“It might sound crazy but it ain’t no lie…Bye bye” ~ NSYNC

So, I’ve been reading about the perils of social media for quite a while now and since I’m of a…cough cough…’older’ generation, I’ve seen its affects on people first hand and how different our society has become in the last 10 years with it. I’ve also debated whether or not to heed the warnings of the many researchers out there and am wondering WHY quitting social media is such a difficult thing to do (especially if you’re Kylie Jenner 😳).

One of my favorite books about the topic is “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now” by Jaron Lanier. In it, he talks about very compelling reasons to do this and one that stuck out to me in particular is how social media is causing us to lose our free will.

When social media first reared its head in the early 2000’s, I truly thought this would be a catalyst for bringing people together and breaking down social barriers…I was wrong. In my experience, it’s actually done the opposite: for example, people aren’t allowed to have political opinions outside of the parameters of their ‘friends’. And if you do? “I’m going to block you, you %$#$@ since you don’t think and believe what I do. If your opinion isn’t my opinion, you’re wrong.” Heh? We’ve become even more short-sighted than ever in that we have to follow THE opinions of the day and not necessarily our own. And if we do put ours out there? Get ready to lose friends, colleagues, etc. Now you tell me…how is that breaking down barriers? Isn’t that just making us all ‘sheep’ and when we’ve come to a place in our society where we feel we aren’t allowed to speak our opinion, isn’t that digression as opposed to progression? (OMG…I just read that last sentence and I sound so freaking smart! 🙄)

Then, along the lines of losing our free will, we are also being put into smaller and smaller boxes. I talk a lot about boxes in my sociology classes. I believe that we are ‘boxed’ from the first moments of our life: class boxes, gender boxes, race boxes, etc. Isn’t social media just another box? Nothing makes you feel worse about the taxes you owe than seeing ‘friends’ from high school going on their 45th cruise in 2 years. And, look at your friends list…and others. Aren’t they pretty much segregated? Yes, some whites have black friends and vice versa; however, around 75% of whites don’t have any black friends on social media and for blacks, it’s around 66% who don’t have any white friends (PPRI, 2014). I don’t think that’s ‘bringing us together’…right?

I also resonate with Lanier’s suggestion we are being followed in more ways than one, and so many other researchers (as well as ex-social media employees/engineers/creators) say the same: algorithms are put in place to make sure you stay on social media: you wait for the next squirt of dopamine regarding social media posts…you are shown what you are most likely to buy…you are shown a skewed side of politics…you are ‘fed’ what FB and others want you to eat. In other words, social media controls us…not the other way around.

And I sometimes get told I need to be in the ‘cage’ more! Ma will leave a comment about something and then ask me if I’ve read it. When I say no she asks why I haven’t yet. “Well, ma…I’m not on my phone all the time! I like to turn it off and take breaks. You know, for my sanity and all.” Or, I find out about milestones in my family on FB and wonder when we started to find it ‘normal’ to learn about these personal things in such a public arena. And if I haven’t been ‘on’ FB for a few days, I’m not in the loop and too bad for me. Hmmm. Wouldn’t the ‘loop’ be better if we actually talked?

I know we are all busy…trust me, teaching 8 classes keeps me on my toes. But since the average American spends about 2 hours a day just on social media, I can’t help but think if we weren’t on social media using this time, we’d have the opportunity to eat lunch together or shop together or get together in person.

Another interesting read is from medium.com called “How Technology is Highjacking Your Mind” by Tristan Harris. In this paper, he talks about how technology is taking over and running our lives in so many different ways; in terms of social media he says that one of the ‘hijacks’ is how we fear missing something important if we do get off of the platform. Are we going to miss a cool video? Or being in the middle of a ‘popular’ discussion? Or not getting an invite to an event? Or not getting to have even more potential friends? Hmmmm. Is this what keeps us chained? Our fear of being left out?

We are social animals and we have to be. Most animals can care for themselves very early in life and we can’t…we have to get along and interact in groups from the beginning because of one pesky need we have: to survive. And this need for belongingness has no end…everyone needs connections and after so many years of use, social media accounts have become THE connection for so many. Can we ‘live’ without it?

