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This isn’t going to be anywhere near as coherent as my last little update on post-graduation life, but that’s okay. Everything in me would rather not write again until things get better, so just getting these thoughts translated into words is enough right now.

Last time around I said I was going to try to write full-time and I did. For about a week. Turns out I can’t take the anxiety, my heart beating out of my chest all day every day. The first day wasn’t so bad. I wrote and polished four pitches and started sending them out. I did a little work on my website and Patreon and I tweeted and such to build platform. I felt positive. But after a few rejections I started second-guessing whether or not what I was pitching was even marketable. The time spent on social media, supposedly “platform building”, didn’t help my anxiety either. By Wednesday of the first week I was in the previously mentioned condition: tachycardia, high BP, whatever. I was hyperaware of my heartbeat and all its seeming inconsistencies. It didn’t help that I was drinking black tea every morning to try to be productive and not getting enough sleep because I had to push myself so hard to work eight hours each day.

After that fiasco of a week I decided to start looking for a part-time job again. What I really want and what I have always needed to be creative is stability and it’s silly of me to think that at damn near forty and in such a fucked-up time in my life and the planet’s that I’d be able to change something so essential about myself. I shut down when money gets funny. Periodt. I can’t generate anything when I’m worried about how we’re gonna get groceries. I was just trying to make myself feel better about not being able to find a job. This is just a mutation of “if I’m exceptional enough I can succeed”. Like I think that oh, I can’t find a job so I’ll just make a job. When in my whole life has that ever worked? Folks are even less likely to pay me if it’s me, you know what I mean? Like, people will give me money to survive and I love them so deeply for that, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely do and I don’t mean to insult anyone who has supported me financially when I was desperate, or seem ungrateful. I am eternally grateful for your support to support me in this moment (and I know not everyone has the long-term stability to offer more than that). But it feels like most folks–whether it’s readers or editors–aren’t interested in paying for my work, which would truly sustain me past this moment. I know my writing has changed a lot since 2010, but I do wish that what I’m offering now was considered valuable. Oh well.

(The good femme Shannon Barber wrote about her own experiences with $$$ and feeling like she isn’t folks’ cup of tea and I feel it so immensely. You should read it here, here, and here.)

Anyway, I have so little energy, so few spoons, it doesn’t make sense in my mind to spend them on things that have a low likelihood of success. Freelance writing, especially as a disabled person whose disabilities are exacerbated by uncertainty, instability, and rejection, does not have a high likelihood of success. And the types of shits I think to write about are profoundly unmarketable (by me). And to be honest the kind of writing I want to do right now is not that. So I stopped. If nobody’s gonna read my shit anyway I might as well only write what I want, when I want.

But the job search doesn’t seem to have a high likelihood of success either.

Since June I’ve been on three interviews and all of them advertised as part time jobs but ended up preferring someone who would work full-time now or in the future. I don’t want to work full time because I want to have energy to write and if I earned the same wage I did BEFORE I WENT TO COLLEGE I really wouldn’t need to work full time. Irony of ironies, it seems like I’m gonna be making significantly less than I did before I went back to school to make more money/have more stability. I am so, so, so salty about this shit, y’all. Like, the salt is f e r m e n t i n g the longer I sit here with a college degree and no job.

(And I know I knew it was a scam while I was in it but it just sucks so so bad being in it.)

I can’t count how many jobs I’ve applied to and never heard anything, not even an interview request. Right now I’m playing phone tag with a manager at a call center where I applied to be a rep and it’s been so long that I’m suspicious she’s somehow figured out I’m Black and is trying to avoid ever actually talking to me. Last Friday I drove for UberEATS for about three hours and made $26. NO ONE tipped. My broke ass makes sure we tip every single time we order anything delivered and I feel guilty because I only do 20% but we don’t even have that. I was so mad. Driving gives me migraines especially when there’s an additional stress (like time or making money) added to the experience, so I would have liked to make more for three hours of one of my least favorite activities. I might do it again one day this week to see if Friday is just a day assholes tend to order but I am 99.9% sure it’s not gonna be a viable source of income. Especially since it really fucked my energy levels over the weekend.

There are so many things I’m amazing at, but I’m in the exact same position right now I was before I went to school: I don’t have “legit” experience doing those things, or I don’t have the right degree, or I don’t have the money to start doing them as a business because you need licenses and other garbage. I’m stuck hoping one of these places I’m applying to realizes how amazing I am and offers me a job. It doesn’t seem like it’s gonna happen any time soon, and paradoxically the longer it takes the less motivation I feel to keep trying. That is alarming since our financial situation worsens with each day that goes by where I’m not earning money.

