Since unfriending everybody, I’ve gotten quite a bit more headspace to think about other things.
It’s been lonely, I have to admit. I’ve been very isolated for the past year. The only human contact I have is with my wife at home and with my colleagues at work. I stopped hanging out with old friends (partially a geographic issue- I was no longer where all my old friends were, and I have no close friends who live where I moved to). I unfollowed and unfriended everybody on Twitter and Facebook, and I deleted as many accounts as I could. And then I went on a sort of radio silence.
I did this because I wanted to know who I was away from all of that noise. I had become really good at responding and replying to other people’s statuses and updates, and I was keeping track of lots of people’s lives, whether intentionally or otherwise. RescueTime told me that I was spending 3-5 hours a day on social media, sometimes more. I was feeling ‘stuck’ at work and with my personal projects, so I felt like it would make a lot of sense to just let go of the 3-5 hours altogether.
I was a little afraid to do it, but I decided that it didn’t make sense to live in fear of what people might think. Why stay friends with people who get so easily offended at you leaving a space, especially if you felt it was necessary for your emotional and psychological well-being? I wanted to know who my real friends were. I wanted to know who would reach out to me if I were gone, who would notice if I were missing.
Initially it was a little daunting, and I started by unfollowing people that I never had any contact with, no real conversations, no real discussions. Then I unfollowed the people who I felt were a little toxic for me- people with whom my interactions were rather combative, forceful, argumentative, etc. I then started gathering momentum, and I decided to unfriend even my close friends and colleagues, people I cared very much about. I unfollowed everybody. And then suddenly, all was quiet.
It was simultaneously more and less than I expected. The quiet was palpable. I would still log into Facebook and Twitter out of habit and impulse, and see that there was nothing there to see. I would catch myself logging in again and again, and it would be clear that the habit had formed. And each time I would encounter nothingness, and that would be a cue for me to contemplate. How much I had grown dependent on these services to fill up my hours, to make me feel like I was doing something. Over time, I would spend less and less time on those platforms. I posted a couple of links to good reads– again, out of habit, and I’d find that nobody responded. And so it felt like I was losing the feedback that kept me going- those notifications, those little dings that kept me going. And so the whole thing started to sort of wilt and die out.
So, what do I do with all this extra headspace? I haven’t decided yet, actually. I feel like my mind has been very foggy and cluttered lately. But it’s not like these are new things. I’m just waking up to the mess that was here all along, that I was distracting myself from. And some of it has been scary and painful to face. But it feels really necessary. What am I talking about?
I guess– in the absence of peripheral peer approval- which I had gotten pretty good at getting- I wasn’t super clear about what I wanted. Or if I was clear, that clarity was fleeting- and maybe I’ll find bits and pieces of it when I review my writing.
Will I always be this total recluse? No, absolutely not. I can’t survive like this indefinitely. I definitely need human contact. But I guess I had approached the problem of “I need human contact” in a very inelegant, wanton, messy, unaesthetic, unimaginative way, with left me with all sorts of people that weren’t necessarily good for me. I hadn’t pruned and tended to my garden, and as a result I had a whole bunch of crap and mess and ugly that was painful and unsightly to deal with. So I burned the whole thing to the ground. And before I start again, I’m using this space to ruminate, to meditate, to reminisce. To figure out what really matters to me, what I really want out of the remainder of my days, what I really want out of my relationships.
What do I want? I want peers that I really respect and admire, and I want to become a person who those people admire. I want to be at the forefront of humanity (as I choose to define it- yeah, I know that life isn’t a competition, but I think some people are doing more amazing things than others, and I want to align myself with the people who are doing amazing things- because I think they have a better sense of reality, and they have more fun, and they’re just happier and more fun to be with, and they say and do more interesting things…)
I’m confident that I’ll get there if I just put in the work. I just need to keep putting in the work. I need to maintain a daily discipline. I need to manage my time better, have more output, prioritize things. I need to write more, and I need to focus on things that are worth writing about. But even that might be premature optimization. I need to trust myself and just do a little bit of writing everyday. Every single day. And I need to sleep early. That’s it. It’s not that complicated. I’ve been complicating things, kicking up a dust and then struggling to see. I think I’ve been doing all that kicking because I used to be such an inactive bum. I’ve been driving myself to blind overwork so that I can collapse from exhaustion rather than laziness, and learn from that point.
I think a part of it might be narrative, which even I’ve bought into without realizing or not. While I hate the idea of busywork, I think it’s easier to do too much busywork, burnout and then recover from that point… than it is to start out as a lazy bum and become effective from there. I don’t know. I’m just validating my own narrative. We’ll see. Just putting this out there. It isn’t nearly as important as actually just getting the important work done.