I've been on a bender. Not of the alcohol kind. Something far worse, far more insidious. I've been on "social media".
Insidious - what a great word. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means harmful but enticing, seductive, like a drug. And that is exactly what social media feels like, to me, anyway. May I add the words hollow, vapid, time-wasting, addictive, and avoidant?
I was thinking about my childhood the other day (okay, pretty much all the time these days; hence, the rabbit hole that is social media. Why will become clear later on). In our early years, my brothers and I spent the month of July at sleep-over camps (his and hers) and the month of August at our family property in the country. Needless to say, there were no computers, no internet, no cell phones, no social media, no video games, no downloading movies, no TV on-demand, no iPods etc., etc.
What we did have was dark pine forests, grassy meadows, lakes to swim and fish in, humongous rocks to climb, cows to chase, gravel roads, board games and trips into town to get groceries. In those days, even the small town of Markdale, Ontario had its own butcher shop and bakery. Close my eyes and I can still smell the yeasty loaves of white bread just out of the oven. Once back in the car, mom tore off hunks, steam rising, and passed them back to us for immediate consumption.
So, what did my brothers and I do all day? We played outside. There was never any question of hanging around inside. The one TV had rabbit ears which grabbed one to three channels out of thin air, depending on time of day and whether or not the sky was overcast. Which is to say, it was never on. The only media we got was from the radio tuned to the local station. On rainy days, we put on our rubber boots and raincoats and …wait for it …went outside.
I’m trying to think of what people did, before the internet and social media, to waste time and avoid the work of real life. Well, we read books and magazines. We called our friends on the phone - the one that was plugged into the wall and you had to share with the rest of the family - and spoke to them … on the phone. We arranged to meet at some point in the near future and trusted them to show up at the agreed upon time and place because there was no way of changing plans last minute. As kids, we hung out at the park, we played baseball and frozen tag. We literally sat around and shot the shit.
As a grown-up, my go-to avoidance activity was, and still is, to clean the house. Suddenly, vacuuming and toilet scrubbing become top priority. I might also do some baking and, while it’s in the oven, I might find the refrigerator needs emptying and the shelves need a good washing. At least this form of avoidance is productive and rather meditative.
But social media? Not so much. And here I will loop back to the beginning and repeat, “I have been on a bender.” Most addictive behaviours are rooted in avoidance. It’s about burying feelings that keep insisting on being heard and brought into the light of day. Even though that is the path to healing, resistance is strong.
What have I been avoiding? Writing. My whole life I have been blessed and cursed with the written word. My first piece penned (probably pencilled) in elementary school was a cute fable about how the rabbit got its tail. I followed that up with vulnerable yet heavy-handed teenage poetry, progressed to short stories, and because I majored in English, too, too many essays and research papers, sucking dry the creative in creative writing. And, now, I write a blog.
The blog is my steppingstone to writing the one thing I am being called to write and that is my personal story, a memoir. Because this 8-year-old girl has a lot to say. She has waited a long time for her story to be told and she deserves to be heard.
And, yet, every time I sit down to put words on paper, I find myself, instead, being seduced by the mindless thumbing that is social media. “Run away, run away,” screams the little voice in my head. I do the laundry, I go for a walk, I balance my cheque book (that’s metaphorical, of course; does anyone actually use a cheque book anymore besides my mother?), I peruse Netflix for documentaries on serial killers, I go shopping for 2nd hand books I don’t need and on and on.
At some point, I’m going to have to sit down and start writing my story. It’s time. In fact, it’s past due.
So, the next time you see me on Instagram or Facebook, please give me a gentle nudge and me move along. Something like, "Dana, drop the Instagram and back away slowly" should do it. Your intervention will be doing me and this 8-year-old girl a great kindness.