Turn Off The Reality Distortion Field
Social media should come with a Surgeon General's Warning, just like cigarettes. "WARNING: THESE ALGORITHMS ARE DESIGNED TO FEED OFF NEGATIVITY AND RAGE. OVERUSE OF THESE PLATFORMS MAY HAVE A DETRIMENTAL EFFECT ON YOUR MENTAL HEALTH." Don't get me wrong: I'm just as guilty as the next person about being too plugged in to the shit hurricane that can be social media. Twitter and Facebook have come off my phone so many times and within days- sometimes weeks if I'm really disciplined about it, I'll be sneaking looks at the mobile versions of both platforms on my phone so much that I'll finally give up and put them back on my phone.
And so, the cycle continues.
This might age me a little bit, but remember MySpace? Or LiveJournal? I know both are technically still around in some form or another, but man... those were the days. When a whole fleet of kids would learn basic CSS and some HTML just to make their MySpace page look cooler. When bands launched their music careers just by being discovered on MySpace. When you didn't need to worry about how many friends you had, because everyone always had at least one.
You could connect with people. You could be creative. It felt like what the internet should be. (And this isn't to say that the internet isn't like that now-- it just seems harder to find.) Nowadays, the internet feels like a gigantic reality distortion field and makes it really hard to figure out what we're actually looking at and what we're not. It's like one of those old Magic Eye Pictures. Open the book and look at it and the picture isn't clear at all-- you've got to smash your nose into it and then slowly move the picture away from you little by little and then, maybe, things will swing into focus a little more.
The pandemic doesn't help anything. Everyone is operating at a higher stress level than normal and has been constantly for months. Everyone is pissed off about something. Everyone is anxious. It's hard to think clearly somedays because you just want to start shouting at the sea of stupidity you see everywhere you look.
Right now, I've got a long list of books that I want to read so I can try and understand the present moment a little better- because goodness knows what passes for news these days isn't about informing the public anymore. It's entertainment. Facts are entertainment and everyone can have their own facts. Truth is relative. If is it that, then turning off the reality distortion field doesn't just become a good idea, it becomes imperative in many ways. I mean, right now, I just want a break because it's getting to me a little bit and it's bogging down my creativity and impacting the quality of my writing and if writing is ever going to be a semi-serious side hustle for me, then I gotta be able to focus up and start cranking out short stories and books and not be in the weeds and stuck in my head because of Hurricane Bullshit coming ashore on Twitter.
The Missus said to me the other day that she wants to get back to books and to get outside more and be more present. I'm sure everyone in contemporary America has thought similar things at some point in time. Being glued to your phone sucks. It's beyond stupid. It's like a bad habit you can't drop, like biting your nails or picking your nose. The world has not ended between now and the last time you checked your Facebook feed or your Twitter page five minutes ago. Pretty sure if something momentous enough has happened, you'll find out about it eventually.
My problem is my phone. When I'm at work, I can either be busy enough not to care about what's happening on social media- because I have a job to do, but at home, I freely admit I'm terrible. I've got like a tick where I go and pick up my phone and just automatically check it. It's beyond stupid and what's worse: I know it's beyond stupid and I do it anyway. Phones can be incredibly helpful at times: I listen to podcasts, music and audiobooks on mine as I do various random chores throughout the day. But here's the thing: I don't need to be on my phone every five minutes checking Facebook or Twitter.
Nothing has changed in the last five minutes. Nothing important has happened. You're only going to see something that will annoy and/or depress you. Plus, it really does cloud reality. So, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat (which I never use anyway) have all come off my phone. We'll see if it lasts, but for right now I feel curiously at peace with it all. I dislike the idea of an algorithim controlling my behavior- however subconciously. And maybe I'll be able to look around at life and get a better sense of what's actually happening out there.