Needing a Detox

In January and February, I went clean from social media for around five weeks. I was able to get a lot done on my book. The first week was extremely difficult. I likened it to people who try to quit smoking. You don’t know what to do with your hands.

The compulsion to be on social media has been very strong lately. I think I’m hooked on the dopamine. I switch from Facebook to TikTok to Instagram and just repeat the cycle all day long. Maybe it’s just because I could use something good, something that makes me laugh or smile or…just feel.

The thing is that I don’t even care anymore. I find sometimes that my vision has doubled when I’m staring at the apps because I’ve just glazed over and am scrolling. I’ve let my eyes relax to the point where I’m not even watching.

When I am driving down the road, sometimes I find that I am scrolling as I drive. Like I can’t go five to ten minutes without seeing if I have any notifications. I take advantage nowadays of driving places where I have no cellular signal. After about twenty minutes of this, I feel like I’ve reconnected with myself. I’m singing to my playlists (because there’s no radio on these roads either). Sometimes I drive out and take pictures. Thunderstorms, rainbows, sunsets, wildlife. It’s good practice for my photography and I wind up in some very beautiful places. I think my skill is improving too.

But once I’m home, or within range of a signal again, it’s back to scrolling. I’ve had bad insomnia lately, and have found a new level of sleeplessness. Aparently if your insomnia is bad enough, your skin itches. Which keeps you awake. So, I have been taking antihistamines, which eventually knock me out and help with the itch. But I sleep too hard or weird and never get to the right level of sleep, which means I nap during the day, which means I’m not as tired when I go to bed, and therefore the insomnia gets another foothold. It really sucks.

The scrolling helps sometimes because I get that dopamine overload and I eventually conk out. Or I don’t. I worry that my dopamine receptors won’t be able to accept the hormone like they used to and then I won’t be able to feel pretty much anything. Like what happens to meth-users. The instant gratification of social media spurs this on too.

Make no mistake, electronics addiction is real. Hell, most people under the age of 30 are well entrenched in an addiciton of this kind. That and avocado toast.

So, I’m going to try to stymie my social media addiction. Facebook might be a little easier, since it has become nearly 100% ads anyway, or groups I don’t belong to enticing me to like posts and get more of the same content I didn’t ask for. Whatever the hell is going on in the lives of my friends is a mystery. I never see anyone’s feeds anymore without looking for them.

Instagram is just pretty pictures without any substance or content.

Tiktok is going to be really hard. Hoooo boy. But I think it will be worth it. I just need to stop. I don’t know what happens when the bottom drops out of all of this, but I am guessing it isn’t pretty. I’ve realized lately what I want pushes beyond needing to get my shit together.

I want to get it together.


Unpopular Opinions

If you are addicted to TikTok, like some of us…cough, cough, you’ll have probably seen the phenomenon that is everyone using that sound clip from Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and are probably just as sick of it as I am.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song. One of her best. Not THE best. But in the top three. But like anything else associated with this new generation (what are we at now, GenZ?), they always take something and just run it into the ground and suck the life out of it until nobody can stand it anymore.

For a song that always used to make me stop skipping songs and just settle in and listen, I have snoozed that sucker for probably the next ten years.

I have to admit though I’m grateful. Like Mindfulness/Yoga/Kombucha drinking levels of gratitude that they didn’t choose “Wuthering Heights” for that episode. How I loathe that song. It is shrill, about a book I utterly despised, and the cringe-inducing throw-up-in-my-mouth levels of Darth Vader yelling “Noooooo!” the mass interpretive dance party of dozens of people in red chiffon dresses you can watch on YouTube just demonstrate that there is a Hell and if I don’t straighten my shit out, I’ll be damned for all eternity listening to Kate warble “Heathcliff! It’s me! I’m Catheeee!” until I puke up my spleen and demons do carnal things to it in front of my eyes.

So, if you liked Kate Bush running up that hill. Wait until you get a load of her controlling the weather with “Cloudbusting.” It’s a better song. Or, branch out to Souixie and the Banshees. Sinead O’Connor. Stevie Nicks. Eurythmics. Or even Heart. Chrissie Hynde might just be the Chrissie that Eddie needed to wake up.

Or, maybe just don’t.

