The Nasty Side-Effects of Quitting the Internet
I know it may seem I write a lot about how “evil” the internet and social media are, so I guess today it's time to 'splain some stuff and flesh this idea puppy out a bit.
Now, I do think I need to preface this essay with a couple of things:
When I say “quit” I don't mean completely and totally. I still read authors I admire – via RSS – and all of you here on read.write.as, Google bizarre shit my nerdy mind is dying to know, and veg-out to YouTube almost nightly. I'll go to my grave defending YouTube as the greatest learning tool in the history of mankind. You can learn literally anything there, from physics, to engineering, to restoring old tools, to how to fix a ten-year-old dishwasher! For free! It's crazy.
Also, I didn't quit the internet intentionally, it was quite accidental.
I still remember the day. At “home”, on the couch, thumbs ablaze and eyes aglaze. I was on Instagram, faithfully doling out little red hearts to strangers I didn't really care about all over the world. (And who certainly didn't care about me, let's not fool ourselves.)
I did it because I felt I had to participate. I had an Instagram account for my business and was using it to get my work out into the world. There's something yucky about spewing your stuff all over the digi-space and not taking the time to appreciate others. IMHO, at least.
So I'm doling, and doling, and then I get up to pee and come back and dole some more. I'm coming up with half-assed, shallow, yet flattering comments 'cause, that's whatcha do, and notice I'm getting increasingly irritated and bored.
But, the artists I follow there are positively magnificent! I adore their work. Their feeds are stunning!
What is going on here?
After an hour – or more – of doling and hoping they'd dole back, I snapped.
This sucks! I feel bad!!!
I turn the phone off and chuck it across the couch, down into a cushion. My anxiety level was sky high, something I didn't realize it until the Glowing God was out of my damn face.
Now if you've read some of my other posts you may have gathered that I deal with issues of mental health in a very cautious way. I have for years. And if I've learned anything, I've learned that when you suffer from anxiety, and then encounter something that causes you anxiety, you must remove it from your life or you'll go absolutely mad.
This is just bad. I feel bad. I feel anxious. I don't know why but I don't have time to think about it right now. Do I really need to be here? Do I really need to do this? Do these people really give a crap about my little red hearts and silly little words?
(I talk to myself a lot. It's not crazy as some would have you believe. It helps a lot.)
I've spent thousands of hours of my precious life on this platform. Hours I'll never, ever get back. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing! Actually, NEGATIVE something! Because not only have I lost that time, I feel like shit, too!
I continue talking with the only person in the world who's crazy as I am. Good thing they also live in my head:
Stop. Just stop. Walk away. It doesn't have to be forever. You won't disappear from existence. Chances are they won't even notice you're gone.
I can be quite the prognosticator from time to time. Little did I know I was 100% correct in that moment.
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
It went exactly as you'd imagine. At first it was gnawingly uncomfortable. I'd look around and there was no information coming in for me to think about. Nothing to occupy my thoughts. (And when I say “occupy”, I mean it in the military sense.)
And, if I may anthropomorphize a brain for a second: it was fidgety. A toddler forced to sit quietly in a restaurant seat, the squirming and pouting almost impossible to keep down. I should be out playing! It protested. I should be out “consuming” things and double-tapping things! Are you trying to kill me?! Waaaaaaaaaaa!
Miraculously, I did muster the willpower to give it a few days. And then a curious thing happened...
No, like real thoughts. Like the kind I made all by myself when I was a child and teenager. They emerged from their cave, looked around quizzically, and then took a nice, long stretch, the sleep still in their eyes.
Me: Ohmuhgosh, Thoughts?! I didn't know you were still living here! How's it going?
Thoughts: I mean, were a little out-of-shape but, for the most part, we've been doin' alright.
Me: So glad you're here. I'm soooooo bored right now!
Thoughts: Sorry to hear. But, you know, nothing's changed since you were a kid. Boredom never goes away, it can only be masked. When you were a kid you were bored constantly, remember?
Thoughts: Well, we were there, and you WERE. Don't you remember what you did back then when you were bored? You made stuff. You drew pictures and designed plays and handmade all the costumes. You wrote stories and climbed trees and pretended you were traveling on the Oregon Trail with the other kids. Remember that giant “old people” bike you guys borrowed and made into a stagecoach? And then you pushed each other down the hill because you didn't have horses and the dog wouldn't cooperate?
Remember the paintings and the exploring and the experimentation? Remember making up songs in the attic and performing them for each other even though you didn't know a damn thing about music?
Remember all the beautiful work you used to create? Remember all the awards you won? I think you walked away with, what, seven ribbons in that school art fair? You really did whoop all their asses with that one. Leave some for the other kids, amirite? Ha!
Remember the daydreaming? The feelings? The calm?
Me: Oh my gosh, I DO remember!
Thoughts: All these things happened because you were bored. When you're not bored, these things go away. No hard feelings, or anything. They're just not needed anymore. Make sense?
All these years I've been brutalizing myself for “losing my creativity and talent”. Of not being an artist anymore. Of turning into a dull, run-of-the-mill, internet person in a gray mental jumpsuit. Of agonizing over the possibility that I might have to learn to navigate Corporate America, 'cause I can't make a living in the creative field anymore. Of blaming my loss of creativity on “becoming an adult”. It happens, right?
Consuming is easy. Creating is hard.
But the good news is boredom is even harder. It's such a terrible state for the human mind that we'll do anything to avoid it. Even put our heads down and make art.
Need proof? This blog post exists because I wasn't browsing Instagram this morning.