Saturday, June 20, 2015

Admitting My Addiction and New Game Plan

I know some of y'all have noticed that I haven't been on Twitter much recently and that -- aside from a tweet I sent out yesterday about Twitter notifying me that someone had attempted to (repeatedly) log into my account -- I have not been active since Wednesday. This wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision but weeks (even months) of thinking about disengaging from social media because... my name is Emmy and I'm addicted to Twitter.

Lately Twitter has been my biggest frienemy. I've been examining my conscience on a daily basis and some of the things I have to confess are due to things that happen on Twitter and because of Twitter. Uncharitable thoughts and words, wasting time, being distracted while praying, impatience, being upset with people who feel the need to get into my personal space (y'all know I'm notoriously private about certain things) which then goes back to being uncharitable with my words -- I've guilty of all of these things (and more) thanks to my addiction to Twitter.

I'll tell you the excuse I've been using to keep this addiction going: despite being an introvert, I struggle with the occasional feeling of loneliness when I don't socialize enough once in a while. Yes, I'm an introvert but even I like going out once in a while and I hate feeling cooped up in the house, which I am most of the week. Working as a freelance writer (with no other responsibilities and friends all over the country) will add to that feeling.

As I recently read Strange Gods by Elizabeth Scalia (aka the Anchoress; I highly recommend this book), I had to face what I didn't want to admit; I could no longer deny that I'd made an idol (a strange god) out of Twitter. I rely quite heavily on social media to get my news, to stay in contact with friends, to not feel so alone when I spend most of my days at home, by myself. As someone whose work is done solely online, it's very easy to say "okay, I need a 5 minute break... oh, hey, Twitter!" and then spend the next 2-3 hours chatting with someone. I have no children. I clean my apartment twice a week and it takes me less than half an hour to get it spotless. Basically, I have too much time on my hands, I've been using it carelessly, and that's always a dangerous thing. Idle hands are the devil's playthings after all.

It was when I admitted my addiction (and it is an addiction) -- a problem which could be detrimental to my grad studies since the entirety of my Master's degree will be done online (it would be difficult for me to commute 5-6 hours round-trip daily to and from Escondido with the infamous L.A. traffic) -- I knew I had to work on it. I know I won't have time for much socializing until I get the hang of the new routine but I wanted to get a head start so it wouldn't be harder for me.

In all honesty, the whole "raging Catholics" thing with the eco-encyclical was the perfect excuse for me to avoid Twitter through the weekend as a trial run. There was something that happened on that first day that I wasn't expecting: I felt a massive relief not being on active on Twitter.

I thought about the days of my early reversion when I wasn't online too much; how it made the biggest difference in my life. I was able to focus more on fixing my relationship with God. I read more. I prayed more. I liked the person I was without it. I wrote. I worked on rebuilding my physical and mental health after all I had endured from former friends and an ex-boyfriend. When I remembered how I felt better without Twitter I decided to also revert to how I did things in those days. I blogged. I tweeted the link. I replied to some comments (when I got them) every once in a while and that was it. I kept in touch through text messaging and emails... much like I've been doing these past couple of days. I'm not going to disappear altogether but you can expect me to be online even less than I've been in recent weeks. Replies and DMs will take much longer -- just a heads up.

I've already taken steps to limit my time on Twitter (since it's the only social media platform that I have a genuine addiction to.) I've already deleted easy access to it from my browser. The app is being sent to whatever the cyber equivalent of Siberia is. I've also given the heads up to anyone who wants to stay in touch. My email address has been given to a couple of people so they can stay in touch. Thankfully my work as a freelance writer has dried up at the moment and I have a job as the tutor for a neighboring child line up, which is going to help me spend less time online. I will be working on my third novel with the WiFi turned off if I feel myself feeling tempted though that doesn't often come up when I get in the writing zone; I can go hours just writing, even forgetting to eat when I'm really into it.

I don't plan on tweaking the time I spend on Facebook, Pinterest, or Tumblr because I really don't use them that often. I can go (and have gone) days and weeks without using them. And, for the record (and this is a message to those who will undoubtedly try to guilt-trip me for not having them on my new Facebook profile), I only have 28 people on my list with no plans of adding more than maybe two more people (max.), depending on how terrible they are with emails. I've added mostly people who don't use Twitter and/or stink at emails and whom I can't imagine not being in contact with. So far it's worked well since I very carefully added people I knew wouldn't clog up my feed (and haven't) because they're all busy people.

My beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI encouraged us all (religious included) to use the Internet for good; to evangelize. Yes, I know some of you hate that buzzword (evangelization) but, too bad, this is my blog post. ;) After the Women's World Cup, I'm going to take a much needed break from socializing on Twitter. I'm not quitting Twitter cold turkey but don't be surprised if you guys don't see anything that aren't automatic updates or shared links for a while. I seriously believe that more than maybe 80% of the stuff that I currently tweet is stuff y'all can do without. I'll be reserving the personal stories for this blog (just like I did in the good ol' days) and sharing what I believe will bring you food for thought and will hopefully strengthen you faith. I will most likely slip up at least once in the next couple of weeks -- I am a flawed human after all -- but it's a goal I will work hard towards.

If you're currently doubting me, know that my "please underestimate me; it makes me work harder" mentality is already counting on it and will be what helps me stay on course. This is how I know that there's a good chance of succeeding: on Thursday (the first day of the current Twitter fast), we had a power outage in my neighborhood. Except for being worried about the central AC not working when we were near the triple digit temperatures (the heat/humidity combo and I don't mix well and I can get sick if I'm in it too long), I wasn't worried about not having electricity. I had a book, a bottle of water, and a good seat next to the large living room windows. After the manager had kicked all the kids out of the pool, all you could hear was the distant chatter of neighbors as they walked by. When they were gone, you could hear birds chirping and a stillness that is rarely heard in an apartment building. On Friday, I chose to sit on my bed, with nothing on, in the silence, when I felt tempted to log on. I have a surprising number of things in my apartment that will keep me busy but I chose to sit in silence to show myself that I could do it.

If you're wondering how I will cope with the occasional feeling of loneliness I've mentioned, fear not. Since I've been weaning myself off of social media for weeks now, I've been relying more on text messaging (and not excessively) and emails so I still get little bursts of socializing during my day when I'm stuck at home due to the heat (have I mentioned I sincerely dislike summer?) or due to work/deadlines.

So, there are my plans... and an explanation why it's been taking me longer to reply to tweets on Twitter. Please pray for me since, even a "dinky" addiction like the one I have on Twitter is not the easiest to get over. If you've ever been addicted to anything, you know how hard it will be for me. Besties and wingmen, feel free to keep me in check... even if that means coming over to my house and changing my password for me.

Anyway, I hope y'all have a great rest of weekend. I'll be back on Twitter during the next U.S. women's national team match in the Women's World Cup (which will be on Monday) and then not again for a couple of days (again, blog post links and sporadic links sent from other sources excluded). :)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D


Unknown said...

1. LOVE the new blog colors, header, all of it!!
2. I completely understand and support you. I've been thinking about changes I need to make about how I spend my time too!! <3

Karin said...

I completely get it! I think to an extent, we are all in this boat because of just how accessible "connecting" can be with our phones. But then again, I really do love it because I "met" you through this crazy social world! If you leave Insta and Twitter you'll have to find me on Facebook, I might just accept THAT friend request. :)

Melissa Cecilia said...

Julie - Thank you! Wait until you get that book... makes you think. ;)

Melissa Cecilia said...

Karin - Oh, look... I'm on FB right now. ;)

Contranaut Girl said...

I have been thinking of evaluating my online presence as well. I realize that there are good things from it, but just like you said, I went to confession and a lot of what I confessed stemmed from social media. I'm not sure what to cut out, Facebook is the one that makes me the craziest but my family would kill me if I didn't post kid update pictures on there. But ultimately I'm feeling more called to being intentional, now just to discern what that means for social media.

AnneMarie said...

Thank you for sharing your resolve! I think it's super cool that you're working on tempering internet time; it's very helpful for me to read, because I've seen this own kind of discussion happening within myself soon. For the past two years, I've been living in a home without internet, so it's really easy to separate technology from the rest of life. But, since I'll be living in a new home with internet in a week or two, I know that there will be a temptation to "waste time" on different online platforms. So this is really perfect timing (but isn't that how God always works?)! I will be praying for you, and ask that you please send a prayer up my way, too!

Melissa Cecilia said...

Kiera - How has it been going? Has it gotten better for you?

Melissa Cecilia said...

AnneMarie - How has life with internet been for you? And, of course, prayers for you. :D

AnneMarie said...

Emmy-life with internet has been good, and I'm enjoying the chance to connect with the online Catholic communities more, blog more, etc. I have had to make some definite, intentional steps to make sure it doesn't take over, but it has been a very exciting experience :)

Melissa Cecilia said...

AnneMarie - that's great! I hope it continues to be fruitful for you. :)