I know that when I’m down, posting things and getting ‘likes’ and comments gives me a sense of validation. But think about that. Validation from people having spent less than half a second touching the ‘like’ icon. Seriously? THAT’s our validation? Having a blue thumbs up? Hmmm. I’ve come a long way in a couple of years and if I haven’t learned anything else, I’ve learned this (this is going to sound very Oprah-ish): NOTHING anyone says about you means as much as what YOU say about you (I’m going to copyright this sentence 😐). So, someone from school that was too snotty to talk to me then when I was their peer suddenly ‘likes’ my pic so all is good in the world? No. It’s not. When did external validation become so sought after? So coveted?

In his article, Harris talks about Cornell professor Brian Wansink who showed how you can trick people into eating more and more soup by giving them a bottomless bowl that will stay filled regardless of how much they eat. With these, people ate 73% more calories than those that had regular bowls but underestimated this calorie count by almost 150. Isn’t social media the same? It’s our bottomless bowl of videos, quotes, pics, etc. We’ll never ever see it all…so we keep coming back for more and more. But, after our hour or so of swiping is up, what do we really have? An hour watching others live their social media lives (not necessarily real lives) while we pause our own? Hmmm.

So, I’m going to be off social media for a time and deactivate FB (while still maintaining messenger for texts). I don’t know why it’s giving me a weird feeling to do so…it’s an app! A screen. But deactivating it feels like I’m really making a sacrifice. That, if not anything else, shows me how addictive it is and how well the companies that run these social media platforms have us at their mercies.

Goodness…what will I do with those saved hours every week? Hmmmm…quilt? Make string art? Start painting again? Walk Eddie more? Run more? Read more? Be naughty more? Blog more? The possibilities are endless and if you want, please check in with this blog from time to time…I love having you here and writing is such a passion of mine. This is something I’ll never give up. 😍

Kristi xoxo

Breathing Lessons.

I absolutely adore Anne Tyler.  She is my favorite author ever and if I could only read 1 author for the rest of my life, it would be her. 

For some reason, 1 of her books really resounds with me and as I listened to the audio this last week over vacation (for the umpteenth time) I started making notes on my phone as I walked to it.  I realized that so much of what I was hearing was ‘me’; that it expressed things I maybe didn’t see, or couldn’t put into words. 

In “Breathing Lessons” a man and his wife, Ira and Maggie, take a day trip to go to a funeral.  As the day progresses, you get a glimpse into their lives and histories, and meet others along the way.  The entire book takes place in a 10 hour period, and the insights that are revealed about this couples’ lives are so impactful.

Maggie reminds me of myself.  Awkward.  Wanting to always please.  Wanting to hold onto things that may need to be let go of.  Worried about her looks.  Not always confident in her worth. 

One of the biggest struggles Maggie has is saying goodbye to her daughter who will be leaving for college the next day (her son already lives on his own), and wanting to reconnect with her 7 year old granddaughter who she hasn’t seen for years.  She wants to start over; be needed by a child again.  Have the family she reveled in.  Not hear the silence when she walks in her door.  I feel for her.  I know how difficult it can be to want to take steps backwards and not forwards.  To be back in that time when Ollie was young and I was the most important thing on the earth to him.  I remember subbing in his Kindergarten classroom, and he couldn’t stop holding my hand throughout the afternoon and calling me “MOM” in a voice that told every other kid in there, that I was HIS mom and only their sub!  There was another time when he went to a sleep-away church camp (at which I cussed when I found out he forgot his Bible, then cussed again after I cussed…it was obvious the leaders felt Ollie really needed them, growing up with a mom like me!) to spend 4 nights.  This seemed like forever to me but like every mom, decided that having those days to myself would be heaven.  I got a call the morning after his first night…it was Ollie telling me he threw up and I needed to get him.  I raced to the camp with a bucket in tow, and he was really quiet during our drive home.  I plopped him in bed and told him I’d fix some Jello and check on him while he was napping.  About an hour later, he came into the kitchen, with tears streaming down his face.  He said “Mom…I LIED TO YOU!!!  I wasn’t sick!!!  I just wanted to be with you!!!”  I laughed and said he never had to lie about wanting to be home!  And we went to the pool and had a great day!

