out with the old

I am one of those people who likes symbolic fresh starts. Yes, I know that the first day of a new year, a new month, a new week is “just another day,” but they don’t feel like that to me. I want lines of demarcation. (Curiously, my own birthday is a nearly meaningless occasion to me.)

So with that in mind, I’m wondering if I could declare today, the half-year mark, as some kind of fresh start, drawing a line under the madness of the first half not because the madness has eased at all but because I think (I think) I am learning to live with it.

I considered this at midsummer as well. It ought to have been at midsummer; I like the idea of tying it to seasonal cycles more than marks on a calendar, but then my head got subsumed in a whole other cacophony of stress over something or some things–I don’t even remember what–and I lost track. I think I was sleeping very badly, which makes everything worse.

This has not been even remotely the strangest or most difficult or disorienting half-year of my life, but it has certainly been uniquely odd and challenging.

I’m starting to loathe the digital world. I realize the irony of writing those words on a blog, but this, like email, has come to seem practically old-fashioned to me. I effectively shuttered my Twitter account months ago; yesterday, I deactivated my Facebook account, and although that won’t be permanent because I do need it for a few things, it was such a relief.

I find myself almost obsessively drawn to the tactile more and more. I remember my first giddy encounters with Kindle, the ease and excitement of loading books on there that were cheap or even free (out of copyright or as part of a special offer, folks: don’t pirate books) and then the dawning realization that I look at screens all the time for work and I don’t want to look at one for leisure, plus I actually like books as objects, the heft, the look of the font on paper, the act of turning another page. I don’t enjoy reading on a Kindle. I just don’t.

I have been walking a lot and thinking a lot about walking and cycling, of going nearly everywhere under my own steam. Of what it would be like to travel the whole world like that. And about talking to people everywhere I go–actually talking, to people in front of me, not their images, and using our voices instead of words on a screen. To all kinds of different people, not just the ones who think “like me.”

To people who only use their phones as a tool, to text someone or look up a business for something they need, not people who conduct large swathes of their lives and relationships online. The impoverishment of that environment becomes clearer to me the longer we stay away from one another and the digital world reveals itself as only a sometimes-useful supplement and not at all a substitute for actually living.

It feels like social media + worldwide lockdowns are collectively driving everyone mad. Everyone is shouting at everyone else and everyone is furious, even more than usual, like people have overdosed on some kind of rage drug. It’s unbearable.

I feel desperate to be in the world, not this stupid wrong side of the mirror world mediated through Online. I’m sure that I sound like a Luddite, and I’m equally sure that I don’t care.

7 thoughts on “out with the old

  1. Leaving a comment on a blog post feels very retro these days!

    I agree with the need to meet and talk to people from all walks of life in person, which the pandemic is severely curtailing. It is intensifying people’s interactions on digital platforms. Everyone has a shorter fuse currently, which is disastrous for meaningful dialogue (and was always in short supply online in the first place.)

    When we had the luxurious freedom of going out and exploring without impediment we were often more accepting and curious. Now, simple excursions can be stressful with extra obstacles. Conversations are difficult, and perhaps dangerous.

    Trapped, and scared, we’re like penned animals: metaphorically pacing, sleeping if we can, and lashing out at anything that passes by our bars (and in this case, our bars are our screens…).

    I think in this pandemic world we should be encouraged to get out and away from the screens as much as possible. Rather more difficult for writers or people who work with screens all day of course.

    Thank goodness for books! I’m still using my Kindle app, however… /irony

    I’m very much looking forward to when the world opens up a bit more, and masks can be abandoned, but resigned to the fact that will not be until next year at the earliest. 2020 is the year of difficult introversion.

    Those of us who have access to walks in nature are truly blessed. It’s the best way to get perspective on the barrage of noise in our heads and ground ourselves in the reality of grass, trees, rain and birdsong…

    1. Completely agree with everything you say here and couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve been dissatisfied with social media for a long time, so this was a good chance to make a clean break. For anyone who’s feeling fed up with Facebook, I can’t recommend deactivating enough. I was convinced I couldn’t do it because I do have a few legitimate reasons to maintain an account there, but already I can’t believe how much quieter my brain is. I feel like I just hung up on a phone call where people wouldn’t stop yelling at me.

  2. There are people who don’t engage at all with social media – even authors! – and manage their life quite well. In fact, their creative life is probably less riven by distraction.

    It is rather like being in an abusive relationship – there are flashes of that hilarious, joyful medium you began with, but too often it makes you feel anxious, small and scared. Maybe walking away is the only option now. I keep having to take extended breaks from it to keep myself on an even keel.

    And that’s weird, when you think about it… if it makes you feel awful so often, why do you continue with it?

    1. The abusive relationship analogy is really, really spot on. I’ve compared other things to an abusive relationship but not that, but that certainly is the dynamic. I really want to be able to use Facebook again for the cat and hiking and travel groups I enjoy, but it may require deleting everyone except my mom!

  3. Brent Cagle

    I already miss you on FB but I totally get it. Maybe you could have a page just about your work? That’s what I hope to do eventually when I leave academia and focus on other things. In any case, I think I we have each other’s email and I will come here on occasion and I very much hope we keep in touch and meet face to face some day.

    1. Heyyyy Brent, I was just thinking of you last night and that I should send you a PM (I’m still on Messenger) saying I hadn’t deleted or blocked you, I just deactivated for a while! I’ll be back someday but it’s just too overwhelming right now, I probably should’ve followed someone’s advice to just start a brand new account (maybe I will eventually)… Anyway, glad you came by. I don’t suppose you or Randy are on Instagram? I looked for you by name but couldn’t find you. We will definitely stay in touch and meet eventually even if this virus has slowed everything down.

      1. Brent Cagle

        Great! Randy has an Instagram account but hasn’t used it. Maybe I will transition there eventually and just do cat stuff and focus on some creative writing ideas there. Glad we will stay connected and I will continue to visit you here! 😃

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