03 October 2016

Goodbye to all that



First, an announcement. 

I think it is best for my own mental health at this point to drastically cut back my participation on Facebook. There are several reasons for this that I won’t bore you with but I would say the main one is that it does nothing to help my depression or associated conditions. In addition, I spend far too much time on it that could otherwise be spent on more productive activities, such as writing.
In order to help myself break this addiction, I have taken it off my sign in page for Firefox.

I find that the longer I spend on Facebook, the more depressed and upset I get. One of the things that has bothered me for a while is the constant reminders by Facebook of past posts which I would rather not be reminded of. In addition, pages that I have made for other reasons are constantly popping up in my main feed to sell me more eyes on.

In the last few days, I have pestered by Facebook to buy ads for one of these pages, featuring a photo of a woman I have never seen before.
I can be found on Twitter although I am prepared to curtail my activity there if things get out of hand, which, so far, it hasn’t. Whether it is a good platform to promote this blog is too early to tell but that is the main reason I am remaining on the service.

For many people like myself, I think we come to the point that the longer we participate in social media, the worse we feel and the more our interactions with the real world fade in obscurity. For some, this is a godsend, for others, it is dangerous to their mental health.

In the past 18 months, I have experiences a number of negative events that have put me into a position where perhaps, some pulling back of the reins can be interpreted as self-care. One of the main reasons I increased my presence on Facebook this year was not just to promote this blog but to try and enlarge my circle of friends, having lost all chance of forming lasting or even decently superficial relationships at work.

I have found, at least in my case, that it is true that you can’t go home again, nor should you try. The nature of human relationships in the digital age has changed drastically from even 15 years ago and social media, for better or worse, forms the cornerstone of our relationships to each other and the world around us. I believe this is dangerous for one main reason: the desire to be loved and accepted engenders the creation of an unreality in the way people present themselves on social media. 

For instance, old classmates are not the way your remember them. They have re-engineered themselves to the point where you wonder where the past left off and the present presents. In any case, Facebook presentations have become the digitized versions of those god-awful end of the year Christmas letters we used to get telling us the grand, glorious and god-like experiences of some distant in-law's family over the past year. With Facebook, that sort of nauseous shilling is now a 24/7 proposition. I don't know about you, but it must be exhausting constantly tending to one's personal shop window.

And, after all, this is what life is all about anyway, right?
In short, nothing is what it seems. This is not just for individuals but for corporations, media outlets and pretty much any other human endeavor that uses social media to grow their brand or whatever the term is today.

It was different in the past since there were fewer channels of communication that built more of a commonality of experience. Those of my generation remember that we had three news networks to watch, for instance, a presidential debate. Now there are countless avenues to experience this event, but more importantly, you can choose the political ideology you identify with as a lens with which to view the event.

Many herald this as liberating, and to a degree, it is. Those who claim media bias are no longer bound to watch anything that doesn’t agree with them. What they don’t realize is the way they have ghettoized themselves into their own little echo chamber that continually reinforces their worldview to the point of paranoia and fanaticism. This works for the left as well as the right, and the amazing thing is, neither side can bring themselves to admit it.

For those of us who give living in American society at least some of the blame for exacerbating our mental conditions, the only way to protect yourself is start to disengage. Merely being careful consumers of news and culture, while always recommended, is not enough. It is too easy to be influenced by repeated images, slogans and propaganda without even being consciously aware it is happening. 

The effects can be felt long after exposure, and tend to manifest themselves with anxiety, depression and even rage that seemingly comes from nowhere. These messages, even though they may reinforce our worldviews, can be so disturbing to our gentler natures, that they overwhelm our sense of empathy and rationality some point where they are generated from our subconscious in relation to some stimulus. 

I would say that the world is mad. The ongoing train wreck of this year’s presidential campaign is simply the latest and the most egregious example. Although there has always been a dark side to the Internet and social media, the tribes that Americans have sequestered themselves into are now so sharp that we are seeing raging, hate-filled flame wars between family members and long-time friends online that we have not seen since the Civil War. 

"the Democrats left us defenseless against the aliens, impeachment is the only answer"
Without going to deeply into the subject for now, I believe we stand at a very perilous time in American history. Some have described it as a turning point, which can be good or bad. I believe that no matter who wins the election, the fabric of commonality that used to unite Americans to some degree has been shattered and cannot be rebuilt. Even if there were, say, an invasion by aliens, I believe we would see furious arguments between the warring factions of the left and right on the right way to fight the invasion and who is responsible for our unpreparedness, even as our world is being destroyed.

As it is now, by our hands, being destroyed. 

It does not do me any good to continue to try to influence public opinion by way of social media. I believe now, that that way lies madness. It may be that this vast odious sandbox was indeed constructed to corral public opinion in such a way that all energy would be expanded by wars within the system, keeping them out of the streets. The fact that this has not worked in all cases, specifically with the anti-police brutality movement, is a testament to the helpless frustration of those in underprivileged communities who feel they have nothing left to lose.

Self-care for the terminally anxious and worried folks can take many forms, some of them self-destructive. But I think pulling back from the madness that is enveloping us, not a surrender to the forces of darkness, but a simply acknowledgement that for many of us, over the course of our lives, we have done the best we could. And, the effort has degraded our energy and our souls in equal measure and that it is time, in the necessity of preserving whatever peace we can find left in our souls, to disengage. 

I have fought this for a long time but I have to admit that as time goes by, I lack the will to care anymore. I cannot stop what is happening. But I can stop the deleterious effect these events are having on my state of mind. Forever addicted as a news junkie, I know that I will never totally disengage, but I will withdraw as far as I can.

For all my friends, acquaintances and those who stumble on this blog, I leave you to your own battles and wish you well whatever your cause. But I can’t and won’t be part of your crusades any more. You would find my true feelings to be offensive anyway, and best we just take care of our own concerns.

Thank you for visiting my grave - but first a word from our sponsors
This blog, despite what some may think, was never meant to change social or political history. My radio show was supposed to do that and, although the effort was a good one, at a for-profit enterprise, it was doomed. What the blog is all about is (1) therapy writing for me to express things that I am reluctant to do personally and (2) a diary of sorts that acts as a written gravestone or testament. 

You may know that there are some cemeteries that will sell you an interactive gravestone that flashes images from the deceased’s life and audio of their words and others that knew them. This, of course, is somewhat crass but understandable from a society that has taken the idea of ‘personal branding’ even to the grave. 

If some people wish to give a spin on their thoughts, beliefs and actions through that medium, fine for them. I’ll do it the old fashioned way, with words and stories.