One Month and then Some

January 1st was the last time I posted directly onto Facebook. I still have my blog set up to post automatically on my timeline for some of my readers who get notifications there, but otherwise, I have not been using Facebook. I have checked the platform maybe half a dozen times, and none of those sessions were any longer than a few minutes.

In the last month, I have steadily weaned myself off the dependence of the site. There are many, many more reasons to stay off it than there are to return. The first two to three weeks were incredibly hard. I know it sounds silly, but I think it was a lot like what people who have quit smoking tell me their experience has been.

You don’t know what to do with your hands, for one.

I would find myself bouncing from app to app on my phone to kill time. TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, email. It was my daily ritual of catching up with others, getting that dopamine dump to propel you into the morning as you waited for the caffeine to work. Remove one of those elements and you are all out of sorts for a while.

You know something that actually hits worse for a dopamine rush? Jig-saw puzzles. I’ve been working on a 1,000 piece puzzle for the last week. I haven’t worked on a puzzle in probably thirty years. I realize now that I become a little obsessed with them. There is that trickle of reward, the dopamine microdose you chase. And before you know it, it’s 3:20am and your eyes are throbbing.

After two weeks, it got a little easier. The few times I did check Facebook I realized there was nothing I wanted to see there anyway. I read books. I wrote. I didn’t write on my blog because I was working through some stuff and rather than pontificate here, I decided to just give myself a break.

At week three, I got Covid. I was pretty sick for a couple days. Body aches, stuffy head, fever, cough. But everything I catch turns into a cough. Thanks, asthma! I rounded the corner after a couple days and I believe my vaccines kept me from getting worse. Why the hell not? The same people who probably created the damn virus helped create the vaccines, so I’m sure they are effective. The other day I went to the clinic in town for my allergy shots and a couple people wandered in looking like Death. They all had Covid. Omicron hit my town like a sack of oranges to the face.

The brain fog (Covid Brain) has been the worst part. But I’m over it now. It could have been a lot worse.

This time of year has been rough as long as I can remember due to the isolation and weather. It has been cold. And there are only so many books you can read or puzzles you can work out. I went to Dutch Bros. in Ft. Collins for my monthly Dutch sticker and my Americano. And of course some grocery shopping. It was nice to get out of town and lucky for me the only time the remnants of Covid still bother me is when I have to talk for a while or wear a mask. So I was happy to spend most of the day driving alone, just thinking through some things in life and enjoying being out of the house for once.

I have all sorts of plans, and I just need to keep my butt in the chair and work towards my goals. That’s the hard part sometimes. Today was a day that just sorta got away from me. It was 11:45am before I realized I hadn’t eaten anything yet and I hadn’t even had coffee much less showered. I was in a good place though. I felt centered. Present. Breathing easy. Lighter.

I think Facebook has exacerbated all sorts of unhealthy impulses. We keep up with the Joneses. We see everyone else’s finished, polished lives and we are ourselves working on a first draft. We see our regrets and what we don’t have and that hurts as bad as the microdosing of dopamine felt good. Peeking in on other people’s lives and wondering why yours isn’t that great. It inflames depression and anxiety.

Fear of Missing Out. Damn, you feel so alone.

At four and a half weeks (and a couple days in February now), I can say that like the city, I don’t miss much about Facebook. It’s more than a waste of time. It’s more like looking for that piece of the puzzle until 4 in the morning and not being able to sleep because if you just scroll a little bit longer, everything you hate about your life will feel that much better. Only your dog probably ate that piece of the puzzle and you just keep looking for it like a schmuck. You keep chasing that rush and it’s never any good. It just reminds you of how much better things should be, but you are wasting your time on an app instead of building a future that you will be happy with.

My blogging here isn’t much better. I really don’t want to broadcast my life like I had been doing, but my subscription auto-renewed and I’m out $96 for the year. So I might as well keep plugging away here. Besides, it’s a good place to just air my thoughts sometimes and it’s always good to hear from friends and other readers who stop by. I might live in the mountains, but I’m still not a total recluse! I’m just at that point in my life when I am tired of wasting my time on empty things. And sometimes I come back a year or two later and read what I have said and see how far I have come in life.

I’ll be curious to see what the next few months has in store for me. I honestly am beginning to feel the healthiest that I have in a long time, mentally that is. My worries are just worries. They aren’t amplified in an echo chamber and ignored by “friends” or compared with or validated by “likes.” It’s just life. You get over it.