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Confessions of a Twitter Addict

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CONFESSIONS OF A TWITTER ADDICT

I am quitting Twitter cold-turkey, and I do not use that addiction language lightly. I’ve been fighting a social media addiction for what feels like a long time, but it only became serious about a month ago. I’m not sure exactly what the addiction is, but I can feel the dopamine shooting into my system as surely as if I’d just snorted a noseful of cocaine. I had been a recreational Twitter user for quite a while and dabbled in softer drugs like Facebook, but I recently hit bottom.

I’m not sure how it happened. In mid-August, I suddenly started getting tons of notifications in my feed from people I had never heard of. I’d somehow ended up on several threads that engaged in — well, let’s call it “political discourse.” I’ve always loved a good political debate, but of course it isn’t really debating these days. For most Twitter users, it’s just trading insults, the nastier the better.

These people on Twitter are beyond ugly — mean, vitriolic, crude, vicious. Truly. And it’s not just the trump people. Mostly, but not always.

ONLINE HELL

I quickly became part of a de facto “liberal team” against an opposing “alt-right” team, and it went downhill from there. Many of the fifty people on the threads have apparently been yelling at each other since February.

Here’s how it works: One person makes a statement of “fact” or opinion and then those who disagree run off and google to find counter-arguments. I recently had tabs open to a glossary of hard-rock mining terms, an EPA report on toxic waste in Colorado, Michelle Obama’s thesis from 1985, Helen Keller’s biography, a speech Joe Biden made in 1992, and court records of a foreclosure hearing involving the parents of the woman who has accused Judge Kavanaugh of attempted rape. You see what a good use of my time this has been?

“Libtards” or “snowflakes” generally post major news outlets or analyses by government agencies, and then the tribe of trump shouts “fake news!!” and tweets random fake news and conspiracy websites and crazed blogs as sources. Then they post an anti-Hillary meme or two, and usually end by tossing insults: Liar! Fraud! Fake! Hater! To which a liberal occasionally replies: Liar! Fraud! Fake! Hater!

One of the many “Christians” in the tribe of trump might quote Bible verses that damn you to hell while posting memes of trump standing on top of a tank with bombs bursting behind him. Recently “Daughter of the Most High God” told me to pray that “the Democratic Deep State will stop conducting mass shootings in our schools as a ploy to take away our guns. Amen.”

For a while, I tried arguing with said Christians about what Jesus might think of taking children from their parents or taking healthcare from the poor or turning away refugees or destroying God’s creation. But those people are scary, really scary, and I eventually blocked most of the religious ones.

HOOKED

I knew within a week that I was hooked and that I needed help. But I couldn’t stop. I’d get several hundred notifications a day and started to feel as if I knew these people. I’d get a feeling of accomplishment and superiority whenever I scored a “point” against the opposition and my fellow liberals would applaud me and say, “Way to go, Mel!”

Oh, there were redeeming moments and comments, and I did establish a certain joking rapport with a few trump people. I had some good laughs, like when one woman wrote, “I don’t believe in history.” But then of course she was mocked mercilessly by the liberals and it wasn’t funny anymore.

A POWER GREATER THAN TWITTER

This “confessional” blog is part of a ritual I created to give myself the strength to deactivate my account. If you have not had such an addiction, you won’t understand. I didn’t really understand either. So as part of my ritual, I journaled a stream of consciousness to find out what it is I’m addicted to — what I think I get from Twitter. I wrote words like “excitement, belonging, relevance, engagement, competence.”

There’s nothing wrong with any of those desires, but from Twitter?? God, this is embarrassing.

Anyway . . .

Last night I lit a candle, I said a pray, and then I recited a version of the first three steps of the twelve-step program: “I am powerless over Twitter and my life has become unmanageable. I know that only a power greater than myself (which I call God) can help me be free of it, and so I turn my Twitter addiction over to You and ask You to help me let it go.”

Then at 7:13 pm precisely, as the sun went down, I deactivated my account.

In thirty days, I will reactivate it to see if I can go back to reading the news and interacting with other writers, readers, literary magazines, and spiritual seekers in a healthy way. If not, I’ll deactivate for good.

Wish me luck!

 

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Syntax, Serenity, and Spiritual Ratiocination — Say *That* Out Loud Three Times

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If you tuned in last month, you read my ignominious blog, which happily was not as ignominious as I had feared. Stuck in my winter doldrums and with no creative burst in sight, I simply dashed off a stream-of-consciousness blog based on a word that was floating around in my head (ignominious) and hoped for the best.

