A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: First step to recovery is admitting the problem, but let me check my phone first…

People say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, so here goes.

“Hello. My name is Beth and I may be a social media junkie.”

The moment of truth came last Sunday morning. I was innocently journaling with a nice cup of coffee and minding my own business, thank you very much. On this particular day, things seemed to be off to a fairly good start. Weekend mornings are like that, though, aren’t they?

Anyway, I was probably a page or so into my weekend pep talk of sorts, and was reminding myself of the things that help me perform at my best — things like planning my days the night before, prepping meals for the coming week, and making sure everyone has clean underwear. Never underestimate the little things.

The bottom line was that I needed to improve my focus. As one tried-and-true axiom tells us: Where focus goes, energy flows. I knew that if I could rein in my focus, my productivity would improve exponentially.

That’s when I had a moment of eureka. The best way to accomplish this, as I spelled it out in my journal, would be to limit my presence on social media and reclaim the valuable time that was being hijacked by the thrill of diversion.

As my inner words of wisdom hit the paper, a promising new path to better productivity flashed through my mind. I’d be a new me — and this new me would leave her cell phone at home more. The new me would limit social media involvement to 20 minutes a day. Instead of reaching for my phone whenever I experienced a moment of anxiousness, the new me would take a few deep cleansing breaths and refocus her mind. Or maybe that was my inner yogi talking.

The new me, in her apparent infinite wisdom, would quit wasting time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the whole time-sucking, energy-draining lot of them.

The new me would focus on the stuff that matters. Hashtag social media dropout.

Except that no sooner had I written those words than autopilot took over. And before I realized what was happening — I had no memory of putting down my pen — my cell phone was in my hand and I was scrolling through a social media newsfeed.

I can only guess it was a subconscious knee-jerk reaction of sorts. While one part of my brain was searching for a plan to get me better focused, the other part searched for a quick diversion, as if to say, “Ok, ok. We’ll focus. But first, we need to be sure we aren’t missing something big on Facebook.”

As I sat there stunned at the inner turmoil spawned by my desire to focus, one thing was clear. The new me and my inner yogi have their work cut out for them. Hashtag good luck with that.

Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.


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