It’s been over a month since I’ve updated. I guess I needed a little hiatus, but didn’t fully realize that until an entire month went by. With the holidays, bad weather, a random and sudden nine day trip to Mexico (!!!), the Injury-That-Must-Not-Be-Named (SCIATICA) and an all around piss poor attitude, I haven’t had the time or, frankly, the inspiration. I have gone on a few hikes and I will update with those soon enough. I’ve had a lot on my mind, man. I’ve been thinking about what it means to have a project online and how it means you have to have A Brand. I don’t want A Brand. Yes, this is my nature blog, but it is also my project to get me writing (as noted in my introduction). Sometimes, I’m going to write about stuff that has nothing to do with my nature life. Sometimes, I’m going to write about really weird gay stuff and stuff about being a woman that might not make sense to some of my readers. Feel free to ask well-meaning questions, skip that shit, or unfollow.
I stopped making resolutions years ago on account of having been an expert in the fine art of self-sabotage. No need to make my failures all official and shit with some resolution. However, in recent years, this full-time position has been demoted to a more on-call position. A passing fancy to remind myself who the fuck I am and/or who I was. I’ve reached a place where I can set real goals for myself and mostly stick to them, or at least apply them to my life the best I can and things mostly work out. That feels really, really good. There was a time just a few years ago when getting out of bed before noon, going to work and wondrously surviving my day was all I could manage. It took a lot of alcohol.
In light of my newfound ability to cope, last year I began setting intentions instead of resolutions. My intention for 2015 was “to do and be more of the same.” That is really boring in print. What it precisely meant was to continue to not use drugs, to keep my drinking to a minimum or not drink at all (whatever my headspace called for), to keep hiking, to be more magnanimous, to put a special focus on integrity, or rather, mindfulness (“integrity” gets horribly misused), when navigating all aspects of my life and to finally get my writing practice going. I mostly succeeded at all of these. Full disclosure, I view any improvement as a success. Adopting this attitude took a lot of work, but it has changed the way I regard myself and move through this world in tremendous ways. It gives me the freedom to not want to jump off the Fremont Bridge or finish the bottle of wine and start on another every time I did the “wrong” thing.
: having or showing a generous and kind nature
Full Definition of MAGNANIMOUS
: showing or suggesting a lofty and courageous spirit <the irreproachable lives and magnanimous sufferings of their followers — Joseph Addison>
: showing or suggesting nobility of feeling and generosity of mind
In my own words: Being brave enough to let people and things be what they’ll be without my projections and insecurities. Radical acceptance of what I cannot change in myself and others and when I can muster it, a loving acceptance of those things.
In 2016, I plan to, again, “do and be more of the same,” now with added fifty-two book reading goal, journal writing and money saving. Yeah, pretty exciting stuff… There was one other intention I set in 2015 I’ll be carrying over in 2016.
I want to keep working on better boundaries with social media.
Alright, I am opening that can of worms and when I say, “social media,” I mean Facebook, because nothing else has sunk it’s claws in so deeply. I know I’m not alone in this. It seems like over the last few months, countless people have expressed on Facebook, or talked to me personally about how often they are hurt by posts about such-and-such, or about the medium itself. Before I continue, I know not everyone has the same relationship with social media. I know a lot of people have good boundaries and know when to log on and log off, and in some cases, delete their profiles for awhile. I also know a lot of people stick to posting funny stuff, reposting articles or keeping it light and positive. I used to think those folks weren’t being real. I also used to be full of shit.
As with the DVD player and the cell phone, I was late to the game with Facebook. I knew it was a thing college kids were into and as an early-twenties high school dropout with a blistering aversion to the heavy-handed academic rhetoric of my Portland peers, I was firmly against anything college kids were into. Besides, I made zines! And I still used Myspace. At some point, Facebook became more universal, not just for college kids and everyone stopped caring about Myspace. I continued to resist, but some time around 2008 (I was twenty-six) when all of my friends would constantly talk about Facebook when we were actually physically hanging out, I gave in. A friend helped me set up a profile. I was a fucking goner.
Facebook is the best worst thing that can happen to anyone with severe insecurities and abandonment issues. I grew up without anyone really watching or guiding me and what attention I got from my parents was often negative. At my fingertips, I now had this thing that could get me attention any time.
I think this is the problem for a lot of people, not just bad-boundaried, insecure people with abandonment issues out the wazoo. The immediacy of communication versus having time to sit on your feelings and pour water on the coals, paired with the ease of impression management. You can say anything the right way on social media and you’ll get the response, or “likes,” you want and quickly. I have a lot to say about the subject of impression management, like how I think social media encourages it and we don’t need to beat ourselves up too much about it, (go on with your selfies, queen, and also maybe think about the online persona you enact, or don’t), but I think I’m just going to leave that there for now. Often, I don’t think we even know what we’re actually agreeing with or “liking.” So often posts are made with the guise of being general or overarching, when really we’re talking about our insecurities, petty and serious, or a specific incident that hurt us and triggers all these other feelings under our skin. Sometimes, we take it a step further and bring our community/ies to task for our hurt feelings and that’s when it gets all fucked up. There are always two sides or more to a story, even with our nearest and dearest.
A friend of mine recently made a post saying she hopes in 2016, the queer community (Portland, specifically) will start actually building community instead of behaving like high schoolers. This got a lot of responses from people who feel a lot of those same frustrations. I was one of them. Of course, there’s the trickiness of talking about “the community.” I do believe there is an overarching “community,” but I also think we exist in micro-communities and for some of us, those are more vital. Example, the trans- or people of color- communities are not my communities, but yes, I think we all exist in a Queer Community. Regardless, with all of the responses, a lot of us have strong feelings about this communication issue.