Ollie lives with me now after being on his own for 6 years, and we have fun together, but he’s not my boy anymore.  He’s his own person with so many centers in his world now.  And that’s the way it should be!  Of course!  But like Maggie, I wish I could rewind and do it all over again, and savor those moments even more.  Why does growing up happen so fast? 

In another part of the book, Maggie is trying desperately to get her son and his ex-wife back together so she can be with her grandchild.  The problem is, their relationship was horrible from the start, although Maggie can’t seem to accept that.  Or even see it.   Her son was just too immature and self-centered to be a good husband, and her daughter-in-law was too demanding and childish.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is Ira talking about Maggie to their son: 

“She believes it’s all right to alter peoples lives.  She thinks the people she loves are better than they really are, and so then she starts changing things around to suit her view of them”.  ~ Anne Tyler
I had to listen, and then finally read, that quote so many times because it resonated in me.  Is that what I do?  Particularly in relationships?  I’m thinking yes.  
I had my weekly counseling appointment today and I love my counselor.  She is someone I really click with and I’m surprised by how much I’m able to share and how vulnerable I allow myself to be with her.  We were talking about my last relationship, and I told her I was still reaching out to him because I wanted to save him.  From himself.  He’s the one with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) who really hurt me so many times during our 3 years together.  He told me how he had given up on things; how he is just going to be alone and miserable for the rest of his life.  And I tell him how wasteful that would be.  You see, he’s living DOWN to his diagnosis of BPD, as if having this is a death sentence.  A slow death sentence.  I told him how a diagnosis needs to be used for understanding, and how you learn to recognize what the disorder or a mental illness is doing, and find constructive ways to cope.  It’s not a death sentence.  The diagnosis should be a map.  
My counselor asked me why I had such a need to show this to him, particularly since he really doesn’t listen to what I’m saying.  I told her because I felt guilty.  Ashamed.  Like I didn’t do enough to help him during our years together.  Didn’t have the right words to say.  Wasn’t enough for him to want to work on his issues.  Like I was to blame for when he lashed out, because I was the one that triggered it.  She looked at me and said this:  “But Kristi, he has Borderline.  That’s what they do when they don’t get help or try to learn how to cope.  That’s who they allow themselves to become.”  
I don’t know what it was, but I felt a relief after those words were spoken.  A weight dropped.  It wasn’t my fault that he kept abandoning me.  That he put his hands on me.  That he cheated on me.  That he told me he left this last time because of what I said.  It was the disorder.  The fucking disorder.  I tried for so long to not see him as having these issues…I wanted him to always be the great guy who put me on a pedestal and made me feel I was the center of his world.  But I wasn’t.  As much as I want to rearrange things and make them right…good…to suit how I want them to be…who I want him to be, I can’t.  And he didn’t do these things out of maliciousness.  Or because of something I did.  It was because of an un-diagnosed disorder.  I still want to help him .  But NOT out of guilt now.  But out of compassion and love.  My counselor said the words I guess I needed to hear about a lot of things:  “It’s not your fault.”
This is my favorite scene in Good Will Hunting.  
I think a lot of us need to hear the words: “It’s Not Your Fault”.  
And I think Robin Williams does it better than anyone.
And I realized something else.  I don’t need to be the center of someone’s life to be important.  Needed.  Worthy.  I’m a center already.  My center.  My Florida trip showed me this.  That I can be enough for me.  That I can have a life with me.  I don’t need to rearrange people to make them something they aren’t just to have them.  I don’t need to pretend they, or me, are something we’re not. 
It was a pretty cool thing to discover all of this.  That I’m not always to blame for things.  That I can’t make people take my help unless they want too.  That I don’t have to be driven by guilt anymore.  That I can make mistakes and I’m still a pretty OK person.  That I don’t have to have everyone’s acceptance.  That I can give myself the validation I need.  That I don’t need to take steps backwards; because moving forward is journey enough.
I’d say, all in all, that Florida was really good for me.  
Even despite being burnt. 😉
Kristi xoxo