Friday, October 13, 2017

The End of the "Nerdwriter" Era

(Happy 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun! This is the third of the three-part series I started last weekend.)

"Yes, I did."

"I'm fine."

"It was a long time coming."

These are a few of the responses I gave to those who asked about my (now defunct) @nerdwriter Twitter account in the first couple of hours and days after I deleted it. What, you didn't know? You hadn't noticed? That's what I had hoped and expected.

Most of you know I have a serious love-hate relationship with social media, especially Twitter. Just search "social media" on this blog's search button and you'll see plenty of posts on it. For months, I'd been considering deleting the account due to several reasons, all negative. As I said in the last blog post, I've been praying to become more detached of worldly things (which I firmly believe was why I was tempted with returning to my former life earlier this year; lots of superficiality in the entertainment business) since the 54-day Rosary novena last year. I've made some strides in that area but I decided to ask once more, during the St. Therese novena. I wasn't sure why the intention came to mind (at the time) but it did so I went with it. I had no clue that it would lead me to delete my nearly decade-long Twitter account.

I opened up my Twitter account in January 2008. I never changed the username. I rarely changed the avatar/picture. I became known as the "nerdwriter" before Evan (the famous "nerdwriter" from YouTube) did since I've had "nerdwriter" as my username in various places since my reversion in 2006. It became part of my identity. I met so many wonderful people through Twitter. I hope that I used it to spread some goodness out into the world during those 9+ years that I had it. Lots of prayer requests... lots of love and support during difficult times... and lots of good conversations.

All but one person have asked me "why?" Why did I do it? I would vaguely reply that there were so many reasons but it all boils down to it being the best option for me; one that became clear last week. Here comes the most humbling part (for me) of this post: giving you the real reasons why I deleted the account.

I was becoming vain about the account. "Look at all my followers!" "Look at all those 'favorites' and retweets!" I would try to think of witty things to tweet to get more retweets; to try to keep up with the (far more) clever folks on Twitter. If I thought something was clever and no one (or a handful of people) liked it, I'd be bummed out. While I tried to stay on the site to try to help spread good, my vanity was flattered more than was healthy... especially when I had some compliments that were (perhaps) more harmful than helpful for me. This was just the tip of the iceberg of all the negativity that social media has brought into my life so, you know, "If your hand or your foot should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away: it is better for you to enter into life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire." (Mt 18:8)

Jealousy reared its ugly head. I would get constant reminders that other writers (some of who've been blogging or on social media less time than me) were getting so much success while I could barely find freelance work outside the Catholic world. I tried to not be competitive about it but the constant reminders (which were also good because it humbled me) fed into my own doubts of being good enough. The devil knows how to attack, especially when it comes to your self-esteem. I'm so happy for those who have success... but it makes me sad that I've been at this for longer with no/little success. See why this is problematic? The comparison to others (whether I did it on my own or whether it was shoved into my face by others) is so unhealthy and it made me not think about the gifts that God has given me. What ingratitude jealousy was bringing out in me.

Anger seeped out into my offline life. You can't talk about social media without mentioning disagreements and anger. How people treated each other -- what they said about others -- made me angry. What people said about Catholics (and even the infighting on Catholic Twitter) upset me. Arguments I wasn't initially a part of but was dragged into ticked me off. Comments about how I'm this and that... how I fail to do this and that... They hurt. Look, I'm human. Negative comments affect me, probably more than others because I'm admittedly a very sensitive person. At first, they used to make me cry because they hurt. Then, somewhere along the way, sadness became anger that lasted for only a short while. That developed into unhealthy anger that lasted all day and affected how I interacted with my mom, friends, and neighbors offline (read: grumpy, irritable Emmy for the rest of the day). Those who've known me for years know this is me at my worst; Twitter brought out the worst in me.

It became an addiction that took over my life. I tried moderation but I couldn't do it. I thought I could do it but I obviously couldn't. I would take breaks (during Lent or whenever I felt I needed a break) but I would still log in because it was a compulsion. I thought I was immune to FOMO (fear of missing out) -- and I did have good stretches in which it wasn't an issue -- but ultimately, it was too much for me. I used the excuse that it was the way I socialized when I couldn't leave the house... which is nearly every day. What an excuse to keep the addiction alive, eh? I would check Twitter multiple times a day, even if I didn't post anything. I woke up and immediately checked Twitter. When I had a study break, I would procrastinate on Twitter until it was too late (and I was too tired) to continue studying. I would check Twitter twice "just in case" before I went to bed. Step away from the Twitter, Emmy!

I failed to love others and be as charitable as I should have been. This isn't just a problem for me; it's a problem that nearly (if not) all of us face when we use social media, especially on a platform as massive and divisive as Twitter. There was a lot of criticism (even if it's just done internally), a lot of griping; complaining about things others said that bothered me. Because I'm so perfect, you know. /sarcasm. Basically, I was doing a lousy job of loving my neighbor. I don't want to keep adding to that list when I go to the confessional. It's personally much easier for me to be more patient and give others the benefit of the doubt away from Twitter.

Of course, deleting the account wasn't easy, even in spite of knowing that it was bad for me. I didn't want to delete the account because I had developed an unhealthy attachment to my nerdwriter "brand." I was worried someone would take over my username once they knew it was available and get me in trouble. I was worried that people would stop reading this blog because they weren't getting linked updates. I was worried that my friends would forget about me, dooming me to further social isolation that would send me into depression. Stupid, silly fears, I (now) know.

I reached the point where I thought, "How about worrying about the stuff that mattered?" "How about taking another step towards repairing my relationship with God by cutting off what was being harmful to my soul?" "How about recognizing what my faults are (instead of criticizing or judging others) in order to work on my interior life?" (Mt 7:1-5, anyone?) It was at this point where I knew Twitter was history... and that I needed to delete it. That's why one of my last tweets was asking for prayers to find the courage to do something that was hard but necessary.