The thing is, of course, that I don’t really want to work. I want money so I can eat and medicate and buy plants and get tattoos and stuff, but I don’t want to have to go into an office every day or write something marketable or deliver food or whatever capitalism has decided is worth getting paid for. I want to do the work in that I want to make art, struggle towards liberation, build community, spend time with my loved ones, worship god, and enjoy my place in nature. Those are some of the most important things in the world, but they don’t bring in the cash. Which is why, every day, I question why the fuck I stick around this godforsaken planet.
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I’m still here, though.

image showing degree conferral from UCLA: bachelor of arts, sociology, magna cum laudeSociety—other people, systems, institutions, culture—has so much more power over our lives than the average person gives it credit for. Acknowledging its outsized influence is devastating at first, incompatible as it is with a vision of the individual as master of their own destiny, culpable in failure and deserving in success. But there is a freedom in relinquishing our illusions of control. If I am not charge of my destiny, if my class or race or assigned gender or national origin are stronger determinants of my fate than my individual decisions, it matters less what choices I make. I can make the choices society prescribes for me, or I can choose a different path.

A little less than six years ago, I fled back to school hoping that when I finished, I would be able to avoid the stress and disappointment of looking for a job without a college degree. I had just been laid off from my job as a technical support specialist and was already attending community college part time, so it seemed fortuitous, especially since my partner and were talking about me quitting my job and going back to school full time once he found a teaching job. I made the leap and enrolled in a full load of classes at my local community college.

(Society told me going back to school was a respectable choice, the right choice. I should have graduated from college a long time ago, according to chrononormative* standards, anyway, and won’t a college degree give you a leg up in the job market? They can never take your degree away from you, they say, and promise it will all be worth it, all the struggling and debt and biting your tongue.)

There was no way for me to know five years ago that I would be graduating into a job market even more unfriendly to folks like me than I had avoided by entering college in the first place. No way for me to know that I would be made more disabled by my time in academia; definitely no way for me to know that the world as I understood it would effectively be ending in slow motion, that overt and aggressive fascism and white supremacy would be in power all over the world, that the naively hopeful environmental trajectory I thought we were on would be replaced by dire warnings of our dwindling opportunity to halt the inevitable collapse.

But—this is actually an okay place to be, for me. Even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Even if sometimes it hurts so bad I wish I could sink into the molten outer core of the earth. Systems are failing, nakedly, obviously. That means there is no way for me to blame myself. There is no way for me to be exceptional enough to overcome an actual apocalypse. If I learned anything from studying sociology, I learned that.

At last, finally, and in the end, I understand: It’s not me, it’s society.

###

I once believed that higher education was a refuge for the bookish and bright. Being the kind of learner that prefers to absorb a subject through obsessively researching as much as I can on it, I found only misery in elementary and high school. I felt trapped, forced to learn in a regimented way, forced to adhere to conventions set by long-dead colonizers and bootlickers and other types interested in turning children into compliant cogs in a surplus-generating machine. College, I thought, would be different, would be more open to the kaleidoscope of brains humanity contains. Despite having attended college on and off since I was sixteen, I didn’t have enough long-term experience with it to dispel my idealistic beliefs. I was always too crazy to attend class regularly, always withdrawing mid-semester to deal with some emotional upheaval, some mental collapse. And I was so drugged up and indoctrinated into various mainstream viewpoints that I probably wouldn’t have noticed the reality of it all even if I had managed to spend any length of time at school.

This time around, though, I noticed. I noticed all the ways higher education operates to exclude folks like me, all the ways it demands exceptionalism in the face of its own mediocrity, all the ways it perpetuates a status quo of ableism, capitalism, cisheteropatriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism. And as I got further into my upper division major work—sociology—I noticed even more. It became too much to bear too many times to count. The small ironies piled up like so much oppressive detritus, my daily commute a recounting of historical and present-day trauma, my thoughts a running tally of injustices: I am currently driving on a freeway system built by displacing poor people of color, past houses big enough to hold every single houseless person I meet on the way, to a campus more concerned with the appearance of diversity than materially improving the lives of its Black or disabled or queer or immigrant students, to learn about the impact of housing discrimination on intergenerational wealth in whites versus Black folks.

