PROJECT EYE CONTACT- 30 DAY CHALLENGE: UNPLUG TO RECONNECT

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Ok, something is up. If you know me, or have come to know me here, you may be aware that I am a huge believer in signs. And even though I don’t always read those signs correctly, I see them nonetheless…sometimes they actually smack me in the forehead. There have been many signs lately pointing me towards dusting off my five-year old vision, Project Eye Contact. In fact, everywhere I go and in everything I do, there’s another glaring sign, sneaking into my mind and forcing me to ask myself if I am being called to revive this important project for reasons bigger than just to kick what has become a terrible personal habit, ok addiction might be more accurate. I actually believe this kind of project is needed today more than ever, and especially more than it was five years ago. I tend to have many ideas, but following through is a bit of a problem for me. And until now, this one had been no different.

Last night, while attending a really powerful women’s group for the first time, I felt another stirring in my heart, maybe more like a tugging. I had removed the Facebook app from my phone just two days ago, and I swear if there are physical withdrawals to not having an app on one’s phone, I am sure I was having them in that moment as I was listening to the speaker and soaking in the message- while thinking how easy it would be to sneak a peek at my phone, if only. How long would it take to re install it real quick? I thought. Cut it out Julie. Pay attention. Over to my right as I glanced around, trying desperately to distract myself from giving in to the distraction I was obsessively contemplating, someone sure enough, was scrolling through. Blue banner up top. Tiny thumbnail pics. Familiar thumb swipe. Envy. All I felt was envy.

Afterwards, as I was thanking the speaker for sharing her soul with us, my old project came up in conversation, again. Yep. Irony at it’s best. There I was talking about an idea I had several years ago to revive connections through eye contact and acts of being “present in the moment” while mere moments before I was jonesing for my favorite distraction from the very moment I was in.

And then this morning, there was another big. fat. sign. As I opened my phone and began my daily ritual of Facebook scrolling via the much less convenient and much less visually pleasing mobile website version, since I was sticking to my “no Facebook app” policy of course, to awaken my senses and activate my mind with all the “news,” and whatever other mindless contents spilled out between my fingertips; out jumped the mother of all signs as I blinked my eyes open for another day of information overload. There it was. I read an article posted by a friend. A facebook friend. A friend I haven’t actually seen since we were probably in 6th grade, and in all honesty, don’t recall ever being friends with her back then, but a friend whom I could tell you today how many children she has, where she lives, her birthday, what her children wore for Halloween and her political views. The article was a thought provoking piece about relationships suffering from overuse of technology. I failed to mention an important detail about why I had deleted the Facebook app in the first place- my youngest son was trying to get my attention the other night to proudly show me a sentence he’d been working on writing for quite a while at our kitchen table- I was busy engaged in something super important in Facebookland and hardly glanced his direction to look at his finished scribbly product. He looked up at me dissapointedly and said, Mom, get off Facebook I want to show you how I can read now!

I read this article shared by my 6th grade friend on my awkward mobile website version of Facebook and all of a sudden I saw it. This was the final sign I needed and the message was loud and clear: this was a call to arms to put down my phone for the sake of saving the precious relationships right in front of me.project3

Wait? Hadn’t I heard this somewhere before?

Oh, that’s right, from my own heart over and over again over the past five years and counting. I created this blog in large part to focus on this very project in fact. After all, the mission of You’ll Soon Be Flying is UN [-] PLUGGED HONESTY WHILE LIVING IN A WIRED WORLD. CONSTRUCT A LIFE, NOT A PROFILE. [RE] CONNECT YOUR HEART. Have I done that? Maybe. Am I still a Facebook junkie? You betcha. I realized I needed to commit for real this time.

I have written about Project Eye Contact before, many times in fact. If you want to brush up on what the project is and how I originally came to the idea back in 2009, read this blog post or this one or even this one. Or, just read my About page.

I talk about living “unplugged” all the time, but talking and doing are two very different things. It’s time to act. So, as of today, I propose a challenge. I will be unplugging from my most favorite social media for the next 30 days. I will deactivate my personal Facebook account and commit to myself to not log in, check in, or sneak a peek in any way for an entire month.

Instead, for every urge I have to reach for my phone to click that blue little F square and have a quick scroll, or jump on my computer to see how many notifications I have to weed through and gratifyingly clear each one; I will replace each urge with a counteract of re-connection with a living, breathing singular person in my close personal life. In that very moment I will instead reach out, and transfer my misguided love for social media to my genuine love for my spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent or neighbor, or anyone who needs my love more than Mark Zuckerberg (Whose net worth is currently 33.3 billion, making him the 16th richest person in the world.) I have no problem with Zuckerberg’s success by the way, I’m just quite sure that he will be just fine without me for 30 days.

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The rules of my challenge are simple but Powerful:

1. NO Facebook for 30 days. (I will be deactivating my personal account during this time to squash any weak moments.)

2. For every urge to plug-in to my social media life, instead I will redirect that urge by connecting with a live person in my life who would be meaningfully impacted by my show of love for them distraction-free.

3. Keep a daily journal tallying:

-how many times I fought the urge to tune out the world right in front of me, for the world behind a screen. I will see in black and white just how consuming social media has become over my life.

-how many and what acts I chose instead to replace that urge with making a connection with someone I love.  I will be able to reflect on my new habits long after the challenge to keep me on track.

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Dare to Join me? I think we can all come up with our own acts of connection, but in case you need a kick start, these are a few examples that I plan on working on in particular. However, don’t stress about coming up with overly creative acts, anything that has meaning to the recipient, and makes you feel connected in that moment counts. The only rule, it must be cyber-free.

A hug.

A phone call (face time would be even better, but I’m not sure my grandparents know how to use it!)project4

Offering a hand to hold just because.

A pat on the back.

A good shared belly laugh.

A hearty handshake.

A meaningful uninterrupted conversation with a neighbor or coworker, friend or loved one.

A drop everything and dance moment.

An impromptu sing along to a favorite song with your child or partner.

Reading a book aloud to your little one.

Sitting across from your partner or a friend at dinner and leaving all phones turned off and in the “time stealer” corner of the table (added incentive: first person to check their phone pays or does the dishes.)

And above all, whenever possible for the next 30 days, initiate and maintain deliberate eye contact.

I am not challenging anyone to give up Facebook or whatever social media they unplug from indefinitely. These 30 days symbolize a commitment to Unplug in order to Reconnect. Sometimes we must remove something important from our lives, to gain something even more important. I am ready to regain what I am certain I have lost in the past 5 years- precious moments with the ones who really matter to me. I’m not wasting another day. I am actively taking a stand to get them back and never again give more of my moments to Zuck than I give to my awesome scribbly new writer who, incidentally, can also read really well.

Now, I conduct business on Facebook too. As a freelancer, my livelihood requires some of my time spent on my clients’ pages. So if that’s you too I think we can all agree that work cannot and should not be shirked to honor this challenge. The point is symbolic, but going broke by ignoring your duties for a month would be anything but symbolic. So, use your best judgment. For me, with only work-related exceptions, I will remain completely personal Facebook free for the next 30 days. I will return here to keep you updated on my progress, and at the end to share my journal.

Will you take the challenge?

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If you accept , make this badge your Facebook profile picture for the next 30 days and post the link to this article in the profile picture comments to spread the word. Encourage your social media world to ‘Unplug to Reconnect’ too.

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