Based on reader feedback, I need not feel humiliated by what felt like my lazy surrender to the doldrums. Since you guys liked it, and it’s still winter, and there have been no ensuing creative bursts, I’m doing it again.

Forthwith, a series of digressions about the word ratiocination:

Ratiocination isn’t a particularly fun word, not entertaining like ignominious or salubrious or sanguineous or serendipitous. It’s more like calibrated: a serious word. One who is engaged in ratiocination has no time for frivolity.

As you might know or guess, the word ratiocination means the process of forming judgments by a power of logic; reason. The process of exact, methodical thinking. How no-fun is that?

The word stuck out of May Sarton’s memoir like a logic puzzle lodged amongst lyrical poems. In Sarton’s book Recovering, one finds titmice and garden phlox and dogs and cats and poetry and people coming for tea or lobster salad. Not ratiocination.

In fact, May Sarton was actually talking about the opposite of ratiocination when she used the word: “That is the miracle, that my [ex]lover and I have come through together to a place of benign peace and light. Miracles cannot be explained, that is their miraculous nature. They are beyond ratiocination, so I cannot tell what has really happened.”

May Sarton Courtesy NY Public Libraries

May Sarton
Courtesy NY Public Libraries

Although I’m partial to miracles and tend towards the intuitive, I can indeed think methodically when absolutely necessary. As it happens, I’m currently engaging in a nightly process of painful ratiocination, which I am bound and determined to survive. Working with a master wordsmith, I am studying what amounts to syntax on steroids, breaking down lovely lyrical prose into nominative predicates and adjectival infinitive phrases so that I can put them back together into suspended sentences and braided metaphors. This goes well beyond what I studied at Hopkins, and that was difficult enough for me. Syntactical ratiocination — now that’s kind of a fun phrase.

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Ratiocinating Serenity

Since the enlightenment, human beings have put most of their energy into ratiocination. Everything must be sorted out and put into its proper, logical box. “It just doesn’t make sense,” is the ultimate dis.

For someone like me who grew up in a dysfunctional home, the need to “figure things out” is even stronger. In order to stay safe and keep things from blowing apart, kids in such homes feel they must know at all times what everyone is thinking and feeling so that they can control what’s going to happen. All children have a sense of over-responsibility; they think the world revolves around them and everything is a response to them. This is complicated in a volatile home because figuring out how to control circumstances feels like a matter of survival and it sometimes is.

Of course you can’t *know* what other people are thinking and feeling, and you can’t control their emotions or actions. Which is why people from dysfunctional homes find so much solace and recovery in Al-Anon, the twelve-step program for friends and families of alcoholics. There they learn to keep the focus on their own feelings and actions through the Serenity Prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.”

What a relief to let go of the illusion of control and the need to figure things out!

The Serenity Prayer, which is used in all twelve-step programs, describes ratiocination from a God perspective. This might sound like an oxymoron. But if you believe in God, it makes perfect sense to rely on this Higher Power to help you sort out what you can and cannot change. Other people, places, and things are on the “cannot” list. But our baggage (history) may keep us from ratiocinating this out on our own.

Mind, Body, Spirit, Not Necessarily in that Order

I found the Oxford Dictionary’s two model sentences for ratiocination to be odd:

“One of his premises is that ratiocination is dependent on emotion, as mind is on body.”

And this: “One fondly imagines that one reaches opinions by personal ratiocination, but of course many of them one inherits.”

So underneath all of our pondering and “figuring out” are serotonin levels and cortisol rushes and veiled memories. We may think our minds rule supreme, that ratiocination is the highest function, but in fact we’re often ruled by heart and soul. Our gut, if you will.

And — dang if I didn’t end up back here again — it seems to me that there’s a God factor in this mix of heart and soul and mind. I just think there’s a higher power than the human mind. There is some higher Ratiocination going on in this ordered universe, and it includes the nudges and prompts and intuitions that guide our spirit life.

Stream-of-consciousness writing runs like a river; it really has no end. It spills into eddies and spins a while and then keeps going, sometimes riffled by the wind, sometimes calm and clear. I seriously did not mean to end up talking about God again, but most of my streams are going to eddy into God, unless they end up in climate change or maybe social justice.

Go figure.

