Deactivation: Tiny Update

So I spent the better part of my evening building a new Spotify account, since it turns out that if you don’t have an active FB page AND your Spotify account was opened using FB as the login credentials, you can’t access the Spotify account. So I opened a new account using my email address, rather than FB, then painstakingly recreated all of my playlists. After that, I cancelled the old account, because by that point I was incredibly ticked off. I’m not even going to try to imagine how many more sites or apps I’m going to have to do something similar with later on in the week. Ugh.

On the other hand, I finally got around to using the Messages program on my Mac, and that’s pretty cool. It blends your phone’s SMS capabilities with the handiness of your computer keyboard, which is useful if you’ve got friends who prefer to talk through text, but you hate trying to use the little touchscreen keypad on a cell phone. Had a short conversation with a friend I haven’t seen in a couple of weeks, and got to actually talk instead of being the texting version of monosyllabic.

I didn’t mention it earlier, but another source of stress is my cat, Munky. He started getting sick with another UTI on Sunday night, and I took him to the vet first thing on Monday. They couldn’t keep him overnight, since they were closing early for Lundi Gras, and weren’t going to be open on Mardi Gras. So they sent me home with a bunch of meds, and instructions for watching to see if he was going to pee. Oh, and a $500 vet bill that represents my next chunk of debt (what, you thought I magically had $500 on hand?). Anyway, they gave him X-rays to see if he had any blockages, since crystals or stones can be fatal to cats, but just like last time, no blockage. Last time it was bacterial, so we’ll wait for their samples to culture and see what pops up.

They already gave him an antibiotic shot, which is nice, since they sent me home with syringes and two different pills, to be given twice daily, and both Munky and I are very unhappy about that. I have a huge gouge on my palm from him not taking kindly to me trying to wrap him into a kitty burrito, and he isn’t talking to me after last night’s rounds of meds. I’ve got a new pill syringe and a cat isolation bag thing coming, since we’re going to have weeks of this, and one of us will probably not survive if I don’t make some high-tech moves to improve the situation.

The biggest way to improve the situation would be to cut down on his stress levels, by giving him (and Izzy, and Charlie) more space to roam. I know that getting a bigger apartment would definitely would cut down on my stress levels from being overrun by cats. And wouldn’t it be great to have access to a washer and dryer that wasn’t literally a mile’s walk away? (For that matter, could you imagine having a car? Oh, the luxury.) I’ve been looking around, but there’s just nothing in my budget in a neighborhood I’d feel safe living in. Plenty of places just slightly over what I’m paying now if I’m happy with hearing gunshots on the next block, but I’m just too old to be brave about that kind of crap anymore. Plus, what if I lost my freelance gig? It’s feeling precarious lately, and my hotel gig definitely isn’t covering all of my bills right now. I’m so tired of squeaking by. They say that you’re supposed to dress for the job you want, but how do you do that if you can’t even afford a new pair of pumps? I started this job with a wardrobe of thrift store finds, and those already old clothes are just getting rattier. I can’t seem to catch a break, between things breaking and the cats. And I could make more money if I could handle the idea of dealing with 10 clients’ social media accounts all day, every day, but I’d be dead or committed within a year. I just can’t be a marketer anymore. My brain is stressed to the breaking point as it is. There has to be another way forward. Just have to hold on, promotions happen like clockwork, gotta have patience.

And just like that, my blood pressure rises.

