Goodbye for Now, Social Media
I run an organization called TMI Project, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I feel like I have too much information clogging up my mind. My brain feels too full. I can’t find the words I’m looking for when speaking. An idea will come to me but before it’s fully formed and I’ve grabbed hold of it, it pops like a bubble and is never to be seen again. When I’m asked about my weekend on Monday morning, I have no idea what I’ve done. I feel relatively confident in my critical thinking skills but I don’t feel sharp. My muddled brain makes me feel self-conscious.
I talked to a psychiatrist about it and she gave me a memory test. I got a 100%. If you tell me three words to remember, for instance: blue, Cadillac, Kentucky, and then ask me to repeat them five minutes later, I can recall: blue, Cadillac, Kentucky. I know who the president is, the day of the week, the year, my wife’s birthday, etc. But, when I paid my massage therapist on Tuesday, I said, “Liz, I left the desk on your check.” When I grabbed a long-sleeved shirt out of the backseat of my car yesterday to go for a walk, I left the car door open. I’ve done other things too, but of course, I don’t remember what they are.
There are so many reasons this could be happening. Trauma could be the culprit. The first time I remember experiencing this issue was around 9/11. I lived in Brooklyn directly across the water from the towers. Burnt paper files blew like dandelion tufts through our backyard. At the time, we didn’t know if the hits would keep coming and there was word of chemical warfare. We thought there might be anthrax in the air that would kill us all. We ran through our Brownstown closing all of the windows. We tried to assess how many people could escape in Tinkerbell, my navy blue 1989 Honda Prelude. Then we discovered all the bridges and tunnels were closed. There was no way out. We were trapped. We watched TV and didn’t stop for days. Over and over, we witnessed the unbelievable scene unfold, further searing the image into our minds forever.
In the treacherous weeks that followed, I kept saying words incorrectly. I told a friend repeatedly that the gas station we were headed to was on Empire Voulebard. “Empire Voulebard?” I didn’t hear the mistake and said it again. “Yes, Empire Voulebard.” “Eva, Empire Voulebard?!?” she repeated. I was annoyed she was asking again. “Don’t you mean Empire Boulevard?” “Yes, that is what I said. Empire Voulebard!” My brain hasn’t been the same since.
It could be addiction. I drank alcoholically for 16 years. I dropped too much LSD, took mushrooms and ecstasy, and smoked copious amounts of weed. I’ve been sober now for 16 years but did I do irreversible damage?
I’m treated for clinical depression. Depression can cause slowed movement and speech, difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions. One of my medications for depression could be making matters worse.
What about perimenopause? Seems all women my age have the right to blame every last thing on our hormones going berserk.
I think it also has to do with TMI — literally Too Much Information. My mind wasn’t made to know about all atrocities happening all over the world all the time. My brain wasn’t meant to process thousands of “friends” celebrations, losses, and daily doings. My brain wasn’t meant to hop from a photo of a “friend’s” dead dog, to a close up of a surgical scar from another “friends” hospital bed, to an article about Shakira being attacked by wild boars, to a zoomed-in image of Chloe Kardashian’s unphotoshopped bikini body, to the demise of women in Afghanistan, entire families being wiped out by COVID, #metoo stories being cranked out at warp speed, videos of public lynchings, and people releasing their unprocessed trauma on facebook lives and Insta-stories. All within 5 minutes time.
I think my brain was built to know what was going on with my family and community, to actively take part in the world around me (and to maybe look at a close friend’s photo album once in a while). Don’t get me wrong. I’m not abandoning my activism. I’m protecting it. My brain feels sick and that takes a toll on the quality of the work I produce, the ability to be a strategic thinker, to have enough room to be bored — as I believe boredom is where true creativity lies.
I recently found a well of untapped creativity inside me when I discovered TikTok and finally understood why all the kids love it so much — it’s a stage, an improv class, a film studio — all wrapped in one, and at their fingertips, day or night. But, I’m too old. What takes a 14-year-old 10-minutes took me over an hour. It ate up too much of my already limited free time, and like other digital platforms, quickly transformed from a creative medium to a platform holding me hostage.
I will continue to ingest limited portions of high-quality, nutrient-dense daily news to stay informed, but social media makes me feel like I’ve eaten junk food all day. It has to go. I will miss aspects of it, for sure. I love taking and sharing photos. During the height of pandemic lockdown, I loved posting questions and hearing about how everyone else was coping. It made me feel less alone. I was inspired by the ways people used it to dance and sing together, to stay connected. And, of course, I will miss Lizzo’s butt.
No matter. It was designed to be addictive and clearly, I am the target audience — a dopamine-deficient addict. When I don’t want to go scroll on my phone, I scroll on my phone. When I’m going numb with boredom scrolling on my phone, I scroll on my phone. I promise myself I won’t bring it to bed, and then I bring it to bed. If I have 30 seconds to wait in line at the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, at a red light, wherever — I scroll on my phone. I want to stop. I say I will stop and then I scroll on my phone. I simply can’t be trusted with toys designed to intentionally spark addiction.
So, perhaps I won’t say goodbye. It feels so final. We addicts hate that. But, I will say farewell for now. Hopefully, I will see you in person from time to time to share a real hello. In the meantime, I’ll be anywhere else but a social media platform for the foreseeable future, one day at a time. (Or, maybe I’ll like one of your posts tomorrow. Who knows? They say relapse is part of recovery.)