As I write this, we’re a handful of days into a brand new year, and I, for one, am feeling more “new year, new me” than ever. Yes, that’s a bit of a gag-worthy phrase, and maybe it’s just a coincidence of timing, but as we roll out the red carpet for 2016 I’m making all sorts of changes and drafting new boundaries, big and small.
One idea I’m currently in love with and would like to suggest to you as well is that you log off. Now.
Of course I am aware of the irony in saying this, as you are in the very act of reading my own words via the internet, and yet I encourage you to ask yourself if any of the following situations apply to you, either now or at any time in your internet use.
1. You're yelling at or ignoring the people you're physically with.
OK, perhaps you’re not a yeller. But if you’re taking any sort of anger or frustration at something you’re encountering in a digital realm out on people who are sharing the same physical space as you, please consider logging off.
Face time, as in face-to-face contact with other humans and not the app, is a dwindling commodity that I personally hold in high esteem. It’s bad enough if you’re annoyed and you’re alone, but if you’re actually with other people and neglecting or lashing out at them because of something happening on your computer screen or your smartphone, maybe put it down?
I’m not trying to echo those (in my opinion) tacky memes that show a couple in bed, each on their smartphones, where someone has illustrated a brick wall between them or something. I also happen to dislike those pictures of social situations from decades ago with captions like, “Things were better then because no one was looking at their phone! Huzzah!”
Though technological devices have made it easier for some people to alienate others, it’s entirely possible to be on separate devices in the physical company of another person as part of daily life in 2016 with no negative consequences. I’m of unabashedly old-school sensibility and even I know that.
If, however, you’re taking digital frustrations out on physical companions, or you remain hunched over a computer screen when a physical person is expressing a reasonable request for your attention, or you’re neglecting pressing real-world responsibilities, you might want to log off.
2. You're retreating from life.
This would be an extreme iteration of #1, and I don’t mean to imply that nothing that occurs online is of the “real world.” Significant personal expression, love connections, and careers can all flourish on this world wide web, and those are certainly what I call real life. There’s also a huge benefit in online connectivity, beyond the obvious increase in reach that’s been happening for decades, in introverted people flexing great power.
As an extrovert, I’ll check any privilege one might read into this because I acknowledge that the world is generally set up for us to prosper. Yet, as introverted people have educated me that debilitating social awkwardness and misanthropy are their own personality traits and not defining characteristics of introversion, I have to question those who use the internet to perpetuate such stereotypes.
Plenty of introverts are commandeering the force of the internet to discuss introversion, and also to simply achieve on a grand scale in ways that would be far more challenging or impossible offline. One that comes to mind is Jamie Broadnax, aka BlackGirlNerds, who regularly leads huge social media discussions and has cultivated a massive online presence with grace.
If, however, you’re spending massive amounts of time online to declare I HATE PEOPLE, etc, especially if you’ve built up a sizable platform precisely because that’s your comfort zone and then you use that platform to assert things like PEOPLE ARE THE WORST, under the umbrella of being “introverted,” I wonder about your well-being.
For every few comedic Ebeneezer Scrooge types who are just doing a bit, there’s someone addicted to social media or Reddit comments because they’re hurt or afraid no one will talk to them “in real life,” so they don’t even try. Someone will always “talk” to you online, but that’s no reason to stop trying to cultivate interpersonal skills.
One could spend every moment of their life physically alone but in the virtual company of others and if that fulfills them, that’s really not my business. However, knowing that isolation can create a fertile breeding ground for our worst anxieties and fears, I personally remind myself to step away from the web very often these days, even when I actually “need” to check e-mail or some other such modern-day electronic necessity, and I urge people who retreat online to the detriment of their emotional adjustment to do the same.
3. You’re a troll.
I doubt any actual trolls would be reading here, but as the #1 group who needs to log off immediately, I couldn’t leave them out. People who say extreme things for the specific purpose of insulting or attacking, or because they figure they’ll never get a response, or just to see if they do, ruin things for the rest of us. They are not “harmless,” and while we can ignore them, I’d rather stop them and I’m going to keep trying.
4. You're triggered.
I know — trigger warnings, like “privilege” and “problematic,” have had the best of intentions and the worst of overuse. I happen to believe in triggers, not as any old image or mention of anything unpleasant, but as something that resonates deeply within us in a painful way that has a visceral effect.
Though sometimes we can expect something to be triggering or perhaps see a trigger coming, they frequently catch us off guard, especially online, where our feeds and walls can scroll by at lightning speed and video autoplay is a thing. Simply put, if something comes across your screen that terrifies you or takes you back to a horrific event in your life, you can just step away.
You don’t need to investigate further, you don’t need to get all the grisly details to make sure you read/saw it correctly, and you certainly don’t need to dig for further info in an attempt to talk yourself out of your initial reaction. Initiate self-care however you want, and logging off can be a great first step. You can do this immediately, and you don’t need to explain it to anyone. Trust your gut and take care of you.
5. You hate this. Or me.
Yes, I’m going here. If this statement accurately describes you, I have no control over that whatsoever. But you have control over what you do, so why keep reading? Of course this isn’t all about me; if you hate anything you’re reading online, a social media argument that pops up daily with no resolution in sight that doesn’t directly involve you, a particular blogger’s work, that show on Netflix that you decided to give a try and really don’t care for, you can just click on out of there!
It’s so simple. There’s SO much on the internet. That’s a part of why so many of us spend so much time here; duh. But if you’re sifting through all of this bounty and spending even a moment of your valuable time engaging with something or someone you dislike strongly… why?
There are people for whom item #5 applies who’ll never read these words because they logged off in paragraph 1 or never clicked in the first place, and I’m thrilled for them! I hope they’re off in some other pocket of the internet enjoying something that delights them. There are so many wonderful people here who want to engage with us, and I don’t take that incredible gift for granted.
If that’s you, thank you. Happy New Year! Thank you for reading this; I sincerely appreciate it. Log off whenever you need to. The internet will still be here when you get back.
Image credit: Flickr/CC