This year, I extended my social media hiatus from one to six months. During that time, I tried to communicate with people the old-fashioned way – in person. While I clearly couldn’t recreate the volume of interactions, I did have a lot of fun seeing people for coffee, drinks, and meals (yes, it’s a bit harder on the budget and waistline, but otherwise very, very satisfying). I missed seeing pictures and keeping abreast of certain milestones and opportunities, but by and large, the fast had the intended effect of increased focus, the absence of FOMO (I do love and try to adhere to the new phrase JOMO – The Joy of Missing Out) and a general sense of well-being.

Now that the six months are past, I’ve come out of my self-imposed cocoon and begun to tip my toes into one social media platform that I enjoyed – Instagram. (For the record, I did stay on LinkedIn, mostly for business purposes.) It’s amazing, and a little sad, how quickly some of the old habits return – scrolling when I’m in between meetings or calls or not compelled to read whatever book or magazine is on my pile or in my bag. And with this reflex, a tad of the green-eyed monster called comparison has raised her head. I’m doing my best to deal with her by sharing my own fun or funny photos and captions, cheering on my friends, and keeping the entire interaction to a minimum.

An important lesson I learned is that the “social” part of media is what is most enjoyable – the connection to people about whom we care, the introduction of a new concept or perspective, and the opportunity to share snippets from our lives. It’s also critical to remember that these platforms are curated by users (I’m not even going to into the whole algorithm thing!). The acronym IRL nails it right in the middle – REAL. A key difference between virtual and lived is that the former may pique our curiosity, but at least for me, it doesn’t come close to satiating it. And, I believe that curiosity is one of the most essential characteristics to cultivate as it leads down so many paths – ones that lead to wonderful discoveries.

Musing on the interplay of the lived and the viewed…I reached out to Tom Klinkowstein, the designer who created the Heyman Partners’ logotype and brand identity. (Ok, I also needed the font name for my first-ever HP swag!) Over breakfast, he shared an amazing technique he’s been employing for years. Every week he has conversations with 10 people who seem interesting. They can be strangers, passers-by or others who are not core in his life. Ten a week! He regaled me with stories of where this has lead (i.e. invitations to speak at conferences) or where it was merely interesting. I so love this – it’s curiosity in action and it’s also such an affirming way to go through life. I’m challenging myself now to do this as well. Last week, for example, while waiting for the train, I engaged a mother and ballet class attired daughter and asked where she takes the class. It brought me back to my own children’s days of after-school activities and summer adventures, and a moment of connection was created. So much better than looking down at my screen…

So, as the heat dome lifts on much of the US this week, I invite you to look up and about, strike up a conversation – yes, post if you must (amazing sunsets do seem to be abundant) -and do so in the spirit of fun. Sharing moments, on platforms that are virtual or physical, is a joy and a sacred opportunity to connect about what is real.