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Navigating & Balancing the Physical and Digital world through Mindfulness: In Conversation with Tazin Khan Norelius

Words: Naomi Joshi

 

I'm Tazin - I feel like I have multiple personalities. I live a different spirit depending on what I'm doing. But at the foundational element of who Tazin is: I am a daughter, a sister and a friend. An extremely emotional being. I could almost cry thinking about how emotional I am. I'm passionate. And I'm just so curious. So curious. And I want so deeply to make change.

 #disconnectwithtaz - when did you come up with that? Why and how did you start to implement it? What was the thought process behind it?

In 2013 through 2015, I deleted my Facebook, my Instagram - I didn't have any social media for two years. That's really where it ignited and started for me. I had a really precarious relationship with social media - I was afraid of getting caught with my desi family. But mostly, it was related to me comparing myself to other women. I was in such a dark place, so I decided to delete my socials. And that was the most poetic, the most creative time. I had no money. I know I'm privileged now. But what I would do to be broke, lonely and alone again, if that makes sense. There is so much that happens when your resources are exhausted. I was just writing in my journal everyday.

I think what I love about social media is the catharsis of being able to share a diary. And I've always been an over-sharer, my entire life. So social media, was a place that was meant for someone like me - I finally have an outlet to share. But I started comparing myself, so I deleted it. And I started writing myself love letters every day. I used to do this practice in therapy, where I would write letters to people, in situations where things were left unsaid and I felt the need to say more. I realized one day that I was writing these beautiful, beautiful letters for other people, for men that just hurt me and broke my heart. I remember a few weeks after deleting my social media, I opened my journal, and I just started to cross off names. I was like, fuck that! This is my name. And I wrote my name over all of the love letters I had written other people. I re-read them, and I remember sitting in this little room that I was renting for like $720 a month, in a townhouse. I was all by myself. I didn't have a television, I didn't have anything. I was working three jobs, I had a torn ACL. And I just released. And that was where it started.

Before I started doing content or becoming a creator on social media, my relationship with social media was always pretty precarious. I'd be on Instagram and then I’d hop off Instagram for like a month or three weeks because it's too much. After experiencing life without having social media, I realized: the life that you live and the things that you can accomplish when you don't have it, is so amazing. I am susceptible to scrolling, just as so many of us are. I become a screen zombie and I fucking hate it. I hate being on my phone, looking at the clock and thinking: seriously? Did two hours just pass with me doing nothing? So, I asked myself every day: are you a creator or a consumer? And that's how I reconcile with this device [holds up phone].

Once I started doing content creation, I felt so obliged to my socials, which really pissed me off. I hate being told what to do. All the people that say: you have to post on this and if you want to make it, you have to do this, and I'm like no - I'm gonna find my own way. I'm gonna do my thing. So I thought, you know what? I'm gonna get everybody on board with me and do this. Let's disconnect y'all. I started socially disconnecting online, probably about a year and a half ago, but I didn't advertise it as much. Last year, when I first started Cyber Collective, I did a disconnect where I'd ask people to go on a hike with me on the weekends, which is super dangerous - giving my location when I was all alone going on hikes. Whereas now, I really just try to disconnect digitally.

To be clear, disconnecting means deleting all of your social media for the weekend, or staying off of your phone completely?

Deleting all of my social media allows me the opportunity to not be on my phone. As I'm not thinking about social media, I don't have my phone in my hand. There are some weekends where I still take calls, I'm still working and I still am engaging with screens, but my phone is normally not in my hand. Those work-related engagements have to be pre scheduled. And if it's not scheduled, then I'm most likely smoking my marijuana, cooking and sleeping. It's honestly just active rest. I do use Instagram to communicate with my team - we send each other inspirational posts, because it is a tool, right? But I cannot tell you how excited I get on Fridays around 4pm, to just delete that shit off of my phone, because now Instagram has become almost like a job, versus something that I can enjoy.

People started following your trend of disconnecting. What has that experience been like?

I feel like everybody is thinking it or wants to do it, there just needs to be a push. A lot of the hesitation surrounds the whole fear of missing out. I've actually had people ask me: well, what if this happens, or what if that happens and I'm like, first of all, news. Two, call people you love. Write letters. But honestly, it's beautiful to see. And to also just dispel some of the ideas that people have in regards to what they'll miss out on if they do disconnect. I try to tell them, I promise you you'll gain so much more if you really disconnect. All of these beautiful women, they'll post and say: I went hiking, I spent time with my partner, I cooked, I gardened, I wrote in my journal, I sat down with my mother and learned about her childhood. Really just deep, beautiful things that I feel like we otherwise don't get because we're just on our phones and distracted all the time. I wanted to go visit a few of my friends over the weekend in Philly a while back, and I disconnect on Fridays, so seeing all of them on their phones while we were hanging out triggered the fuck out of me. I'm like, put your phones down. When I used to wait tables and I’d see people with their phones, I would tell them to all put their phones in the middle until their lunch is over. I told them, this is what you have to do if you want to have a good experience. You're sitting in my section. And if you touch your phone, then you add 5% to my tip. I made a career out of it. Trolling since day one.

