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.