A couple days ago, I took Twitter off my phone. A seemingly small effort to distance myself from the constant onslaught of information that is suffocating me. I like to think of myself as pretty disciplined, so this makes me more than a little disgusted with myself. I should be able to have an app on my phone and just not open it. There are a dozen other apps on the damn phone that I don’t use, including the Kindle app, loaded up with books that have been waiting for me for months. Even the several shopping apps have been ignored without much difficulty. Clearly, something is seriously wrong with me. It’s not like there aren’t a million other things that I have to do that require my attention and distract me from that hypnotic little bird staring at me from the screen. I’ve managed to feed and clothe my children (although, upon reflection, there have been more short pants and short sleeves walking out of the house than there should be in January), say good morning and good night to my husband, wish my live-in mom a good day, and feed the pet bunny. I’ve managed to get myself to the office on time, prep for and teach my classes, engage my students and my colleagues, and complete the many administrative and other tasks required of me. I’ve managed to be a reasonably functional adult.
But Larry the Bird is watching me, and I’m watching him. He is—in his brief 140 character bits—my primary source of quickly digestible information about the world. And he’s been a God-send in many ways for my ever-changing and increasingly busy life.
Of course, it’s not Twitter’s fault that the world has changed so significantly in the last many months.
It’s not Twitter’s fault that I have this compulsive need to know as much as I can at every moment of every day.
It’s not Twitter’s fault that every morning when I wake up, I pick up my phone to see what’s happened in the hours since I was awake in the night … when I was checking my phone to see what happened in the hours before I shut my light before bed.
Poor Larry, it’s not his fault that I’m constantly trying to monitor tweet storms like this one this morning, and then trying to keep up with every response to it, moment by moment.
(Note: Downloaded from my computer, not my phone. One step at a time.)
It’s not his fault that I feel enormous pressure to remove myself from my various political and other bubbles, to force myself to confront my confirmation bias by following more and more people who can give me more and more, and different kinds, of news.
It’s not his fault that I feel compelled to be prepared for every single question and concern that my students have about their changing world, and that I want to be ready with a range of responses so that I can help them emerge from their bubbles and confront their biases.
It’s not his fault that this platform draws me in by providing much-needed connections to my colleagues in my own discipline and so many others that I would not otherwise have since leaving the university setting many years ago.
And it’s not Twitter’s fault that I want—need—to engage with all kinds of people who can help me learn about myself and find new personal and professional interests and paths.
Nope, this is on me.
It seems that the enormity of keeping up has snuck up on me rather abruptly. On any single day in my pre-#Election2016 life, I’d be plugging away being a parent, a spouse, a daughter, sibling, friend, teacher, colleague, blogger, reader, drinker of wine, kvetcher about life. A taker for granted of democracy and, you know, stability, predictability, relative sanity. The ushe. (Or is it yooz? I’ll have to ask Twitter.) Those days were busy, even frenetic. And the state of the world was worrisome and distressing at times. But my privileged life seemed manageable. Enjoyable even. I was attached to my phone and to Twitter, but in the normal, disrespectful way.
Then, BAM! Suddenly, I’m completely consumed. I can’t let it go.
And it’s not just the substance of the information, which I find devastating in so many ways.
It’s the volume of stuff that comes constantly, at a speed that is impossibly fast.
Yet I try to stay apace. The 140 character snippets of life race across my screen, making my eyes dart up and down and all around at an unnatural rate, consuming every extra minute of my time.
And what a joke, extra minutes! I’m a working parent. I don’t have extra minutes. Rather, I have time that I should carve out to spend playing with my kids, shooting the shit with my husband, reading a book, writing my blog, exercising, shabby chic-ing the second-hand desk that’s been in the garage for months. Or doing nothing. I hear that’s a thing and that it can add years to your life.
Instead, I’m on my phone, trying to keep up. I can’t let myself be complacent, I can’t be distracted from what’s happening “out there” by what’s happening “in here.” I must be vigilant. How can I justify reading a book for fun when yet one more executive order is being announced? How is a blog post on tenure denial even remotely as important as who will be the next Attorney General or whether another foreign leader has been maligned? My kids can play with each other; there are two of them, after all, and my second-by-second monitoring of the status of the Bill of Rights will ultimately protect their future. There’ll be time to talk to my husband tomorrow. Today, I must save the world!
[Gasps for breath.]
Yes. I am truly certifiable.
But there’s hope.
Taking Twitter off my phone is a (baby) step. Next up, a trashy novel. And writing; my blog may not be the key to maintaining democratic institutions, but it has its place and it’s time to get back to it.
First, though, it’s Friday, which means it’s movie night. My eyes (both of them) will be on one screen only—the one on the wall across the room. My hands will be occupied only by a (large) glass of wine and popcorn. And my attention—I promise myself—will be on my peeps sitting next to me.
The suffocating avalanche can wait another day …