I often change my mind about things.
Like when my sister first recommended the Amazon Prime show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I watched the first episode and thought, “Bleh.” I didn’t like it all that much.
But everyone kept talking about it, and I realized the show was written and produced by Amy Sherman Palladino and her husband Dan Palladino, the magical duo responsible for The Gilmore Girls, so I tried again. By the time I was a few episodes into Season One, I realized I’m a Maisel fan.
I had a similar experience with grapefruit. A few months ago, I accidentally bought a bag of grapefruit. See, I thought they were oranges, the really big navel oranges the grocery store sometimes carries. But when I got them home and looked more closely, I realized they were grapefruit. “Bleh!”
I held onto them for a couple of days, trying to decide whether to suffer through them or not. How do you even eat a grapefruit? I wondered, since their bitterness makes peeling and eating them like an orange rather unpalatable. Eventually I tossed the entire bag in the garbage.
A few weeks later, I listened to a podcast that extolled the virtues of grapefruit, which triggered a memory of my mom and stepdad sitting at the table most winter mornings eating grapefruit with a spoon. While my mom laid out the cereal and milk, my stepdad cut the grapefruit in two, laid each half in a small melamine bowl, then meticulously cut around the outside peel and along each section of the fruit. Next, he’d sprinkle a little sugar or Sweet-n-Low over the top, and by the time they were ready to eat, they could spoon out the sweetened fruit for a healthy start to the day.
The next thing I knew, I’d changed my mind about grapefruit. On my weekly shopping trips, I now buy bags of Ruby Red grapefruit on purpose. Like my stepdad, I now spend the few minutes before breakfast cutting the grapefruit in two, carefully carving each section. I don’t have a special grapefruit knife, like he did, but a serrated knife works just fine. And instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners, I drizzle honey on mine, and sometimes I even sprinkle on a little cinnamon. What a delicious change of mind!
In an On Being interview with Krista Tippett, author and Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman talks about the importance of critical thinking in the process of changing our minds. For starters, critical thinking may expose hidden biases in ours or others’ thinking. When we are confronted with our own biases, we may start thinking differently about a topic. Kahneman also says that at times our thinking might be filled with random error, or what he calls “noise.” We may have false information, or not enough information, or the wrong mental tools to assess the situation. When we correct the errors, we may begin to think differently.
But perhaps the most important tool for the critical thinker is the willingness to think again about the issues, circumstances, and situations that fill our thoughts. That second thought … or the third or fourth or tenth … may be the one that reveals our biases, uncovers our errors, or simply offers a different way of thinking. When we open ourselves up to the possibility of thinking again, we might realize we were right all along. We might feel confirmed in our opinions and resolute in our beliefs. Or, we might just change our minds.
Which is why a few days ago, after 15 months of being off social media, I decided to start a new Instagram account. I won’t go into all the details about why I did it, though I will say I still stand by all that I’ve written and shared about social media. It can be a time suck. Social media companies see me as a product not a customer. Time on social can, ironically, chip away at meaningful relationships, and it also adds noise to our already noisy world.
But as I mentioned in an essay last fall about my decision to step away from social media, that experience helped me realize that my problem isn’t only with social media. It’s with all kinds of new technology, like smart phones and email and streaming apps and more. As I worked through Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism, and began adopting his philosophy of new technology in my own life, I began to see a way back into social media that would support the things I deeply value while hopefully not dragging me back into the parts I deeply abhor.
Namely, I miss connecting with like-minded people about ideas we care about. I miss engaging with people around documented moments of life that don’t really fit anywhere else. And I miss encouraging people to hang in there when life feels overwhelming. As I looked for places to reconnect and share words of hope, Instagram seemed like the most logical place.
In other words, I’m not jumping back into the social world wholesale. Don’t look for me on Twitter or Pinterest any time soon. Also, I’m not adding TikTok or Snapchat to my life, much to the relief of my teenagers. And my LinkedIn account remains nothing more than an online resume; I don’t have any connections and I never post updates. I’ll continue using Facebook as I have for the last 15 months: as a way to communicate with one professional group I belong to. You may also find an author page there, but that’s just a necessary evil Facebook requires in order to take advantage of some Instagram features.
Which leads me to an important point I learned from Digital Minimalism: I’m not just jumping back into Instagram wholesale either. I’ll be focusing on a few optimized activities that will allow me to take advantage of the benefits of the app without suffering through the parts that leave me feeling less than human. For instance, I’m not putting Instagram on my phone. I’ll be using a scheduling app on my laptop to post, and I’ll be able to follow others and respond to comments there, too. I’ll also be using Instagram as an author, sharing personal details as they affect my writing life and focusing on reaching readers. While I’m sure I’ll be connecting with family and friends there, too, I don’t plan to post regular photos of our boys or news about family gatherings except as they might overlap with my life as an author.
As I’ve thought again … and again and again … about social media, I’ve considered jumping back in more than once. Until now, neither my conscience nor my sense of reason seemed to approve. But when I thought about it again recently, this time, I felt free to proceed. I started slowly. First, I made the decision without acting on it or telling anyone to see how it felt. Then, after a few days, I created an Instagram account but didn’t do anything with it. Eventually, I added a profile pic and bio, and today I even posted my first picture. And each time, it’s felt right.
I guess you could put Instagram up there with grapefruit and Mrs. Maisel. What started out a “Bleh” now feels like “Yeah!”
Until I change my mind again, that is.