Why We Sometimes Need to Unplug From Our Friends

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by Mariah Williams

I am sure that most of us can scroll through our phones and pull up a group chat we are a part of with our closest friends, family members or even co-workers. I am all for a good group chat with girlfriends. In fact, sometimes I don’t know how I’d get through a day without them. They supply me will countless moments of laughter, endless memes to save for a rainy day and the sisterhood and camaraderie that I so often crave and require in my life.

Like most 25 year olds, I am still trying to figure it all out. Life. Love. Money. Career. Family. Myself. On most days, it is refreshing to speak with my friends in a chat around similar topics. Any sharing of a news article or Instagram post can spark a 2-hour round robin between all of us.

“200 messages??” I think as I look at my phone after putting it down for just 30 minutes.

But, admittedly, there was a point in time where I just could not indulge in the conversation.  Where it became too much. Instead, I’d see a string of text messages about how a girl looked on IG or a long thread of a friend giving relationship advice or summoning it and it all became too much information to take in. Not because I did not care about what was going on in my friends’ lives or about how an article made them feel, but the constant picking a part of something was more than I could handle. Someone would post their philosophies about men and relationships and I found that their comments made me anxious about my own. While the intent of this messaging space was certainly to be uplifting and supportive, it sometimes felt like the blind leading the blind in many ways, the spewing of thoughts and ideas we assumed made us “strong and impenetrable” black women, when in fact, we were all trying to figure it out.

Most of us were around the same age, had varying life experiences and wanted similar but different things out of life for the most part. But somehow, when the conversations began, our varying perspectives often got lumped into one category and fused into one way of thinking about the world. Again, not because we intended for them to. In our efforts to support and reaffirm each other’s thoughts and ways of being, it seemed like we forgot that we in fact didn’t really know how we were supposed to exist or be, in ourselves, in relationships, in life. Not yet.

I’d find myself second-guessing my own thoughts and philosophies on certain issues and becoming anxious about the way I was living, the choices I made or did not make with my partner. And it became exhausting, and perhaps the fact that these conversations began to exhaust me suggested that I had things I was working through. And this in fact was true. However, I think it also highlights the danger in sharing everything with people.

So I left the group. At first I thought it would only be for a day or two. But then it turned into weeks. At first I missed chatting with many of my friends who lived far away in this group setting, but I realized how much time I had spent in my head during and after our conversations (and how unproductive it made me at work). I realized that taking a step back, in the same way one steps back from work or a relationship, was what I needed to focus on myself and to develop and reaffirm my own thoughts, paths and relationships.

In an age where we are constantly plugged in and connected to others, there is a pressure to divulge everything. Group chats with our closest friends can certainly be a sacred and much needed space and the easiest way to stay in touch. I promote and love these spaces. But I also value time to embrace and live my own life, without the constant picking a part of one’s choices. It is okay to say, “not today” or “okay, you ladies are going on mute today” and to control what our eyes and minds absorb. And our friends, our sisters, shouldn’t take it personally. It’s simply another act of self-care and self-love. I think it is okay to acknowledge that we are sometimes fragile and impressionable beings, and that as much as we try to convince ourselves that other people’s opinions of our lives don’t matter, they sometimes do. As I continue to work through my own life, insecurities, hopes and desires, I recognize the need to unplug and not feel bad about it.

Mariah Williams is currently pursuing her Masters in Urban and Regional Planning at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is the founder of Black Girls Meet Up, an organization dedicated to creating spaces for the being of Black women and girls. She aspires to become an urban planner who advocates inclusive spaces and communities for people of color, specifically Black women and girls.

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