Why I want to quit social media
And why I can't
I’ve spent the last week and a half thinking about phones and computers. Specifically my phone and my computer. And the things I actively seek out on their respective screens. And the things I don’t seek out but absorb anyway. And the various whys.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my intention to set myself up for "vacation success” by taking a break from social media. I was excited about my social media fast and I pretty much knew I’d love it and I was right.
But I didn’t write this essay immediately upon my return to social media (and non-vacation life) because I’ve been trying to ascertain the answers to these questions.
What precisely do I love about being off social media, and what precisely do I hate about being back on?
In January 2021, I had a first grader and second grader (both of whom were “virtually learning”) and a one-and-a-half year old, all three of whom were stuck at home with two parents who were also stuck at home. It sucked! I was acutely aware that neither of my older kids were getting their social-emotional needs met, and also acutely aware that Brett and I’s decision to prioritize the mental health of the family unit as a whole would negatively impact the kids’ “academic progress.” And by this I mean, we didn’t enforce homework because we had no energy to take on any additional battles. We didn’t play number games with them. We didn’t do sight-word practice. We were too tired. And so were the kids. I don’t blame myself for any decisions I made during school-closure times, but that doesn’t mean I was comfortable with my unavoidable and inescapable failures as a parent and a person. It’s strange to know that you’re fucking up on a regular basis but while also fully understanding that you’ve been placed in a situation where not fucking up is impossible (motherhood in America anyone?)
In addition to my painful awareness that I was never meant to be an educator of small children who also happen be my children, I felt constantly overstimulated. Someone was always talking, either to me or at me or in my vicinity. Someone was always sharing something. Someone was always needing something, and that something was often ME. My patience, my time, my attention, my answers, my body (see also Amanda Montei’s piece on being “touched out” as a mom).
Always noise. Always input. Always demands for output. The only meaningful “break” in this cacophony of being was during the baby’s nap, when the big kids would do “movie time” and I would retreat to my bedroom upstairs to do whatever. Sometimes I’d try to write but more often than not, I listened to a podcast about Anne Boleyn and knitted a small sweater. Sometimes I fell asleep. Sometimes I did a crossword puzzle. Anything that would mentally and psychically remove me from my here and now, which was pulsing with stimulation.
In January 2021, I tweeted about the phenomenon of being trapped in a cycle of input and output vis a vis childcare (and educational work and domestic work and external work and and and and). I wasn’t alone in feeling desperately burnt out.
The reason I evoke these Dark Times is because I’ve gradually realized that my propensity towards overstimulation IRL (which is triggered by physical bodies, sounds, and movements) is akin to my propensity towards overstimulation online (which is triggered by other people’s opinions, views, hot takes, prescriptions).
I am sensitive. I am thin-skinned. I am a people pleaser. I am an earnest try-er. I crave feeling understood more than almost anything else.****** When I say or do something that is meant to land in one particular way and it is perceived in another way, a dull, heavy, pit roots itself in my gut and I must expend significant time, energy, and will to release it. I am the person incessantly texting friends for confirmation that x and y sounds ok and that x and y doesn’t make me seem _____. Why I spent my early twenties as an actor and why I ultimately became a writer (two professions rife with rejection and external noise) I can’t say for sure, but here we are!
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