The ‘self-indulgence’ category

Slave to Fear

October 5th, 2017

 

Taken with my fancy new camera, the iPhone 8 — which also texts!

Taken with my fancy new camera, the iPhone 8 — which also texts!

I upgraded my iPhone last weekend. By “upgraded” I mean I just flat-out bought a new one. I asked Mr. Manager at my local AT&T store if I was eligible for an upgrade. He looked up my account and confirmed that I was, and that the new iPhone 8 would be $700.

“Isn’t that the normal price?” I asked. Indeed it was.

“So what make this an ‘upgrade’? What does that even mean?”

“Nothing,” he said. “It means you paid off your old one.”

“But technically I could have bought the new one for the exact same price before paying off the old one?” I wondered out loud.

Indeed, I could have. I thanked him for his frank honesty and moved on. I’m a slave to Apple; we both know this. I willingly comply.

The truth is, I barely even know how to make a phone call. My new device is not a phone, but a camera that also sends text messages and lets me spy on people I don’t even care about through social media.

Like every weak being on this planet, I spend far too much time on social media. I lie in bed and scroll through feeds when there are perfectly good books stacked up next to me. I can’t stand in line without my phone in my hand. I marvel at the fact that I used to exist without social media or television — and I was single! and lived by myself!! For years!!! In my twenties and thirties!!!! That really happened, and I have the boxes of angsty journals and shitty art projects to prove it.

Today, I’m a social-media addict, and nowhere is this more apparent—nor does it feel so sickening—as on Facebook when the bad shit goes down. Whether it’s a beloved musical icon dying (RIP Tom Petty, you really meant something) or a psychopath enabled by the NRA and right-wing America to commit a massacre of human lives, followed by an uptick in gun stocks (that really happened, too), Facebook tends to make me feel sick inside. 

My pulse goes up; my blood boils; my anxiety spikes.

I type out like 30 irate posts a day and then force myself to breathe before letting them go. I don’t publish these posts, for the most part, because I strongly believe that you can’t change a mind. In my life I’ve met maybe two people who have let rational discourse alter the state of their opinions about politics (one of them being my husband, a guy who refuses to adhere to dogma). For the most part, people take sides and stick to them, no matter the outcome of their vote.

For most of us, our political POV comes from a deeper place than facts. It’s about our fundamental orientation in life. Arguing on Facebook is a waste of time, and frankly, so is airing your views to a carefully curated crowd of your own design. But, like everyone, I can’t seem to help myself some of the time.

I am trying. Here’s what I’ve been working on this week: 

1

I took Facebook off my new phone — one day after spending twenty minutes trying to load it on. Now I can only look at it during the 8+ hours a day I’m in front of my computer working. Baby steps.

2

Every time I have an urge to flip over to Facebook or, worse, Twitter, I’ll open a new tab and head to NPR.com instead. I want facts. I want to know how the media is prioritizing the news. Yes, I know, the media exists somewhere on a sliding scale from “slightly biased” to “irresponsible” to “very much responsible for all the ills of mankind,” depending on your particular persuasion, but hey, it can’t be as bad as a crowd of uninformed but very vocal social media folks, right? Anyway, this is going so-so.

What I’d really like to do, though, is hide under a rock. I’ve had several conversations lately with friends who say they can no longer pay attention to social media or the news. That it’s too depressing, and makes them too freaked out.

I hear that. But, refusing to ingest the fear-mongering isn’t realistic when you have young children. I need to know if I should start buying home-schooling curriculum and stocking up on iodine tablets. 

 

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