I channeled my anger, my outrage and existential despair, let it flavor impassioned papers and pointed presentations, but it felt hollow, was hollow. It meant nothing, and I knew it. I had to endure the slights, had to make do when my disability accommodations were phased out, had to push myself beyond the point of burnout to finish my degree. Because in my mind, if I didn’t, I’d just spent five years and however many tens of thousands of dollars to have my dreams crushed without even getting a receipt. As much as I wanted to be the kind of bitch that says you know what, I’m good and forges their own degreeless path in life—as much as I had effectively been that bitch for the first part of my adult life out of necessity—I felt obligated to finish, not only for myself but for the loved ones who were sacrificing to help me get through school.

To stay motivated, I told myself that I’d find a job quickly once I finished school. I knew this was a fiction, but it was a necessary one—more than once, the specter of graduating and still being unable to find a job almost convinced me to drop out. I pretended as if this degree really would allow me to navigate the job market with ease, picking and choosing from a panoply of well-paying jobs with full benefits, leapfrogging over my un-degreed competition. But even if that were the case, I was using every last bit of my energetic reserves to reach a finish line that had shifted since I started the race, leaving me in no condition to leapfrog over anything. I spent the first few weeks after graduation pretending it was just another summer, trying to recharge a little before I started my job search.

A manic episode lent me the optimism to apply for a dozen or so jobs and write sparkling cover letters to each. The inevitable fibro flare and depression that followed forced me to acknowledge the truth of 2019’s job market hellscape. Several of the $15/hr-and-under positions I applied to expected me to do free labor in the form of aptitude tests and their ilk. (For some jobs, I did these, because I felt the position/salary would be worth it, and the tests weren’t too egregious. On others, I declined.) Out of the positions to which I applied, only one has even opened my resume—I’ve received no response from that employer at the time of writing, two weeks later. One job I was particularly excited about, one whose qualifications I greatly exceeded and whose hours and duties perfectly matched my needs, had over a thousand applicants at last update. A few jobs have “moved to the next stage in their hiring process” without my resume even being acknowledged.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to be jobless for a while, if traditional employment is the way I insist on making my living. I can write about it now, find the silver lining in my misfortune, because it’s been a couple weeks and I’m high as fuck. But realizing that I just spent five years under some of the most extreme stress of my life to basically end up worse off than I started broke me for about a week. My always-tenuous commitment to staying in corporeal form dwindled to nonexistence more than once, but I happily do not own anything capable of killing me in a guaranteed manner, so I’m still here.

(Kidding, kind of. As long as the people who love me are here on this planet, I’m staying in solidarity. But things did get pretty pale in my head.)

I cannot Black excellence my way out of being on earth as worlds crumble around me. I cannot young, Black, and gifted my way into insulating myself from climate collapse, into financial security, into overcoming a system built to oppress and exploit folks like me before leaving us to become casualties of their disregard for life. All I can be is open to learning how to live in different ways, how to ride the waves of change such that I can keep my head above water, keep what’s important in sight. And if I can’t keep my head above water, I can learn to take bigger breaths before I go under.

If I could travel through time, I would impart this wisdom to 34-year-old me on the eve of their decision to go back to school. I would whisper in her ear: Do not give in to fear. Leap. You will find you have wings. I don’t know that I would fly, that things would turn out any better if I threw myself into professional writing in 2014 instead of seeking the comfort of official validation, but I might have avoided destroying my health in order to get it. I really thought I needed the legitimacy of a degree. I didn’t. Turns out what I needed was to finally internalize the idea that it’s not me, it’s society. For accomplishing that, at least, perhaps going back to school was worth it. For what it did to my emotional and physical well-being, decidedly, it was not.

###

It’s the end of the world—at least, it’s the beginning of the end of a way of living based in colonialism, ableism, white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, and cisheteropatriarchy—and that means we don’t have to do things the same way anymore. We never did, but we have even less incentive now that doing things the way we were told to do them has been so starkly revealed as a path to destruction and separation from god, god being that spark of the divine we each hold within us, the glue that binds us to each other and the planet and all beings across the universe. The way of living that tells me that I must depend on a boss or a landlord or a mayor or a president to manage my work, my housing, my community, my people, is the same way of living that has cleaved Indigenous land from Indigenous humans, the same way of living that is rendering the planet uninhabitable for large human populations, the same way of living that I will reject every single day until it has been banished from this earth.

