I’ve been thinking about a relationship I’m in. It’s complicated. And I’ve been here before. This time it’s with an iPhone.
Just as the quick hit of nicotine distanced me from any uncomfortable (all of them were) feelings in danger of surfacing, these stylish and expensive white and silver devices give me swift and efficient access to a mood altering fix. And, as it was with the fags, I feel uneasy if I don’t know exactly where my phone is; checking my handbag and patting my pocket to reassure myself of the close proximity of the soothing sight, weight and shape. So many similarities. Cigarettes cost about $30 for a packet but, and the phone costs $1000 plus…
For my sanity’s sake, several years ago I made a decision not to use alcohol. So I don’t get to neck a bottle of wine at the end of a busy day. What I do is get on the Crack. I arrive home, put my bag down, groceries in the kitchen, then onto the couch and pick up the Crackbook “just to check in for a few minutes and see what’s happening”. And just like that, I’m gone. I was never a ‘social drinker’, you know, able to stop at one drink, or at one of any other drug for that matter, and the same is true for me with social media. It’s as if I stop breathing. When I come up for air it’s no longer daylight, my neck and shoulders are sore from the smartphone hunch, and the emptiness inside is telling me it’s time to eat or something. Jesus. Where did I go? So I have one more. And while I’m there, just one more. Reminds me of the old amphetamine days when I had been up for 48 hours at a stretch, off my face and obsessively cleaning. I’d sometimes come to, realising I must’ve fallen asleep on my feet. Instead of taking myself off for a lie down like any sane person would, I’d think “well I’m awake now so I may as well continue while I’m here”.
Although I do love South Park’s Mr Garrison, I don’t agree with him that “drugs are bad mmmkay”, nor is social media. Most people can go there without distress, so I’m told. I’m talking about my relationship with the Crack, and the disconnection caused. Which has its attractions of course, because sometimes, it’s all too fucking much – and besides, I’m hardwired for avoidance. And the device is a perfect hand held portal to elsewhere.
This habit is not going to take me out the gate. I won’t be shoplifting or breaking and entering into houses, or doing credit card fraud or selling illegal shit to keep this one going. I notice though, it does cause a spiritual injury of sorts. When I’m ‘on it’, I’m not writing or reading or spending time with people or going for a walk or noticing the sun on my head. It sucks up creative energy and causes a split from self and others. It’s tricky, the social media, or any other habit really, because it does give an illusion of connection. That’s why I’m drawn to it in the first place.
When I finally surrendered to the fact I had no control over my use of alcohol and other drugs, I realised that for me, it’s easier to have none than one. As said earlier, one was NEVER enough. Deciding to have none means I don’t have to engage in that draining internal wrestle of “Will I? Wont I?” This one though, along with food or money or people or shopping, is different. I need to learn to live well with it. And I want to be present to what’s on offer in the moment, instead of disappearing up my own arse via the obsession/compulsion route. By the way, obsession doesn’t give a shit about what it’s obsessed with – as long as its latched on to something. And instant is best. Yes please! And while you’re there, just one more!
In the spirit of Harm Reduction, I’ve taken myself off here and there when I’ve needed a break from the Crackbook version of the hustle. The decision not to pick up for a designated period of time is easy once I’ve gotten over the initial letting go. I don’t want to abstain though. I write and blog here and I really like the upside of social media, the access and connection with friends and family and fun. It’s the compulsion that does my head in. That constant checking and scrolling checking and scrolling is like being on the Crack. And wait, there’s more. I gave Twitter a go and couldn’t keep up. I flirted with Snapchat and that was fun. Then there’s Siri the wise oracle at my fingertips. Always there to help when she can understand what I’m asking. And Google maps take me where I need to go. I haven’t gone there with Instagram. Yet. I don’t know what Linkedin does, yet I am part of the network. FOMO and a vague curiosity motivated me to comply. Apparently by clicking ‘accept’ I’m Linkedin to a greater power.
If I was younger I’d probably be on FindSomeone or Tinder or something and that would add another mad swipe left swipe right just one more check and scroll crazy into the mix. Small mercies and thanks come to mind.
If Facebook is crack cocaine, then the NZ Herald is the low rent over the counter ‘NoDoz’. In an attempt at Harm Reduction I check out the Herald site, reasoning “it’s so full of crap it won’t hold my attention so there will be no mad scrolling and checking”, only to find myself feeling wound up because the content is mostly a load of click bait bollocks. Then I read one more ‘story,’ just in case..? While I’m on there I check my bank account again (you never know – a mystery donor could’ve deposited several thousand dollars in there) or the weather, so I know what to wear, telling myself this is a real reason to check in, oh and my personal and work emails and Messenger and text messages too. It becomes a mad ritual. Checking out by checking in and checking out.
I was on Trade Me the other day checking my watch-list for ‘day beds’ and accidently bid on a pair of black ankle boots that were half a size too big, then spent the next two hours rudely checking my phone when I was out for dinner with friends, in the hope someone would outbid me. Eventually they did. Phew. It’s not what I take. It’s where it takes me.
I impose rules on myself which are then broken. Rules are made to be, right? I’ve outed myself with friends in order to be accountable as I aspire for balance. Left to my own devices, I begin to take myself seriously and start believing there is something wrong with me. I’m an ‘all or nothing’ girl, so telling on myself serves to lighten me up. I recently received a text, “I thought u weren’t going to read yr phone at the lights?! Busted!!” Sprung! Oh how we laughed.
So, what to do?
Oh I know! I’ll check out Instagram. My friend Stephen says he ‘does a gram a day’. And it’s instant. I could do that. Just one a day. I can handle it. It will be fun.