundated and bogged down by the quantity and content of posts and ads and opinions and so on. I’m pretty introverted, and sometimes forget that even social media takes energy and a mental/emotional toll to engage with. When it starts to feel overwhelming like that, I walk away. Usually I’ll stay off of certain platforms for a while or set stricter limits on the time I do spend. There are no set rules to it, just an acknowledgment and response to knowing that the dopamine we get from scrolling isn’t worth the rest of what it’s costing me right now.

The lesson here is simple, but not always easy. It’s entirely up to us to know when it’s worthwhile to engage with such complicated beasts as social media. To know when it’s too much, when it benefits us or helps build relationships, when more important things are in front of us, and when we could just use a break.

It’s something most of us are still working on, and will hopefully strike a better balance of as time goes on. What are your favorite tips for not letting social media become overwhelming? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. If you’re looking for a song in this vein, I highly recommend “Look On Up” by Relient K.

(Photo is a free stock photo again because of the whole camera phone conundrum.)