We must reject ways of living that perpetuate systems of oppression if we are to have hope of humanity surviving the catastrophic change that is underway. But since systems of oppression also shape the ways of living we have available to us, this rejection will come with pain and sacrifice, especially for those of us who are subjugated under the same systems. I know this, I been known this, been known revolutionary change is full of what we are taught to perceive as negative emotions and experiences, but that there is growth contained within them. If a little pain, a little discomfort on my part, on our part, could propagate through the system all the way up to the institutional level, could destabilize the systems that oppress us, wouldn’t it be worth it? Especially when—in my experience, at least—pain can be a catalyst for awakening, and a pleasure unto itself.

For me, the desire to be traditionally employed is partially rooted in a genuine concern that my disability might prevent me from being able to manage freelance or self-employed life. Putting the responsibility for finding streams of income on myself and not on some professional who ostensibly knows what they’re doing is a terrifying prospect when I consider how few days out of a month I feel well enough to work on projects. At the same time, I do get shit done despite how I feel. I don’t have to feel good about something in the moment for it to be worthwhile. In fact, the most worthwhile things I’ve done have often been ordeals to get through.

That’s not to say that everything worthwhile must be painful, or that suffering is necessarily productive—I would never endorse that idea. Sometimes, though, the only way we get out of a destructive situation is for it to become untenable, uncomfortable, painful. Sometimes pain is a friend nudging you: Are you safe here?  Is this what you really need? I’ve been trying to understand what this pain is trying to tell me, this discomfiting space I’m in where I don’t know when I’ll find work, how I’m going to support myself, where I’m going in life when it comes to career.

Before I got my sociology degree, I might have blamed myself for my inability to find a job. I might have taken the metaphorical whip to my own back, expected that I would be able to make up the gap between economic expectation and reality by hustling, killing myself to meet a capitalist ideal of productivity and employability. Now, I know. It’s not me, it’s society. Trying to be middle class, trying to live up to hegemonic ideals of success, is destructive. What I am feeling is in part the shame of not being able to consume the same disproportionate amount of resources as my parents did, the anguish of believing hard work gets you anywhere, the guilt of having held that ideology against the poor and the houseless and other unfortunate souls I probably thought myself better than, the humiliation of having that ideology thrown back in my face when I cannot succeed under the same terms.

(And when I say I, I mean we. None of us are safe here, and this is the opposite of what we need.)

This job market, this disappointment post-graduation, is painful for me to confront. It’s a bit of the same pain I felt when I came to understand that higher education was not a great equalizer but merely a mechanism to perpetuate the status quo, the same pain I feel when I hear people defend throwing families in cages because they violated some law, the same pain I feel when I see folks saying we can’t take radical action on climate change or abolish prisons or dismantle capitalism because it will cost too much or be unfair to folks who paid off their loans or their debt to society or whatever milquetoast excuse the centrists are offering that day. We insist on adhering to the tenets of a way of life that is killing us. I adhered to them by going back to school, even though I had literally no reason to, was receiving no real benefit besides the false sense of security that comes from doing the right thing. If we just work hard enough. If we get a degree. If we are exceptional. If we go high when they go low, if we open a business in a disadvantaged community for three years, if we are silent as the waves of change crash upon us, as the inexorable tide of exploitation pulls us under, we might become one of the lucky ones.

The past is the past. I made my choice, I went back to school, I graduated. But now, I intend to break away, take a different path than the one society prescribes for me. A scarier path, but maybe a more realistic path. A path that I forge myself, with guidance from others who have navigated this chaos longer than I have, successfully. I want to write full-time, or as full-time as my bodymind allows. It isn’t my first choice to make writing my primary source of income—it is partially a function of the reality of the job market—and I may end up needing to find part-time work to supplement my income after all. The more I think about it, though, the more I believe that making writing my full-time job is at least something worthwhile for me to attempt. Writing is where I see myself doing the most good on this planet, and despite the awful state of publishing, I think I have a chance—however tiny—at my version of success. It will be hard. It will involve a lot of rejection and crying jags and questioning whether I ought to just peace myself out and avoid all the misery. It could also be the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. The way I find community. The way I build community and leave a legacy of work for the folks who live after I’m gone. I have nothing to lose, anyway. We have nothing to lose but a world that would see us in chains again.

It’s not you, it’s society. And society is in shambles. What would you do if there was nothing holding you back, if you had nothing left to lose, if everything you thought you knew turned out to be a lie? What will you do now, at the beginning of the end of this world?


* Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories. Duke University Press. 2010.

There is a new-ish section on this site I wanted to point out. I added it late last year but never really announced it; the link just appeared in the navigation menu quietly. This was purposeful on my part, because it is a vulnerable act for me to create space on this site for pure creation and unfiltered emotion, and I suppose I felt more comfortable stealthily uploading such work to pages than I did publicizing it on the blog. It’s been a few months and I have a few less fucks to give, so now I think it’s time to give a proper introduction.

elsewhere, writing

I have poetry here, as well as some writing I imported from my old (secret) blog water in my cereal, which I used during the worst days of my withdrawal from psych meds. I’m also linking here to the category for blog posts I’m doing for Tananarive Due’s Afrofuturism course at UCLA—I think we will have 6 or 7 in all, and I’m not linking to these on the main blog other than in the featured slider.

The main thing is the poetry, since in the past few months I’ve been updating that instead of writing essays/blog posts sometimes. I don’t plan on updating the water in my cereal section. I hope that I’ve moved to a place in my life and my process where I can express some of that here, or if it’s too thorny to air publicly, just leave it in my journal.

I’ll continue to add more subsections to this part of the site as time goes on. I’m working on some fiction that I will likely end up sharing in a month or so. For now, what’s there is enough.

 

Peace,

Peace, Tasha

 

Sometimes the magnitude of my lack of knowledge leaves me wordless.

I wonder how it is to be so sure you have all the answers that you’re willing to write about basically any topic with little to no knowledge — confidently. How it is to write about, say, the experience of people of color when you’re white, or queer people when you’re straight, or cultural appropriation when you don’t even know what the fuck it means, and demand that people respect your opinion. It couldn’t be me.

So many awful things are going on in the world right now, and I want to weigh in, but I bite my tongue. I’m tired of writing gingerly, unsure. I tell myself, maybe I should wait until I’m done with school. Or maybe I should wait until I’ve done a ton of research on whatever underlying structural issues are enabling ____. I feel the expectation of expertise weighing on my shoulders, the demand for confident, final language that reflects an illusory ultimate knowledge. I have no idea, about so much. I know this, viscerally, and it hangs like a spectre over my head whenever I sit down to write. I balk at the idea of contributing my own to the masses of garbage opinions on the Internet. What if I’m wrong? Worse, what if I’m loud and wrong?

I used to give myself permission to only be an expert in my own experience, to write self-indulgently in a way that doesn’t necessarily have to resonate with anyone else. Now I keep trying to find ways to expand whatever ruminations I have into some far-reaching critique of systems of oppression or pop culture or something. I just redid this blog to allow myself the freedom to write about anything, but here I go boxing myself in again. Myself. I have to be real about who’s zooming who here. And yeah, there’s probably some kind of social pressure at play too, something about how marginalized peoples have to be twice as good to get half as much, but who’s counting?

At what point do I stop second-guessing and start just writing?

The thing is, I recognize the harm it can to others when writers just write without considering who their words might hurt. When writers co-opt experiences and lives to get clicks, further their career, and bolster their brand. I don’t want to participate in that. I don’t want to just carelessly run my mouth, get the publicity and deal with the angry mobs later. Getting paid & getting famous isn’t worth running roughshod over other people. But I struggle to find a happy medium between recognizing that and still expressing my ideas about why things are the way they are. I know a degree doesn’t actually mean shit, that lived experience is equally if not more valuable, & that society overhypes the necessity/utility of traditional education. Still, in these restless & ever-changing times, I’m so uncertain of what I actually know for sure that it’s easier just to stay silent. Easier, but maybe not best.

Fuck it, I’m posting this as it is. In all its waffling, ambivalent glory.

 

I am a child of the Internet: I first started using my dad’s Apple IIe when I was about 6, and two years later I was firing up ye olde 2600 baud modem on my mom’s new Packard Bell 386 to try out Prodigy for DOS. It was 1988, before the WWW was even invented, so my Internet usage was initially limited to the aforementioned Prodigy service, BBSes, and other janky services like AOL and Compuserve. I’ve been an online creature ever since. This bout of mild nostalgia is meant to provide some context so you know I’m not a complete Luddite. My beef with social media is more a matter of preserving my mental health than a problem with technology in general.

