equilibrium


A day more than ten weeks ago I committed to ghosting on Twitter, FB, and Instagram. Since then, I have been to Facebook once, and Twitter a handful of times (to check notifications for both), and have not been back on Instagram. I’ve been glued to my phone for years, more than a decade, certainly, and it hasn’t been positive.

I had two main motivations for drawing back on my social media use, one major and one minor. The major one was that my inability to control my anxiety was skyrocketing along with my use. I was so angry and anxious after reading a single post on Facebook one day that I was shaking. It consumed me for hours. That’s when I decided I couldn’t live with that, and I stopped using Facebook. That also prompted me to pause and think about what Twitter and Instagram were doing for me, and what they were doing against me. I thought that Twitter kept me informed, gave me more insight into world and social events. What it actually did was introduce more things that made me panic, and reduced my agency because I was thoroughly overwhelmed. I used Instagram to share photos of Grant, and loved the likes and reactions to each post – but I really never scrolled Instagram to look at other posts. The minor reason I distanced myself from my social media accounts is that I was compulsively overusing them and too much of my attention was being drowned. I wanted to use Tumblr in earnest, but there was truly no space, temporally, mentally, or emotionally.

So, in ten weeks, what has changed?

I don’t want to minimize or bury this – I have essentially traded my compulsive behavior checking those social media apps for different compulsive behavior. At the same time, I’m happier. I can think more critically about my own habits around social media and other digital consumption, because my consumption no longer consumes me.

My new compulsive behavior has transferred mostly to Tumblr. This was an intended outcome – I reasoned that the best way to rapidly adopt Tumblr was to accelerate dependence on it. However, I’ve also noticed much more starkly how fractured my ability to concentrate has become. Previously, I could just scroll Twitter when my attention wandered, and it soaked up my attention silently so I didn’t really remember what I scrolled through. That time just vanished, while leaving the dregs of depression secreted in hard-to-reach places. Now, though, I’ve been calling my attention to when I drift, a mindfulness practice that is annoying in its damning. I used to forget to check my email for days. Now I find myself opening it every few minutes, particularly when reading something that requires active concentration. Indeed, while reading this article (Constant Craving: How digital media turned us all into dopamine addicts), I checked my email twice and Slack several times more. I find myself turning to these dopamine triggers automatically throughout my work day. I notice it, and I don’t like it. Noticing it is the first step towards fixing it. So I stoke my annoyance and frustration at the habit, and redirect. This is going to take a long time to fix.

Like all beautiful things that are smashed, an inability to concentrate is a tragedy. But, properly fixed, the rebonded seams are the strongest and form a new structure less prone to breaking.

With fewer avenues to distraction available on my phone, I find myself picking it up and putting it back down. I look at the pictures I’ve taken of my family more often. I read on it more. And, I use Tumblr more.

My other, prior social media use left me feeling at best empty, and at worst unable to claw out of a very black hole. I don’t find that to be the case with Tumblr. I see beautiful, silly, and (or) funny things; I read thoughtful posts, I watch cleverly arranged gifsets, and ultimately, I connect with the content in a positive way. I feel more filled-up. I feel more creative. I feel more hopeful. I am still on the distant side of over-usage, but that is a place I prefer to be for now. I am not at a place of equilibrium. This was a problem that couldn’t be solved so quickly. But, I am at a place where I can see where the cracks and breaks are, where balance seems a true possibility, eventually.


One response to “equilibrium”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: