I’m a heavy internet user, but I’m trying to lessen my time on social media. Why? It’s having a negative effect on my mental health. I realized that if I hopped on Twitter first thing in the morning, it would negatively affect my mood for the rest of the day. I now take Wednesday and Saturday off, and it makes me feel better. I’m thinking of adding Monday, but I haven’t done it yet.
I’ve noticed something about the online world vs. the real world. It’s much easier to be stuck in an echo chamber because you can tailor everything to your preferences. It’s not a bad thing because why would I want to see tweets from right-wingers all day long? Apparently, Jack (from Twitter) doesn’t agree and is considering messing with the algorithm so that you see tweets outside of your bubble, which, no, Jack. Just no. Look, I get the reason for thinking this is a good idea. Like I said, it’s easy to just hang out with people you agree with and for your opinions to harden into rigidity. However, the solution to that is not to force heinous tweeters on hapless users. While the idea is a good one, it’s too much of a benevolent dictatorship for me. Ideally, the user would have a healthy mix of tweeters she followed, but let’s face it–most people aren’t that self-aware.
It’s also easy to craft theories in your head that work perfectly but don’t stand the sniff test when taken out into the real world. It’s the academic fallacy in which you can talk about a subject with your friends/colleagues for hours, come to an agreement with them, then think everyone in the world thinks that way. I see way too many philosophical arguments that don’t have anything to do with real life, and it’s especially difficult to burst that bubble because we all have a bias for believing what we think is reality. I tested this during the 2012 election by randomly asking people in the real world (people I knew, not just strangers) who weren’t on Twitter what they thought of some hot Twitter topic, and they never knew what I was talking about. All my friends follow politics more than the norm, and they still didn’t know about the Twitter outrage of the day.
I see this all the time, especially on certain progressive sites, including one of the advice sites I frequent. There are buzzwords that get thrown out willy-nilly, and it only works if everyone agrees on the meaning of said words (or phrases), which, sadly, is often the case. I had a discussion with Ian the other night about how heuristics are important, and I’ll get to that in a minute. It’s true that they are important, but it’s also true that when heuristics become FACTS, it can be a problem. For example, the term ’emotional labor’ gets thrown around a lot these days. It started as a way to describe situations in the workplace in which the worker has to suppress her own emotions in order to do what needs to be done at work. A good example is retail. Colloquially, it’s come to mean managing the emotions in a relationship (any relationship, but most often romantic), and it’s often relegated to the woman in a heteronormative relationship. By the way, that’s another word that is more useful in academic settings–heteronormative.
Anyway, now, people are throwing emotional labor out there to mean anything from having to deal with someone else’s feelings to having to set boundaries and a half dozen of other things that may be tangentially related, but not actually emotional labor. Another one is the word toxic to describe a situation. I’ve seen it used in situations which have negative aspects, say, the hubby doesn’t do the dishes every night, but isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself (he does the laundry, takes care of the children half the time, makes a decent living, remembers anniversaries, listens to his wife, etc.), and I think it dilutes the term when it’s used so loosely.