Clearing Out the Cracks

Deleting my Twitter account really shows me how often I reflexively check Twitter throughout the day.

It’s not deleted-deleted. It’s deactivated, and as long as I login again within 30 days, I can keep my username and followers. Likewise, I’ve deactivated my Instagram account, and there’s no time limit on that. I’ve uninstalled these apps from my phone to reduce temptation to rejoin them.

… Ugh, I just went to check Twitter again. I had a free second, so I thought I’d check in and see what my contacts were up to.

I know what they’re up to. I followed everyone to talk about and learn about editing issues, but most people are screaming about politics and news, looking for the next punchline or witty comeback to some lunk-headed conservative who, in turn, is exerting themself to find the next insult to fling at people who don’t conform to their ideals. On and on, day in and day out.

I come from a background of flame wars and online fighting, so it took me a long time to learn how not to lapse into that on Twitter. Granted, marketing knows that’s what Twitter’s for: Facebook’s for spreading propaganda; Instagram’s for sharing what you love; Twitter’s for belligerent arguments. That’s the mindset you have to prepare for when you want to promote yourself on these platforms.

(Paused in writing, tried to check Twitter again.)

Slowly I learned not to engage in fighting online on Twitter. Then I learned because of my immutable characteristics, many people don’t want to hear from me at all, and I spent my days deleting most of my posts and responses. I still had the reflex to comment, but I got better at retracting those comments. Jokes didn’t often go the way I’d planned. When I got too frustrated with the online atmosphere I’d return to home and post about #AmEditing. Obviously the most popular posts were photos of my cats, where “popular” means “up to 10 likes.”

That’s when I had to look at the situation. My timeline was full of awful news and jokes about it rather than actionable suggestions, most people didn’t want to hear what I had to say, and my metric for success was how many likes a post got. That’s when I felt my priorities had gone askew.

Related to this was my lack of creativity in general. I had a shadow account where I posted about my adult content writing, promoting my six books and reposting links to eight years of stories and series on my blog. I used to do a lot of writing, “winning” at NaNoWriMo some years, hosting a flash fiction writing contest for four years, but somewhere that all dried up. I had ideas, but none that inspired me to flesh them out in narration. Much of the time I was disgusted with my own tedium before I’d even written a word. Writing stopped being fun, and when it was most fun was when I didn’t have an audience, when I was cranking out feverish tales of libido and adventure all on my own, for no other eyes but mine.

Attention is a hell of a drug, and it takes a lot of work to stop needing it. Of course I want to feel relevant, but when society moves beyond what you have to offer, you either shunt all your energy into pandering to capricious, rapidly evolving tastes that align less and less with your own, or you seek alternate channels of validation. So it was with my erotica writing, but so it also was with who I am as a person, as an editor, and formerly as a member of society.

I’ve followed a few podcasts by Manoush Zomorodi, who has published two books on creativity. I listened to her interview on Ten-Minute Writer’s Workshop where she talked about feeling drained and bereaved of ideas, and how she recovered from that. In her TED Talk, she discusses how her child was born around the same time as a new iPhone iteration (who can keep track?), so everyone else was on their phones while she was attending to a newborn, walking him around to put him to sleep. When she finally picked up the new iPhone and rejoined the frenetic online sphere of activity, she noticed her creativity had left her.

As she puts it, all the little cracks in her day, all the little gaps of time where normally nothing happened, had been filled by posting online, responding to email, playing games, doing work, &c. Her mind had no downtime to cogitate and ruminate, and therefore no more new ideas were emerging.

It’s a theory. Manoush invited people to join her on a quest to reduce app time and phone time, and 20,000 people wanted to come along. Did this practice restore anyone’s creativity? That part wasn’t clear to me, but it’s worth trying. I’m also on a quest to discover a formula for creativity and inspiration.

I deactivated my shadow Twitter account, because I don’t feel close to that community. Their tastes evolve rapidly and within a few years I was a literary fossil, writing about the uninteresting and tired concept of love between a man and a woman. I deactivated my shadow Instagram account, too, because it was attracting people I didn’t want following me, and it was too graphic and not imaginative enough. Also, it was a steady supply of dopamine/endorphins, thanks to the accounts I was following there, and a huge time-sink because of that.

Today I deactivated my “Edit Twitter” account for the reasons mentioned above: bad vibes and… well, both my shadow and daylight accounts reinforced my diminished self-worth. I also deactivated my daylight Instagram account because I wasn’t active enough there, I wasn’t participatory enough, so why bother.

I’ve deleted the apps from my phone, and I also deleted one of the three games I play daily; likely I’m going to delete another game and look very critically at the third. After that, what’s my phone good for? Few people text me and even fewer call. It’s a camera of humble capacity and supreme convenience. Also, there’s a handy health tracker on there, to support my walking and exercise goals, that’s not bad. But if I’m not on social media and I don’t play games, there could be a day I no longer need an expensive-ass, broke-dick smartphone anymore. Just carry a little brick around for emergencies.

(Tried to check Twitter in my browser again.)

In four weeks I’ll reactivate my two Twitter accounts, then immediately deactivate them again. That’s to keep my handle and followers. Or maybe I’ll hit upon a revelation in the next four weeks and not care whether I lose all those contacts. Those communities have indicated they no longer need me, so perhaps that bears scrutiny, if not reciprocity. As for Instagram, it did motivate me to take pictures of interesting scenes when I go out for walks or travel or whatever, so I wonder if I’ll still bother with that. Maybe it’ll be a difficult habit to break, and my heart will twinge each time I remember that I can’t share these images with my contacts. (I could post them here, but no one will see them. And there’s that external validation demon again… I should give him a name: Jaiden. Now I can tell Jaiden to fuck off when he shows up.)

Or maybe I’ll bring my nice camera out, keep the battery charged, play with the settings, become adept. In terms of subtlety it’s diametrically oppositional to whipping out a small black rectangle, grabbing a shot, and sliding it back into a jeans pocket, but it’s bold and honest.

I’m also going to read more. Hopefully the small cracks of my day will be filled with words and ideas. I’m going to re-attempt The Artist’s Way. I think I got up to week eight last time. I can study it again, set goals for creativity, and meet it halfway. I’d like to conclude a few novels I’m in the middle of, though I can’t announce having done so since I’m off social media (not that it would yield anything, Jaiden).

I feel like my life is turning inward. Society has already done away with politeness (sexist oppression), consideration for others (see also pandemic, masks), and community (“smiles are violence”). Admitting to feeling anything is “cringe” unless you can euphemize it to large and ill-defined values of “mood” and “vibes.” So, if I have no place in this world, I can solidify my place in my little home office, where my books and computers and collection of pens are, and I can while away the hours doing little creative things that no one else will see, because that’s supposed to make me feel good about myself…

Maybe the drive for creativity is the problem. Why do I think I need that?

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