I’m probably one of those people who embraced social media when it first became part of mainstream conversation. It probably helped that, at that time, I was already deeply embedded in Internet culture – my fandoms were all online (shoutout to Bones and Doctor Who, the first proper fanfic communities I wrote in) – and I had taken to things like mIRC and Friendster and chat rooms like a duck to water. I had already staked out a “brand name” to identify myself on social media as early as college (hence, sundialgirl) and used it consistently. I had Facebook and Twitter in the early 2000s, and was on Tumblr while it was on beta.
I suppose it helped that I worked in the online content creation industry for a long time, and thinking laterally, across media, and learning how to adapt narratives on different platforms was part of my training. This was how I was taught to think: be consistent, provide quality, and update regularly. It helped to be embedded in the online culture – I could see grand narratives and fragmented points of view, and I could craft an image for myself. And most importantly, I knew that I was speaking on behalf of my company, and so I should be careful of what I say.
Even now, though I’m aware of how my online life overlaps my offline life, I only maintain one public social media account (Twitter). Everything else is private, and unless I know you in real life, I probably won’t add you on those platforms.
But despite this attempt at curation, the amount of negativity and hate running across the Internet is now starting to influence my state of mind and my moods. I am aware of my emotional sensitivity – I try to turn it off when I’m teaching, but all of these things take a toll on me. I’m on a high when students do something wonderful; I’ve been known to gnaw consistently on issues and thoughts when students make mistakes, for fear that I’m also making a mistake in how I treat them. I try to be sensitive to their needs while giving them room to learn on their own.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: I am finding social media more and more toxic. People are becoming more and more terrible through the anonymity of the screen. Instead of aspiring for the stars, we are becoming more prone to knee-jerk reactions, angry 140-character tweets. Every headline is meant to incite an intense emotion. It’s no longer about being able to provide information rationally. It’s about clickbaits, incendiary headlines, destruction of other people across the Internet
And I’m tired of it.
So I think I’m going to step back a bit. I think I need to remember that I need to engage in meaningful communication. It doesn’t need to be angry, or sad, or any kind of emotion dialed up to 100. I think I’m going to seek out platforms where people make their own things, instead of reposting or reblogging with commentary. I can’t control how other people use the Internet, but I can control my own usage. I want to be creating again, not just mindlessly consuming meaningless information.
And right now, for my own mental health, because self-care is important, I need to start learning how to let go… at least, how I engage with people and information online. I need to start thinking again.