OK, time to not think myself into stress circles over all the things I can’t do anything about. Gonna pop on a hypnotherapy recording and call it a night. Turns out Spotify has a bunch of Glenn Harrold recordings; he’s my favorite disembodied voice when it’s time to catch some shuteye, though it’s an acquired taste. If you’re like me, and haven’t had success with meditation yet, you might like hypnotherapy recordings as a way to bridge the gap a little bit. I’ve found that some of the subliminal messaging does end up rubbing off. My favorites of Glenn’s are Relax & Sleep Well, Detox Your Life, and Spiritual Weight Loss (which is weirdly less about me wanting to lose weight, and more about loving the fact that it consistently puts me to sleep in under a minute or two). Do you ever listen to hypnotherapy to fall asleep? If you’ve got a favorite, let me know.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I totally forgot and typed Facebook into my URL bar somewhere close to five times today. Usually it happened while I was online doing some other mindless thing, then got sidetracked, and suddenly found myself trying to get to my Facebook page. Which obviously didn’t happen, since I deactivated first thing this morning, but it was still really weird to find my fingers having a mind of their own, and deciding it was time to go to Facebook.

Deactivation

Just deactivated my Facebook account, and am feeling a little ill. I took the app off of my phone this weekend, went a few hours without it, added it back, went a few hours without…etc. Finally took it off for real last night. Instagram was easier, though I did see a really funny Instagram account called @tchoupacabra that had me looking through the photos one last time this morning. I mean, who doesn’t adore a (really poorly) taxidermied raccoon in a miniature police uniform, attending various Mardi Gras events?

Anyway, I think that the first week or so is going to be pretty hard. I know that sounds lame, and weird, and like I could possibly need mental help (spoiler alert – I do). But I realized on Sunday that Facebook (well, my phone in general, but Facebook more specifically) is where I go when I’m bored, when I need validation, and when I need an update on news. OK, and it’s a great place to share kitten videos. Guess I’ll just have to share them here now.

But what makes it worse is that it’s become a community for so many, yet it is empty, so empty. It’s where a LOT of people go when they’re bored, need validation, want to get up-to-date on whatever new horrible thing is happening in the world. Somehow we’ve managed to become convinced that Facebook is the real world, a true hub for finding out all the things you need to know to be a successful and connected human being. And maybe that’s not all that bad for more extroverted folks. But along with the fleeting promise of online connection, people like me receive the gift of real-world isolation. We’re so busy being plugged in, checking on who likes our latest photos or music recommendations or snarky updates, that it’s easy to ignore the things that make us uncomfortable: everything outside the front door (well, you know, other than trees and rocks and other inanimate, outdoorsy things). It’s easy to convince yourself that online existence is more meaningful than it really is. It’s easy to ignore that there are real people out there with whom we could be making meaningful, in-person connections.

And if there’s anything I should be sure about, it’s that real friends are made in the real world. Yes, I have two friends that I’ve met online and have never spent time with in real life. It’s not impossible to get to know people over the internet – especially if you’re actually writing TO each other, and not just commenting on the same posts – that’s just having a modern day pen pal. It is, however, extremely unlikely. If anything should remind me that it takes depth of interaction for me to make true connections, I only need to look back to the Camino. I met hundreds of people over 45 days of walking in Spain. We all had at least one thing in common, and there were quite a few superficial conversations, to be sure. But out of those superficial conversations, a few deeper ones grew, and out of THOSE conversations, a tiny handful of friends were won. Good friends. Lifelong friends. People I love like sisters and brothers. However, had I not been forcefully removed from other online options, I might never have started talking.

Here’s the thing – friendships are beautiful, and I truly believe that making connections on that level can make life brighter. But making friends is HARD. It’s uncomfortable. It’s painful. It’s not quite as bad as having a tooth pulled, but honestly, it’s close to it, and it lasts longer. It is also fraught with pitfalls, even after you’re pretty sure the other person likes you (but DO they REALLY? What if you screw this up? What if you say something that upsets them? And do you know ALL the things that could possibly upset them? Isn’t it easier to just not make the friend you’ll inevitably piss off at some point, and just forgo that pain?). And after all that, after you overcome what feels like insurmountable fear, you press ahead, you ask the person if they’d like to hang out sometime, you become friends, it weirdly turns out that you’re complete opposites but still enjoy each other’s company…and then the other person abruptly moves back to Minneapolis and once again you’re on your own. (You know who you are, and I’ll be up to visit soon!)