It's interesting too, because, I don't own disconnecting, right? I'm sure there are people that have been disconnecting for ages. And it's just so crazy because people that follow me say: 'oh, I'm so sorry. I forgot to tag you.' And I always say: this isn't about me.  It's about you disconnecting. This is not my thing, it's something universal that we should all be collectively experiencing. That's something I really try to push - just have people recognize that I love the whole giving credit thing, especially to artists where it's due, but it’s this oversaturated idea of ownership. Who are you doing it for? There's a difference in disconnecting for you rather than disconnecting to share it with someone else that will validate it. That defeats the whole purpose. I can tell who's really disconnecting versus who's disconnecting to be re-shared. Why don't you just disconnect for real? But overall, it's truly been such a blessing to see so many people engaging with that.

How does it feel to be super vulnerable via social media, knowing that all these people are informed about your life, your every day and what you do with your time? How does it feel to be so exposed?

As I said, I’ve always been someone that over shares, even with my friend circle or just in conversation, and I finally found a social setting in which that's accepted. So, sharing on social media really just feeds a part of my inner child that was so suppressed from being able to be authentically myself with everyone. It's not a vulnerable experience for me to overshare because I have always been an over-sharer. I will say that the vulnerability element comes in when thinking about my family seeing the oversharing. When I first came out about smoking weed, I was so afraid of my family seeing that, but I thought, you know what? I smoke weed and I'm still a successful, able and kind person. If they can't see that weed that has positively affected me... I think they know that I use it for my mental health, to help ease a lot of my angst. But that's where the vulnerability comes into play. I remember, I was working with someone and she said, would you put your Tech with Taz videos on Facebook? I was like, fuck no. I deleted Facebook a long time ago, but Instagram, it like feels like a different world. It's crazy how different social medias feel like different worlds - how you might have different experiences or show a different side of you, different elements of you in different places. 

What is your opinion on The Social Dilemma documentary?                               

I think it depicts the classic dilemma that we have with socials, and that's why it’s so captivating. We, as humans, all have enough cognizance to know that when using socials, we understand that we're definitely overusing them. We feel it. We know it. But we choose to do it anyway. And that's the addictive element of socials.

I read an article just about the lighting on our cell phones that are so bright, and the way that the backgrounds on our screens, the specific lighting that they use, make it feel like daylight. As humans, we’re attracted to daylight - that’s why certain light on your phone messes up your sleep schedule. That's why they implemented the night mode on phones. There's so many different psychological theories that have been tested and are being implemented into our devices.

I have a lot of different layered thoughts about social media, or just The Social Dilemma in particular - I love that there's something mainstream that is allowing people to see the details, and the destruction really, of what this is doing to us as a society. But it also ignites so many questions, such as: what agency do we have? Think about how much influence these socials have - take our inspiration, right? Is it inspiration? Or is it that we're manipulated into thinking exactly that? When I'm looking at something, and I'm processing - I try to be very present. I also talk about this via my cybersecurity stuff - being digitally mindful. That's something I'm really trying to push - conscious sharing, conscious clicking, and just being mindful about your digital being. Sometimes I'll be doing something and I question: Am I doing this because I actually want to? What cyborg is influencing my brain chemical reactions right now? There's just so many elements to it, so many layers. It's... scary. And I feel so in-between - talk about the fucking bi-cultural identity bullshit that I dealt with my whole life, and now, there's this other in-betweenness: I don't want to be on social media, but I'm also in cybersecurity and using social media to help teach people. It's like a whole other identity crisis. But in the end, it just comes down to being mindful. I, luckily, only experience my algorithmic bubble of people who are mindful, of people who do care about wellness, so that's what I see on my screen everyday. I used to see workout girls and fat booties all the time, because that's all I followed - I was comparing myself to the people I wanted to look like and be like, but now, mindfulness is all I see. The thing is - I still feel for people that don't have that, for people that have more destructive algorithms. We need to start thinking about our algorithmic bubbles that we live in, more closely. That is what is influencing us and not everybody has the agency to re-shift their own mind, let alone, unfollow and re-follow other people to change their bubble. I feel so responsible to steer people in one direction and to inform people of what is happening.

 

So much of our lives are screen based, digital and around technology, so I think transcending mindfulness into our digital space is a large part of the ‘mindful' journey. 

My advice on how to implement mindfulness into your life - both physically and digitally:

  1. Meditation
  2. Journaling
  3. Consciously clicking
  4. Consciously sharing 
  5. Scrolling with intention
— Is this bringing me joy? Is this draining my energy? What lessons am I learning right now? Do I feel present by scrolling? Is this what my soul needs right now? How do I want to feel at the end of this? 

 

And in regards to cybersecurity, my advice is:

  1. Use a password manager (go on cyber collectives page to find more info on this) 
  2. Use a VPN 
  3. Don’t click links you don’t recognize 
  4. Be mindful of only using sites that are secure (have a lock on the url or start with HTTPS) 
  5. Use multi factor authentication 

 


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