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Jessica Runck, Published April 10 2014

Homegrown Hollywood: Social media nothing compared with socializing with family

Last week I flew to Phoenix for a girls’ weekend with my mom, aunt and grandma.

As my boyfriend, Jason, dropped me off at the airport, I realized I had forgotten my phone. After a few moments of blind panic and begging him to turn around, I took a breath and decided to take this as an opportunity to really unplug.

Walking through the security line, I felt good, almost smug as I watched people buried in their phones trying to navigate LAX. I was ready to leave behind the busy, text-centric city and embrace a peaceful weekend in Arizona.

Ready, until I arrived at the airport security line.

All around me, people pulled out their phones, texting with friends, posting on Facebook and Instagraming a photo of the long line. My hands began to sweat. How am I going to pass this time? Where am I supposed to look? What am I supposed to do?

Miraculously, the line kept moving, and before long I was being asked whether or not I was carrying any bottles of water or firearms and to please remove my shoes.

When I arrived in Phoenix, my Aunt picked me up (somehow finding me without a text) and we headed back to her house. I hadn’t seen my mom or grandma since Christmas, and hugging them was like coming home again.

The first night passed in a happy blur of wine and conversation. I wish I could say I hadn’t missed my phone, but honestly, I thought about it a lot.

When leaving Los Angeles to visit home or spend time with family, there is a significant downshift that occurs. Away from the bright lights and movement of the city, I usually go through a little withdrawal. Being surrounded by constant stimulation can be exciting and addicting and I always miss it at first.

Until I remind myself where I came from.

A place where the brightest light was a full moon, and racing cars were few and far between. A place where, in my childhood, there had been no smartphones or easy access to Internet connections.

I reminded myself of that in Arizona when I kept reaching for my phone, wanting to share with Facebook how much fun we were having. And eventually, I settled into the quiet.

Instead of checking my texts on long drives into the desert, I chatted with my grandma. I listened to my aunt talk about her recipe secrets instead of googling a place to go out and eat. Rather than checking my email right before bed, my mom and I stayed up late and chatted about my future (and fictional) wedding.

In a culture obsessed with sharing – whether you fall in love, go to the doctor or buy a new couch – it felt good to keep something to myself. Instead of showing people how happy I was, I started just being happy.

On the last night, as the sun set on the Arizona desert, we sat around the fire sipping wine and sharing stories. I looked at the two generations of women who came before me and felt so lucky I could spend this time with them.

When I returned to Los Angeles, my phone was waiting for me on the nightstand. I flipped it on and scrolled through my messages, feeling the old familiar rush I got from plugging in or logging on. But it felt a little different this time. Maybe a little empty.

I slipped my phone into my purse and thought about the last night in Arizona. As we were going to bed, Grandma had grabbed me around the arms.

“I love you.”

The look in her eyes had gone straight to a deep place in my heart.

And there’s no Facebook post for something like that.

Jessica Runck, who grew up in Wimbledon, N.D., and graduated from Concordia College, is a writer and actor living in Los Angeles. Visit www.jessicarunck.com for more information.