Surfing the Waves: You Are Beginning to Damage My Calm
My life has been hella stressful lately. School, money, health – you name it. It’s been a high stress year. One thing I haven’t been tracking until recently is the effect of my interenet use on my stress level. It sneaks up on me. I have this inner dialogue that goes something like this:
Me 1: Wow, I’m feeling a lot of anxiety after browsing Facebook on my phone for ten minutes. Trump. Reproductive rights. Natural disasters. Maybe I need a break.
Me 2: What do you mean? Do you want to be ill-informed? Do you want to willfully choose to ignore the pain of others? That makes you selfish.
Me 1: I guess you’re right. Maybe I’ll try to thin back some of the political stuff I follow in my feed to see if that helps.
Me 2: Wimp.
Me 1: Well, that’s a little better, I guess. Still pretty hard to avoid triggering stuff. Everyone propogages this stuff constantly. And I like to be informed. And who can resist a “Top 5” list or a “You won’t believe…” headline. Apparently not me. And then when I click on something mildly click-baity I end up on a page with horrible brain-burning click bait that hurts my brain.
Me 2: Yeah that’s really annoying.
Me 1: Totally
Me 1: Okay, now that my external stressors are REALLY HIGH, browsing the internet, checking my email (which I do obsessively), Instagram, the “helpful” news feed on my Iphone can instantly trigger the shit out of me. I feel like I’m waiting for “the shoe to drop” – a typical anxiety thing – and the internet provides an endless supply of shoes. Interspersed with funny stuff, cute stuff, and friend stuff. So I gravitate towards it to 1) confirm my anxiety and keep it going, and 2) to connect with other people.
Me 2: Wimp? Maybe not. Maybe we need a fricking break. Does that makes us weak?
Me 1: Who freaking cares?
Me 2: Good point.
So I did that thing. I spent three ish days with minimal internet. It got progressively harder. I’m back to checking my email several times a day and cautiously checking FB to see if anyone has said anything to me or tagged me (they have). Balance is certainly going to be key. Discoveries:
- Accidentally swipe right on your iPhone and prepare to be bombarded with “Texas woman shoots two daughters”. Fuck. Me. No wonder I’m so triggered all the time. Because I’m reading this crap all. The. Time. I have to figure out how to turn off the news feed.
- The Weather.com app is also less fun than I realized. “Hundreds dead in horrible painful awful flood!” With video! Flashy ads for fictitious loans. Maybe I need to go back to the more benign apple weather app.
- My anxiety is WAY lower when I’m not constantly bombarding it with crap. And checking my email to see if there’s any bad news. And checking the weather, sadly.
- I’m making an effort to reconnect with paper books. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of the ones I can read digitally for free (library) but I have tons of non-fiction that I can peruse at my leisure. That’s been good.
- I’ve also started keeping a written journal, which is weird because my handwriting is TERRIBLE. Unless I write really slow. So I’m writing really slow. And drawing pictures.
- Analog is not so bad. I think I started to slip today because I felt lonely. Because I’m alone a lot of the time. I can just feel it when I’m not bombarded with low level social input.
I give you, the weather. Or something.
This comes at an odd time, since I’m doing a positive psychology for the internet kind of thing for my dissertation and major research area. Still, I think maybe I needed more of the big picture. I’ve started reading Turkel’s Alone Together. I assumed that she was an older person with that “get off my lawn” approach to the internet. Not so much. She is more of a baby boomer, but she’s been tracking online culture since the 70s and she’s a psychoanalyst, so kind of up my alley. She makes some good points. This disembodied, scattered feeling can subsume a sense of connection to the physical world. And we are physical beings. I think perhaps there is a time for diving into the dynamic, challenging, pluralistic online world, and a time to retreat, reflect, and exist as a physical being. I think we ignore the online world at our peril, but we also ignore the physical world, which is highly impacted by the online world, at our peril.
More to come.