Featured in Capital #58 Subscribe to get the real thing here
It’s been an intense year and it’s only August.
Despite the fact that I’m fully aware my mental health is perilously frail, I just spent an hour scrolling through twitter and crying, somehow unable to do what I know is best for myself: unplug. Go for a walk. Find someone who loves me and ask for a hug. SLEEP.
I’ve passed the last hour reading opinion pieces about our shameful domestic violence and murder rates, and a beautiful but ultimately depressing story about a mother’s attempts to connect with the teenage daughter who doesn’t need her anymore, and watching a video where adults reflected on the horrific, repeated traumas they suffered as children in state care.
When I spoke with “influencers” Anna Dean and Fernándo Suen (see In Conversation) about social media use, they introduced me to a function called Screen Time which lets iPhone users track their time online. Anna, who is the older of the two and the more aware of the need to log off and engage with the real world, was surprised to find that she used her phone more than Fernando, who was making no attempt to curb his social media use. After the interview, I checked my own statistics and was similarly shocked by how much time I spend on my phone (about 22 hours a week, including text messages, phone calls, email, and podcasts).
Here’s the thing – I hate articles written by out-of-touch old people about how kids are all glued to their screens and not engaged with the “real world.” I know that for many, especially those who are marginalised or “othered” by society, the internet is a lifeline. And for all of the negative, toxic trolling there are some wonderfully supportive communities which show up for their members both online and in real life, and which I myself rely on. But in order to access the good stuff on the internet, you have to expose yourself to the bad. And when it sticks, the bad stuff can feel really heavy.
I recently went through everyone I follow on Instagram and un-followed those whose bikini pics and photo-shopped selfies made me feel bad about myself, adding a bunch of people who I don’t see enough from – fat babes, people with disabilities, older women, women of colour. But when it comes to other media, I’ve been hesitant to block or ignore voices I don’t agree with. I know we all live in our own little bubbles now, surrounded by people whose opinions echo our own, and I see the value in challenging one’s assumptions and biases. Similarly, I feel torn between a desire to stay informed on what’s going on in the world and a deep hopelessness over my inability to do anything about it. How can I tap into the blissful part without also signing up for the ignorance?
For me, the answer is simply to log off. I know that not everyone has the opportunity to tap out of the fight –that for many, just existing is a political act. But if that is an option for you, it’s ok to take it. Get some rest. Some fresh air. Replenish and re-energise. Then, when you’re ready, pick up your armour and come rejoin the fight.