If our daily interactions with people, the work that we do, and the thoughts that we think is the “real world”, the opposite could be named, to borrow a phrase from the hit show Stranger Things, the “upside-down”.
In the show, the upside-down represented an echo or shadow of the real world. It certainly looked like the town that the loveable child-stars inhabited, but it was slightly off. Between the exaggerated hue, little flecks of something-or-other floating around, and well, the huge monsters roaming the woods, things were a bit different.
In our lives, we inhabit a real world with real people and real actions. We breathe real air and make real decisions. That’s completely obvious, of course, because we’re really alive. Much of our time and attention, however, can find its way into our own sort of “upside-down”. Instead of making art, we surf Imgur. Instead of serving in our communities, we only tweet about social change. Instead of having real conversations with people, we stalk their social media profiles.
Sure, social media and the like have their value. Don’t mishear me. The breadth of informational reach is astounding, but it should provoke a little bit of embarrassment to think about how much time we spend reading headlines, watching movies, and retweeting inspiring quotes instead of doing real things. These things are all reactions to real life. They’re dependant on real life, and so exist as a sort of echo of the real doers.
Every time that we have our heads bent to our phones or check an Instagram feed as soon as we wake, we give a little more real life away in exchange for time in our own personal upside-down reality. We decide, in an unsaid act of submission, that we would rather devote our energy to perusing everyone else’s real life instead of attending to our own.
I’m certainly no Luddite. I work on a computer all day long, have a smartphone (with all of the relevant social media apps, naturally), and even wear a smartwatch that vibrates throughout the day to remind of life that’s happening all around my little world. But this is exactly why this thought has been on my mind. I’m learning to be more and more happy every time I forget my phone as I go outside to work in the yard. I actually, and guiltily, get a little excited when someone asks, “Have you heard about this big world event?!”, and I can reply, “I haven’t! What’s going on?”.
In a world that seems to constantly be calling us to watch, replay, and like, I’m trying to learn how to do. I want to be someone who connects with people, even in the mess, and doesn’t just “follow” their online highlight reels. I’m nowhere close to where I ought to be, but I’m becoming more mindful, and I think that counts for something. After all, knowing is still half the battle, right?