What Color is Shame?

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At first rosy blush, shame most certainly seems to be red. The Scarlet Letter, the embarrassment of being caught in a lie, or the menstrual red spread on a white skirt.

File:ScarletLetterBlack.svg

Shame can also be green. The irrational, over-reacting, sickish shade of green that makes you say, “I didn’t know she was going to be at the party,” and then later pretend you weren’t jealous.

A Sickish Shade of Green

Red and green shames are personal, coming from inner taunts like,

You’re just not good enough

What’s wrong with you?

If people really knew you, they wouldn’t like you

With personal shame, it’s important to examine the source. We need to make sure it’s our own conscience wriggling, and not someone else wagging their finger in our business.

Community Shame

Then there’s community shame. That might be a combination of colors. Say the red, white, and blue shame that’s born of a million dead “redskin” Native Americans, or more than four million black and brown humans “owned” by white humans, or more than 120,000 “yellow” Japanese-Americans imprisoned during World War II. Communities may try to cover shame with semantics and rationalization, but everyone can see the red blood of children through the phrase, “collateral damage.”

When we get into “group think,” our multi-colored shame explodes.

Many of us experience this multi-colored community shame when the words of our sacred texts are used to judge and exclude, oppress or cause violence. My Muslim friends expressed this after September 11th, and as a Christian occasionally subjected to TV evangelists, I am quite familiar with the feeling.

Still, even as we decry warped interpretations of our beloved Torah, Koran, Bible, and Vedas, if we’re honest, we know that our own wounded and prideful hearts are quite capable of dropping some not-so-smart bombs.

Yes, there’s enough shame for every color of the rainbow.

                                  Dark Shadows

Shame is not made up of pretty rainbow colors.

I asked my Facebook friends about shame colors:  Lots of support for red, some football jokes, and a few votes for black “because you can hide in it,” and, “it’s the middle of the night and I can’t stop replaying the conversation in my head.” Another wrote, “a grey fog that swirls around you.”

My friend Bill said, “Shame is the color of oak leaves in January – crumpled and dead.”

I think that’s it. Shame is brown. Muddy brown.

It gets all muddled up with fear – fear of being disliked or abandoned for your behavior. Sometimes there is anger mixed in – anger at another person for seeing your less-than-perfect self, or anger at yourself for not being perfect, or for even caring what someone else thinks.

If you don’t deal with shame, it turns to toxic guilt, which is more diffuse, like a smoggy day. Guilt can pollute your whole life, “making it hard to move around and enjoy life,” said another friend.

There is a way out of the mud and smog and fog.

Apologies are Hard

It’s hard to apologize, even for our most egregious behavior. Shame is all tangled up with needing to be right, needing to seem perfect, needing to be esteemed. It’s simple pride. Some suffer – literally – under the illusion that apologizing makes one look weak, when the opposite is true – apologizing shows strength of character.

During this American political season, one of the red herrings being tossed around is whether or not America should ever apologize. In fact, Mitt Romney even wrote a book called No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.

Excuse me, but how silly.

Every school kid knows that a sincere apology is the best way to dig out of your muddy brown shame. Red, white, and blue shame is no different. An apology, coupled with a change in the behavior, is the most effective way to move forward in a relationship.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248207.php

I have to hand it to VP candidate Paul Ryan. Even though Mr. Romney may not agree, at least when Ryan was asked if the U.S. should apologize for its soldiers burning Korans and urinating on corpses, his big blue eyes got even bigger, and he said, “Oh gosh, yes.” School-kid wisdom.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/the-vp-debate-cinches-it-paul-ryan-is-unqualified-to-step-in-as-potus/263531/#

Personal Freedom

The worldwide Twelve Step recovery programs are well-recognized for putting millions of lives back together. If you do a little research, you’ll find that one of the primary ways these communities help people to emotional freedom is through humility and the release of shame:

Step eight says: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

In step nine, you do just that.

Step ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

Those in the programs will tell you: these steps are not so much for the aggrieved as for the transgressor.

Shame only lives in the gooey, brown anaerobic slime of silence. Let in a little fresh air and bright yellow sunshine, and maybe you’ll see a rainbow.

http://www.livescience.com/18665-art-apology-psychology.html

This post was written in response to another weekly writing challenge from WordPress: A Splash of Color:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/weekly-writing-challenge-a-splash-of-color/#more-10602

I had fun with this one!

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