The first person I told of my plans to delete Twitter was my mother. Of course, she supported me because she was a firsthand witness to how much Twitter affected me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I waited a while before I broke it to the friends who know me the best. I was planning on waiting until November 1st to delete my account until a trusted friend (who is a seminarian) suggested I do it right then and there. No announcement, just deletion. I thought about it and it made sense to me. It would keep me from having my ego stroked by people who might tell me they would miss me or might try to convince me to stay. I did tell a couple of people (in private) whom I trusted but, overall, nearly no one knew I was going to do it. Then, I did it. Odds are, you probably didn't even notice until now because I'm writing about it.

Deleting Twitter was predictable (yet surprisingly) freeing. Remember how I mentioned that I wanted to become detached from worldly things? This was one of the biggest culprits; one of those things that kept me attached to many earthly and superficial things and feelings. I was too attached to how people thought of me. I was too attached to my "brand." I had become too attached the addiction... to the things that fed my egoism... to being "known" (even though, let's me real, I wasn't really "known.")

I thought about Sr. Mary Magdalene of the Divine Heart (formerly known as Channing Dale) who gave up her podcast and social media accounts to enter the Discalced Carmelites Nuns in Elysburg, PA a couple of years ago. She wished to be forgotten in the world but I haven't been able to because she was the first person who I knew (even if it was through social media) who wanted to give everything up for God. I still pray for her every single night and I know that she prays for me.

I thought about Br. Joseph of the Holy Family (formerly known as Mike Gannon) who, like his best friend, Sr. Mary Magdalene, gave up his accounts when he entered the Discalced Carmelites Friars of Holy Hill in Wisconsin. He briefly returned to the world of social media but gave up his accounts once again in recent months. He, like Sr. Mary Magdalene and other religious, have an immensely fulfilling life without the need of social media. (side note: I've had the immense privilege of counting him as a pen pal for a couple of years so I, at least, have that as a way to keep in touch with this great young man.)

I thought about three very inspiring women (one who I have the honor of calling one fo my best friend) who are three of the most social media-detached people I have the pleasure of knowing. One of them doesn't have a Twitter account (nor has she ever had one) and the other two rarely use it. They do have Instagram and Facebook accounts but their posts aren't frivolous and, while all three are very different, they both inspire me to grow closer to God. They share the beauty God has blessed us with, both in pictures and in words. Two are wives and mothers, one is a fellow single gal. One is known in Catholic social media circles while the other two aren't. I actually told my bestie (who hasn't tweeted in several weeks) and she was happy with my decision because, as she said, stepping away from Twitter makes her feel a lot better and helps remind her to live the life God wills for her without comparing herself to others. Amen, my sister (in Christ)!

When I asked God to help me become more detached to the world, I meant it... and, to this day, I still mean it. I want to do good, even if it goes unnoticed. Like Sr. Mary Magdalene and my friend who doesn't have Twitter, I want to live my life with simple honesty (and occasionally hidden from the world) and glorify God with my efforts. Like Br. Joseph and my friend with Twitter, I want to occasionally be out in the world and do some good for His greater glory. Like my bestie, I want to do God's will and if that means stepping away from social media than I must do that.

The best way I could think of "resetting" my interior life -- to remember just how unimportant I am and to eliminate those things which could continue leading me astray -- was to delete Twitter. THAT is ultimately why I deleted the @nerdwriter account; it became just another obstacle that kept me from growing in my relationship with God and that kept me from living a life worthy of Heaven. I'm sure there are other reasons that I can't see right now, but when I made the decision I had the feeling that when I looked at it, in hindsight, I would see that it was for the best.

It's been less than a week since I've written (and added) to this blog post (wrote most of it on the 7th but added to it on the 11th) but you can already see the immediate change. I just asked my mother and she confirmed that I'm less stressed, less irritable, and a lot more calmed and relaxed. She said, "you can just see it on your face/in your being." I think that, alone, is worth losing my username and that part of my identity.

I became "nerdwriter" upon my reversion to the faith, 11 years ago. As of now, I only have "nerdwriter" as a username on and Goodreads because I can't change it on those sites. Otherwise, the username will never be used by me on any other social media platform. I don't plan on ever having a "public" Twitter account, especially not at the capacity I once had it. I will keep this blog's FB page open because I love interacting with y'all and you can always leave me comments on here; I'm not fully cutting myself off from y'all! I do have "catholicnerdwriter" as my username and as part of the title of this blog because I'm still Catholic, I'm still a massive nerd, and I'm still going to write; I'm just retiring the username from social media.

As I start this new chapter in my life -- which I hope means that I'm maturing in both my personal life and in my faith -- the "nerdwriter" chapter has officially closed. It's the end of that era... and I couldn't be more excited to see what the future holds! I look forward to seeing the fruits of this decision and (mostly) seeing what God has in store for me, in all areas of my life.

That's it for now. I hope some of you aren't too upset with me; I made sure everyone had a way of contacting me if they needed to. I will try to blog more often, especially now with one less (massive) time waster in my life. Back to the basics... even if no one ever reads this blog again. lol. :)

I hope you had a lovely work-week and have found a way to celebrate today's wonderful anniversary! :D

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


Luke Stager said...

Congratulations on taking that step! I'm a little bit sad because Twitter was how we met, but now we're friends for more substantial reasons. Keep fighting the good fight! You are in my prayers!

Emmy Cecilia said...

Thanks, Luke! And, well, you have other ways of contacting me (and seeing me) so, you know, don't be a stranger. ;)