Last month, I ditched social media.
Now I’m back.
I wasn’t trying to get away from doom and gloom. If anything, I needed a break from the constant parade of wishful thinking. I was tired of hearing about why we needed to spend billions of dollars on everything except the actual threats we face. I was tired of explaining why public health or climate disasters matter, only to be accused of causing trouble and making everyone feel bad.
I was tired of hearing “the threat remains low” all the time.
It was getting to me.
I wish I could write one of those pieces that say my break from social media changed my life and gave me a new perspective.
My perspective hasn’t changed at all. It didn’t need to change.
Neither does yours.
There’s nothing wrong with the way we see the world. For some of us, the only fatigue we feel comes from the energy we put into expressing our thoughts, only to be ignored or attacked. It comes from our observations of western society.
It does not come from our phones.
Sometimes you don’t really need a break from social media. You need a break from people. They can be a bit much these days, even online, and even when they act like they want civil discussion. (Many of them don’t.)
I wish I could tell you I was tired of reading bad news.
Earlier today, I read a story about a Walgreens employee shooting a pregnant woman. He thought she was shoplifting. He confronted her. She pepper-sprayed him. He pulled out his pistol and fired. Everyone’s arguing about whether the woman was actually shoplifting. Only a few people are talking about Tennessee’s permitless carry law, passed in 2021. It lets the vast majority of citizens carry a loaded handgun. They can carry it openly, or they can hide it.
They don’t need a permit. They don’t need counseling, or even training. More than half of U.S. states allow the exact same thing.
I live in one.
My presence or absence from social media doesn’t change any of that. It doesn’t make me feel any better about it, either. If anything, I feel like I need to know that pregnant women are getting gunned down in the parking lot of Walgreens. I need reminders that any idiot can carry a handgun now.
If anything about me has changed, it’s that I’m a little more comfortable with my doomer self. I can try to be optimistic. Sure, maybe we’ll do something about all of these problems. You know what? We can’t wait for that to happen. We have to plan for the reality in front of us, and it’s full of danger. It’s full of more drilling projects, more pandemics, and more gun nuts.
Here’s a little bit of truth:
If you’re like me, you’re not on social media to watch cat videos. You’re not there for dopamine hits, one way or the other.
You’re there for information.
We live in a country where a majority of the population feels angry all the time, even if they’re hiding it. They’re sleep-deprived. They’re broke. Our politicians have decided to let them all have secret handguns. They’re encouraging them to go out and spread disease, all in the name of profit.
That’s important to know.
My break from social media came to an abrupt end when my house nearly got swiped away by a catastrophic tornado during what’s turning into one of the worst storm seasons on record. So I can’t exactly tell you to turn your phone off, can I? I needed mine. If anything, it feels like the universe was sending me the opposite message. It wasn’t telling me to tune out and relax.
It was telling me to pay attention.
The mainstream media has been trying to blame the downfall of society on our technology for decades now. First it was television. Then it was video games. For the last ten years, they’ve been blaming everything on our phones. Maybe it’s not the gadgets after all. Maybe it’s something else.
Maybe it’s us.
Maybe it’s the way the human brain is wired, something I’ve written about a few times now. A fairly large number of people have no idea how to actually respond to a threat. They know how to dismiss and ignore threats. They know how to engineer fear around imaginary ones.
They know how to get angry.
That’s about it.
So I took a month off. There’s only one thing I learned, and it’s that my social media use was never the problem.
Neither is yours.
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Needed this today: 'There’s nothing wrong with the way we see the world.' For the first time in 3 years, following some well-meaning concern from family members, have found myself questioning my worldview, wondering if it's a sign of anxiety rather than, say, a rigorous analysis of the best information I've managed to glean from the widest range of the most trusted sources I can find. Such a strange time to be a human. We spend our lives being schooled in research and critical thinking, only to be criticised for our unwillingness to opt for convenient delusion. I guess it's healthy to keep tabs on ourselves, but as you write, surely it's pragmatism that's called for now, not this weird paralysis of yet more magical thinking. It definitely feels weird to be an outlier.
We’re glad you’re back.