Recently, I had a situation in real life where I had an intensely negative reaction to something someone said. It was instantaneous and visceral, though I tried to restrain it as best I could. Later that day, I started thinking about cutting back on social media, and, yes, the two are connected. One thing I’ve noticed about spending a lot of time on social media, specifically Twitter, is how it’s made me more reactionary. If I see something I don’t like, my body flushes, my heart starts racing, and I feel as if I want to punch someone. Part of that is because people tend to be declarative on Twitter, leaving no wiggle room. There’s a lot of name-calling, putting other people down, and negativity in general, and that’s just between Democrats–which is arguably worse than some exchanges between Democrats and Republicans.
It’s also because when something starts trending, everyone has to throw in their two cents, even if they’re not knowledgeable on the subject. So, much of my TL becomes a wall of the same ill-informed, not-nuanced opinion, and reading it over and over again has had a bad effect on my brain. In addition, my attention span has shortened, and I’m not happy with that. I can still read a long form piece, but it takes more concentrated effort on my part than it used to. When I write, I find myself thinking, “Let me just check out what’s happening on Twitter/Facebook” about every half hour or so. I’ve recently muted my notifications on my phone so I still get them, but I don’t get the beeps. That means I’m not constantly checking to see who’s said what to me, which really can wait until I’m done with whatever I’m doing–especially writing.
There have been studies on what overuse of the internet has done to our brains, but it’s still too early to say a lot about the results definitively. This article on the negative results match what I’ve found to be true in myself, though I will add that I’ve always skimmed portions of novels, even before the internet. I don’t like pages-long descriptions of scenery, so I always scan those or skip them completely. I prefer to visualize the environment in my own mind, and I don’t like flowery purple prose, anyway. The point remains, though, that when I read, I am more apt to check my social media than I am comfortable with.
Back to my IRL situation. The problem isn’t that I had a reaction to what was being said because my reaction was not out of line–it’s the intensity of the reaction that bothers me and how it was instantaneous. I’m not making the civility argument; I’m making the, “This is not good for my health” argument. I’m also making the, “This is not a good way to have a discussion” argument. I’ve already written in the past how I feel worse about myself since ingesting social media as a steady diet. I used to think I never should speak up about anything because my opinions weren’t valid or worthwhile to state. I also thought, “Why would anyone want to hear anything I had to say?” With the help of taiji and therapy (the title of my self-help book!), I’ve been able to work through it to the point where I was spouting my opinion all over the damn place. Hell, it’s what I do here all the time. But, ever since I’ve started using Twitter on a regular basis (and to a lesser extent, Facebook), I find myself biting my metaphorical tongue more often.
There’s a hive mind/group think happening on Twitter that I find hard to confront on a regular basis. For example, during the election, I was a Sanders supporter for the primary. Minnesota is a firmly Democratic state for president, and I knew Clinton would win regardless (though she did with much less of a margin than I would have expected), so I wanted to make a statement. I also am more aligned with Sanders than I am with Clinton, but we’re talking inches. Any way, I say so much Sanders hate on my TL during the election (and now, too), I was quiet about my support. I read how it was only ‘Bernie Bros’ (cis, het, white dudes) who wanted Sanders, which was directly in opposition to what I saw in my actual life. I know several Bernie supporters (I keep wanting to call him by his first name. It’s probably ageist of me. Like, he’s a cuddly but grumpy teddy bear), and only two of them fit that description. The rest are of color, women, queer, and I’m all three myself. It became disconcerting to read over and over again about the supposed Bernie Bros and not find myself in the telling. It was also interesting to watch how someone like Nina Turner, a black woman who supported Bernie, got denounced by Clinton supporters–even the BLM people.
Side note: It’s also interesting to see the same intersection of people vigorously defend the Clintons’ use of black inmates for free labor at the governor’s mansion when Bill was governor. The same people passionately decrying the prison system or how awful it is that police are so brutal to prisoners are twisting themselves into knots to explain away what the Clintons did. “It was a different time” is a common defense, which is ridiculous considering how recent it was. Definitely after the civil rights movement of the late ’60s, that much I know. It really exemplifies how much politics have become a team sport in which supporters have become fans instead. It’s OK if my team does it is the mentality, and it’s negatively affecting me. Even when I watched sports, I was never a ‘my team or die’ kind of gal, and I certainly am not that way for any politician.
Back to supposed Bernie Bros. Did they exist? Of course they did. But you know what I saw more of in my feed? Hillary Himbos* who stridently defended their woman and Hillarysplained why not being supportive of her was a knock against feminism, was racist, or whatever. They were insulting, arrogant, and dismissive, and it got to the point where I had to mute many Clinton supporters during the election. I got into an interesting discussion with a Clinton supporter on FB during the primary. He claimed that Clinton supporters only started doing that in response to aggro by Sanders supporters. This was in response to my post saying that confirmation bias was working on both sides in that each saw themselves as the victim of the other side. I didn’t point out the irony to him of what he was saying, but I replied that I saw more of the Bernie bashing, and it’s probably because I was a Bernie supporter, so that’s what’s going to draw my eye.
My point is that each side had hunkered down, and it became (and still is) a battle of entrenched beliefs. People are still reliving the primaries instead of looking to the 2018 election. Which, by the way, is another gripe I have about liberals–midterms matter, bitchez. One of the biggest reasons I’ve stopped talking about politics online is because of how quickly people double down and become solidified in their ideas. How…I’m just going to say it, simple people think things are. It’s in part to our news being dumbed down, but it’s also because many of us live in vacuums which we’ve carefully cultivated.
Anyhoooo, this is my long-winded way of saying I need a break from social media. I doubt I can go cold turkey, so I’ve decided to give it up once day a week. Then, I had to figure out which day I wanted to give it up, and I chose Saturday for several reasons.
- Because I can. That’s why I do most of what I do.
- I don’t have weekend posts, so I can afford not to look at the news on Saturday.
- I have taiji class that day, so it’s a nice way to hold on to the relaxation groove.
Will I be able to do? I don’t know. As much as I bitch about social media, I’m pretty addicted to it. I have Twitter and Facebook tabs open at all times, and I frequently check what’s going on, especially at Twitter. I will keep you updated on this experiment; I’m sure you’re all dying to know how well I do.
*I’m still trying to make it trend, but it’s not gonna happen, is it?