As Carrie Fisher said, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” I’m not certain that I’ll ever be confident about anything. I’m only ever confident about traveling and trying new things that don’t necessarily involve having to interact with other people. Give me a flight plan and a suitcase, and I will go. Don’t care where it is, I will happily traipse right off to whatever foreign desert or jungle or metropolis you’ve chosen. I’ll enjoy the hell out of it, too. But ask me to attend a house party a block down the street tomorrow night and there’s a 99.9% chance that I won’t be able to force myself out the door. But maybe this is just the first step of feeling slightly more confident. Maybe this will help me start to feel less like curling up and dying whenever I get invited to a social function. And if not, well, maybe it’ll give me the extra time I need to start a new hobby, maybe learn to knit, like a proper crazy cat lady. (Actually, my bestie gave me a paper piecing kit, so that’ll be the first crafting attempt.)

Overall, I think there are going to be three major things that will suck in my social media detox process:

  1. Being comfortable in public. On Sunday morning I was supposed to meet up with a friend for brunch, and arrived early. Since I was already trying to get used to not using the phone, I started to read a paperback while waiting in line. Even though, technically, I was doing exactly the same thing that every other person who was in line and on their phone was doing – reading – I caught people giving me weird looks. Which of course took me right back to the days before phones, when I always had a book or a notebook with me, for reading or jotting down thoughts as I waited in lines or had a solo lunch. Back then I wasn’t suffering from anxiety (that I know of), just experiencing introversion, and though I felt like I was under scrutiny for my nerdiness, I let it roll of me. It’s going to be interesting trying to recapture what that felt like.
  2. Sharing music. This is probably the worst. I connect to other people through music. When I hear a song that touches my heart, I want to share it, to share a feeling that I can’t describe in words with the people that I love. On Facebook, only a few people interact with my music posts, but they’re all my favorite people. It feels good to be jamming out to a song on Spotify, hit “Share” and share on my FB wall. Now I won’t be doing that anymore. I know that when a tree falls in the forest, it still makes a sound. The song has still touched my heart; does it matter if anyone else knows? But who are we without sharing our experiences? Well, for the next 40 days, we’re confining that kind of sharing to my blog. Probably not too much music, though. It’s not as impactful if it’s not of the moment.
  3. Not creating beautiful photos via Instagram. This isn’t that bad, really, because I’m just going to get a different photo app. Instagram makes you post your picture in order to make the filter and editing last (otherwise you’re asked if you want to discard these changes, or if you want to save as a draft). I don’t want to discard or save as a draft. I want to edit my photo, then keep it. I don’t really care about sharing, or getting likes, etc. I just want to take a picture of my cat, edit it to look nice, and save it.

Today, though, my big focus is just not losing my cool and logging in to Facebook. We’ll fill the void with work until 4:30, then it’s home to check on the cats and clean the house, and after that, well, it’ll probably be time for bed, but maybe I’ll get to start a new book. Did I tell you guys that I’ve already read 13 books so far this year? I’ve almost beaten my (sad, oh so sad) record of 15 books read last year. I’ve been working on putting together a list of feminist comic books to share with my book group, but I just realized that I won’t be able to access our group Facebook page for awhile. Hmmm…

How To Know If You’re An Insufferable Twit (#1: Trolls)

Inspired by a recent conversation in real life, I’m starting a new series here on Compass & Quill called “How To Know If You’re An Insufferable Twit.” I’m sure I could come up with 20 things right now if I took a few minutes to ponder the issue, but at the moment I’d just like to address one major sign: trolling your REAL LIFE FRIENDS on social media.

No, I’m not talking about people who leave clever and/or asinine comments for the joke of it. I’m talking about people who deliberately (or maybe not deliberately – maybe they’re just obtuse) mistake every social media post as the perfect chance to start an argument, and jump in with guns blazing. If this is something you do, make no mistake, it’s highly disconcerting to most of the rest of us. It’s also incredibly rude.

