About the middle of the week during the so-called "protest" held at the Capitol building in Washington DC, I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone. It was just too much. The rest of the week's news was carefully filtered through messages delivered via Facebook messenger by writer, and fellow wookie life partner, Desmond White. They were mostly memes and updates about the ongoing certification of President-Elect Biden's win of the 2020 election. After all, humor disarms, and Desmond has enough of it to be awarded an honorary black belt in Judo.
It was quiet though, after the apps were gone. My mind was at peace. No notification dings. No wild Facebook threads of frantic, hateful people declaring their opinions. Pure silence. I had forgotten what that felt like. I grew up with it.
I was a part of the generation that first experienced common and widespread use of the internet. The internet that we know of today, at least. The kind with browsers and websites that shared videos and files. The kind that had Altavista for web searching and General Mayhem for whatever disgusting thing 4chan currently is. The "small device" didn't really exist yet. I didn't have a cell phone or iPod until I was in middle school. I didn't get my first iPhone until after I had graduated college (2012, maybe?), though, in all fairness, I had resisted getting one just because the carrier plans were so expensive. I'm sure there's no true correlation, but it was a little after getting the phone that I got my first major panic attack.
The idea of being constantly connected is both a blessing and a curse. I can't even express in words the convenience a cell phone affords when your car breaks down. During the pandemic, we can facetime with our parents and grandparents. Yeah, I know it's not ideal, but it's something at least! The increased distance we place between ourselves is problematic though. And there's a price to pay for being always connected. The speculative cyberpunk tv series, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, features an episode (S1E11) about a government-run, social welfare facility, where patients are treated for Cyberbrain Closed Shell Syndrome. TLDR, it's a sickness that afflicts those who can't break away from the internet and it's communities. Disconnecting a patient being treated for the sickness causes them to become violent, withdrawn, paranoid, depressed, comatose, or incapable of interacting with people for prolonged periods. Obviously the illness is creative hyperbole, with no true equivalent in the world. "Doomscrolling" and "shitposting" hardly compares, but the constant connection to Facebook and other social media websites already affects how we see the world and our attitudes towards others.
Now comes the weird part. How do I tweet/post/gram when I don't have these apps on my phone any more? Not very easily I guess... If I had to chose between my health and leveraging social media to tell people about my books, I'm obviously siding with the former. So, this will be an interesting next few weeks as I launch my third book and connect with people about it. Please be patient with me as I adjust.
Here's to a better, healthier 2021!