If this piece were to be shortened down to a few sentiments, for me it would be this: We need to be more mindful of our words and intentions. We are living in a bizarro time, where many of us are young and learning how to be adults on social media. Some of us are literally growing up on it. We don’t all have the same triggers or growing up experiences. A lot of us struggle with delayed adulthood because of bad childhoods, and/or the lack of ability to be who we truly are when we’re young. This deserves a lot of compassion and reaching past what we’ve learned to be true of ourselves and the world to better understand others. It isn’t my intention to tell people how to communicate about their feelings, especially their pain, nor do I want to, but I think we add harm by not being more mindful of where and how we air our grievances. It appears many of us can’t have a feeling without telling Facebook. From the benign: relief about getting the last bag of your favorite chips from the grocery store, to the more serious: your ex-boyfriend cheating on you. There is a time and place to talk shit, express frustrations and even take our community/ies to task. Maybe, Facebook isn’t always the place to go for these things. Maybe, Facebook is precisely the place and we can pose our concerns more thoughtfully. Maybe, the place is with our trusted friends who will know how to hold space for our feelings even when we just need to word-vomit a lot of super flawed, angry, generalizing bullshit and be upheld until we don’t need it anymore.
To be totally real for a second, “likes” feel good. Being heard feels good. It’s psychological and physiological. We get a dopamine rush from the anticipating and receiving of response and/or validation on social media (or text or anything we like a little too much). A couple of years ago, I started to actually do the work of figuring out how to use social media in ways that don’t feel harmful for me. Not using Facebook didn’t work. I have abstained from it for months at a time and it always feels great for awhile, but eventually, I get frustrated by how many events, personal invitations and messages I miss by not being on. Somewhere along the way, I had to accept that regardless of how I felt about Facebook, it is a big part of the way people, my people, communicate now. It is my choice if I want to remove myself, but there is a cost. Last May, I got one of those awful flashback notifications from Facebook of a humiliatingly over-managed, but well-liked post about how rejected (mostly deserved) I felt by my community (read: three people) about an incident I was 100% shady about and I knew there were many more just like it stored in the time capsule blooper reel of my drug- and alcohol-mired Facebook profile. I deleted my account.
Yeah, I deleted my account and then… I started a new one. After saving all of the photos I wanted, of course. I already know what I did in my twenties, good and bad. That doesn’t go away because I deleted my account. Still, I don’t need that rabbit hole accessible in technological form. A great thing to come of it was no longer having my feed clogged by hundreds of “friends” I’d collected along the way from being a DJ, some of which I’d never even met. I only add actual friends and friendly acquaintances now. I also hide people liberally, usually temporarily. I don’t need my vibe killed and nobody needs my judgement of their shit. It really doesn’t have to mean anything more than that, though I absolutely have concerns about the erasure of people via social media (another thing I’ll just leave right there). I also set hours as well as time lengths for visits and how many visits per day I can have. I go on between 12pm and 9pm. No first thing in the morning, no last thing before bed. I do not need any weird shit creeping in during those precarious times of day. When I’ve got my wits about me, I go on Facebook once a week for ten to fifteen minutes. I rarely read my feed, but I always go through the event invites. For Instagram, I let myself go on three times a day, same hours. I know this all sounds like A Bit Much and it is, but it works for me. I have poor self-control and I struggle with checking. I cannot just post something and let it simmer to a boil. My boundaries were fantastic until I started this blog.
Whether or not any of this resonates, I do encourage everyone to really think about their social media usage and its impacts. Who is your audience? Are you saying what you truly mean? Will someone you love be hurt by what you say? Does that matter? How much of your day does it take up? Do you feel addicted to being distracted? Would you read more books, write in your journal or work on your art more if you weren’t using it as much? Do you abstain from social media when doing your self-care? How much of your brain space is being used up by information on social media that doesn’t really inform or enhance your personal being? Does social media often make you feel negatively, generally or specifically?
Here’s to better boundaries in all things in 2016! Resist psychic death! If you need support in cooling out on Facebook, I love talking shit about it. Hit me up.
More pictures from my Mexico trip. I’m so happy I went on that pre-vacation diet. Not.
this is perfect.
Leah, thank you!
So many people are convinced they are not addicted to social media. Most can’t stand alone for five minutes while waiting for the bus or cannot just quietly sit while waiting for a friend at a restaurant without having their phone out; scrolling away and comparing themselves to everyone else’s portrayal of a great life. Sometimes I am one of those people and I’m working on putting down the phone and living my life.
Thank you for your words.
Hey Michelle, Thanks for your comment. I agree with much of what you say. I think most of us who use social media with any regularity are at least low-level addicted to it. I want to say I find it bizarre how many of us continue to over-use it while also talking about how bad it makes us feel, but honestly, at the height of my drug and alcohol misuse, I said things like that about them, too. Eek! The only thing I’d add onto what you are saying is that in public, I think a lot of us also troll our phones because we’ve become, as a culture, so weird about being alone, especially in public. I do blame social media in part for this and the further immediacy of communication that comes with cell phones. It’s as if it’s become unbearable to just be a person, alone, relishing solitude, in public. I also think a lot of people, women especially, me very much included, use our phones in public as a way of looking busy as to not be bothered by strange men.