How can you avoid becoming a troll twit, you ask? It’s pretty simple, provided you have a moderate grasp of reality and realize that it’s not ALL ABOUT YOU.

First, realize that most of the time, unless people are posting statements directly to your wall, they’re not seeking to incite a riot when they post an idea or article to their FB pages. They’re simply sharing something that that makes them laugh, ponder, or reflect. Take a look – is the article entirely benign? Are you feeling testy anyway? Do not comment. Just walk away and go find a better battle to fight elsewhere on the web.

If you’re still not sure whether your friend posted this article or idea as an invitation to argue, study the subject matter in relation to your friend’s personality. For instance, if the person is a Grateful Dead fan and they post a Grateful Dead song to their page, they probably aren’t looking to get into an argument about the evils of the legalization of pot (not on this post, anyway). Similarly, if a person is spiritual and likes to talk about upbeat things, then posts an article about an exceptionally inspiring person with a message of peace, they probably aren’t looking to get into a discussion about how misguided the news outlet that ran the story is. At this point, if you can see that your friend posted a story innocently, but it still makes your blood boil for whatever reason, by all means share the story on your own page and start a dialogue there.

Is your friend argumentative, with a proven love of controversial posts? By all means, comment away, and bully for you for finding a sparring partner.

Of course, the best course of action, if you aren’t too self-absorbed and irrational to grasp it, would be to keep replies short and sweet, be calm and rational, and think nothing but kind thoughts as you comment – even if you’re attempting to “correct” your friend’s concept of life. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy, well-founded conversation via social media, especially not if you’re talking to a person you love and admire. Friends should be able to have opposing viewpoints, after all.

But friends shouldn’t have to put up with angry, misanthropic asshats who take every opportunity to claim the moral high ground and go on the offensive. It wasn’t polite before social media, and it’s certainly not polite – or normally even warranted – in this day and age. Being more intimately connected with the thoughts of our friends does not give us leave to make little of them. Instead, it gives us a chance to build stronger bridges, and discuss bigger ideas. We have the opportunity to remain civil and sensitive to the needs of our fellow humans. If you’ve got your fingers in your ears, jumping up and down on the heads of the people who love you best, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

And you’re an insufferable twit.

Dreaming is Free

New Orleans Clouds, by Anna Harris

I have so many dreams. Many are tiny things, like the dream of wearing heels on stage without losing my balance and eating it in front of amused onlookers. Some are even tinier and more shallow, like the dream of finding jeans that make me look taller and a bit more slim. I also have some huge dreams, like getting a record deal for my band, writing a handful of novels, and buying a cottage in Wales. Then I have pretty middle of the road dreams, like living close enough to the Atlantic to hear the seabirds in the morning and the surf rolling in at night, becoming a real photographer and building up a concert photography portfolio, becoming a proficient horsewoman, and visiting Provence while the lavender is in bloom. One of my dreams has to be first, however, and I’ve decided which one to move to the top of my list:  the dream of finding a job that I love.

My current job is OK. I’m getting as much out of it as I can, and though no one at my firm has received a raise in at least four years, at least I can count myself lucky for keeping my job, receiving a title change and collecting a wealth of knowledge. However, I’ve learned enough over the last four years to know that there is no more for me to learn here, and no advancement to be had. It’s time for a change. It took so very long for me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and now that I know I want to be a marketer, I want to make strides toward that goal at all costs. I don’t think that being happy with my day to day existence is too much to ask.

I’ve started scoping out marketing & PR firms in the New Orleans area that offer the unique vision and range of services that I’d want a dream employer to offer. Of course, given my current level of unhappiness, I’d probably be willing to make some concessions. It’s my dream, though, and I prefer to dream big and then whittle it down from there. We’ll see what happens. There are still a few months left until I graduate with my MSc in Internet Marketing, though I believe my background and skill set should put me at the front of the pack now, and if I’m lucky, someone will soon see in me the dreamer that they’ve been looking for.