Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: balance

Learning to Let Go (of Social Media)

cut me off, ma. i've had enough.
Why are my emotions dialed up to eleven all the time?!?

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.

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Forest, Trees, and Mental Health

silent tranquility.
Just breathe.

I became a political junkie in 2008 because I was excited by having a black candidate for president and a female candidate for president (both Dems). It’s not the most noble of reasons, but I don’t think it’s a bad selfish reason. I’ve been a Democrat since I’ve been able to vote*, but it was more de facto than with any enthusiasm.  I knew the Republicans didn’t have anything to offer me, and what’s more, they actively didn’t want me in their party. I chose the Dems by default because at least nominally, they gave lip service to diversity and caring about the underdog. Mind you, I knew it was mostly cosmetic and superficial, but it was better than being told I was an abomination on a daily basis.

In other words, I wasn’t enthusiastic about being a Democrat, but I knew it was the better of the two unappealing options. My first vote for president was for Nader in 1996 (NOT 2000), and it was a protest vote. Even then, I didn’t like the fact that we had two parties, and I really didn’t like Bill Clinton for several reasons. So, I waited until I was sure he’d won Minnesota before voting for Nader. My next presidential candidates were Al Gore and John Kerry, two of the most boring, non-charismatic candidates to win the primary. Listening to them speak was painfully dull, but I knew I wasn’t voting for the Republican candidate (W. both times), so I didn’t pay any attention as I voted straight D. Both Gore and Kerry were good men, but they were very much quintessential politicians who didn’t excite me at all.

Side note: I understand why people want to vote third party. As I noted, my first presidential vote was for a third party candidate. I do think there are problems that come with being long-term establishment politicians. Most politicians who have been in their positions for decades have been changed by the job, rather than them changing the job, even if that was their intent to begin with. I remember how idealistic Paul Wellstone was when he was first elected. He vowed he would only serve for two terms because he had the same reservations about lifelong politicians. Near the end of his second term, however, he changed his mind and said he was running again because he was still needed. Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with his change of mind because he did a lot of good for Minnesotans** and has been one of our most progressive congresspeople, I just shook my head at the time because it’s easy to see how seductive a life in politics can be–even for someone as idealistic as Wellstone. Again, he did it for lofty reasons, but there was still a sense of ego that only he could do the work. Regardless, I would have voted from him again in a heartbeat if he hadn’t died in a tragic plane crash.  He was a politician whom I believed was doing what he truly thought was best, even when I disagreed with him.

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