Monday, 16 February 2015

Hello Neverland: Off The Grid

It's easy to deal in definites, then come around full circle. The more I observe of myself, the more I see I work in waves of excess and austerity. Maybe it's a Catholic thing, but I feel comfortable living in the world and being of it, and a few months later I feel I have too much stuff, too connected to the world via the internet. I don't need that many books when I can get them for free from the library, don't need DVDs when I can download them, don't need music when I have a streaming service. Overwhelmed and possessed by possessions.

When my niece was born, not five minutes into the world her image had been uploaded onto Facebook. Which was lovely for me, I got to see her despite being hundreds of miles away. I don't believe there was a golden age of the world where everybody was sociable and used their time effectively.

Yet this idea of image, that you should be constantly primed and ready for a selfie, that you should be a marketable brand in your life and your profile photo should look flawless. That, for me, is exhausting.

When Sia decided to no longer show her face, but continue with her music career, I thought that was genius. Unlike say, Rusell Brand who uses the vehicles of capitalism to denounce capitalism, Sia's decision accepts things as they are, she just bends the rules. She hasn't gone off to live in a cave or refuse to give interviews, talking about how awful the machine is. She realised she had a choice, to not show her face and be judged on her appearance, and continue to market and sell her music. It's worked for her, and it's inspiring.

We live in an age where I feel stunted in having to be morally obligated to know everything about famous people before indulging in their work. I can't listen to Azealia Banks without thinking about her Twitter outbursts, I can't listen to Beyonce without carrying the weight of her feminism statements versus the allusions to domestic abuse in her work. Rihanna is ruined by her constant need to flaunt herself naked, nevermind the apologist attitude to her abusive relationship. Just last week, Jill Scott offered up a comment that kind of defended Bill Cosby and put down Iggy Azalea. Jill Scott, who taught me poetry, love and self-respect. I felt wiped by the barrage of information.

A few months ago I gave up Facebook and Twitter for ninety days. When I returned I realised I missed Facebook. I missed the connection to people I knew, my family who live away from me, I saw it can be used as a tool for socialising and feeling closer to others. I wiped out all the advertising, all the Facebook groups that act as marketing tools and nothing more.

I did not miss Twitter. I missed some people I knew on Twitter, but they could reach me via other means if they wanted to. Twitter was not a lifeline to anything. As the weeks went on, I tried to make my Twitter account a more positive place. All I felt were 140 character grand pronouncements and heated, ugly arguments on race, gender, politics and anything anyone cared to disagree on. It feels to me like expression for the attention deficit, without caring to hear any other point of view. Tomorrow, we are on to the next trending topic. Hashtag my life.

I deleted my Twitter account two weeks ago with no kind of fanfare, and I don't miss it. I found myself reaching for my phone whenever I was annoyed or wanting to be snide or judge something, to feel clever and funny and reach out to 350 people I barely knew. I'm sure I could do better things with my time. I convinced myself it would be good to keep a Twitter account for my Wonder Woman blog, and focus following based solely on comic books. I let that one go the day I offered my opinion on Andrew Garfield being too good an actor to not be hired by Marvel for another role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Someone responded with such bile it knocked me sideways, and when I politely responded that what she thought I meant wasn't what I meant, I got even more bile back. I was done, I deleted that one too.

I figure I can do better things with my time than procrastinate online and convince myself I am doing something constructive. I can write on this blog more, for starters. I am trying to get out of the habit of checking my phone as the first thing I do every day. I could read a chapter of a book in that lost half an hour, I could use technology in a positive manner and watch a TED talk. I could turn my 140 character musings into 1500 word blog posts. I could write, run, read, or simply contemplate my day ahead.

I may go crawling back to the Twitterverse, but at least for now my intentions are noble.

From a wider perspective I want to be more mindful about my online life. More controlled about all the personal information we give away so freely for the sake of a few likes. I constantly see the lines blur between professional and personal lives online, and how quickly that could turn ugly and get you fired. I give a lot of thought to what is left of you when you die, and it disturbs me that this Facebook page can remain as a relic of your life, just a few megabytes. I'd like to leave at least one book behind, more than somewhere people can tell me they miss me when I am no longer there to read it.

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