But I do have kind of a beef with social media, at least when it comes to its effect on my mindstate and productivity. I became heavily engaged in social media in late 2009-early 2010 while my marriage was kind of crumbling. My nascent blogging career was just beginning, and everything I read about being a writer online said building a brand was crucial to success. Did I mention I had also just been laid off? Oh yeah, I just lost my job, so I had a ton of free time. Excessive amounts of free time combined with what amounted to a directive to use social media led to to my being on Twitter and Facebook like, all the time. Was I using them effectively? No, not at all, bruh. But I told myself I was Promoting My Brand and launching a career as a freelance writer. The problem was, I ended up spending my time using social media way more than I spent it actually writing anything, which is, of course, absolutely essential to actually having a career as a writer. At the time, I was going through a lot of deep emotions, so I just kind of ultimately didn’t give a fuck. Being a freelance writer wasn’t as fun and distracting as being a freelance social media user, and although the latter paid exactly $0, the former wasn’t a guaranteed paycheck either (especially when you’re not writing/pitching regularly). So I was really whatever about the productivity hit I took from using social media. My writing career was more of an ill-conceived-and-executed pipe dream at the time anyway (which is another post in and of itself).

I ended up getting a regular job after a couple years of being on unemployment and unsuccessfully trying to support myself via writing. Having less free time definitely curtailed my social media use, but I was still on Twitter every night when I got home. And yeah, I was sometimes a bit extra salty after a night spent frequently checking my feeds, but I didn’t think anything of it. After all, I met my current boo in these tweets, so Twitter can’t be all bad. Later, though, when I started to come off my psych meds and closely monitoring my mindstate became a matter of survival, I began to consider that social media could be affecting my mood significantly.

While I was in the throes of withdrawal, I noticed that when my usage of social media was the heaviest, my mood took a similarly heavy nosedive. Without knowing the exact reasons behind its effect on me, I decided to basically abstain from social media for an extended period of time. My absence allowed me the space to consider why I was on social media in the first place, and whether or not it was really crucial for me to participate in the online milieu on a regular basis. It also spurred me to look at the deeper reasons why social media had such a negative impact on my mood.

DISCLAIMER: These are my reasons for limiting my social media engagement, and are not intended to be a large-scale indictment of social media as a technological tool. I’m not trying to shade any particular platform (except Facebook, which is a total trash fire to me) or its users. I just gotta be honest about my own weaknesses and how social media preys on them. So, here we go.

1. Social media quickly devolves into social comparison for me.

Because social media promotes a kind of interaction that’s based on superficialities, it’s easier for me to see people as abstract entities rather than multifaceted individuals that have good days and bad days. Everyone seems perfect because we’re interacting virtually, so I don’t get to experience the mutual awkwardness that occurs during in-person interactions. I don’t see any humanizing flaws that can reassure me that I’m speaking with an average human being and not some kind of god of self-confidence. I also tend to be easily fooled by curation, and what’s available of people online tends to be either really amazing or really horrible. These extremes kind of encourage my tendency to black-and-white thinking, which is a depression/anxiety trigger. Although I can tell myself that @insertrandomhere doesn’t necessarily have a better life than I do, and that they might not even be truly happy, it’s astonishingly easy for me to fall into the pit of comparing myself to other people. Since I live with myself every minute of every day, I can’t measure up. I’ve seen/experienced myself at all my worst moments, but I probably haven’t seen these people at even 1/256th their worst.

And I’m not innocent of the desire to curate. I know I feel uncomfortable being vulnerable on social media, which leads to my own curation efforts. I would rather not lock all my content, but I am very much conscious of the “public square” aspect of social media and the fact that the Internet is forever.

2. Social media becomes a huge time suck for me when I get too involved in it.

Like I said, social media basically offers the ability to be the best version of yourself at all times, and interact with others from that basis. That makes it super tempting for me to ignore my “real life” in favor of an online life. It’s not that I’m compelled to spend ALL my time online, but when I should be doing things like homework or chores or writing or pretty much anything that’s constructive but requires a bit of effort, social media is a distraction. I don’t have a lot of energy after I’m done with school, homework, and whatever housework I have to do. Any energy I do have would optimally be put towards doing something that actually improves my life. I can’t afford to expend too much of it on something that could potentially lead to a bout of depression or anxiety that then shrinks the pool of energy available for the task of living.

I also easily fall into the outrage cycle online, which saps my energy further. There’s a whole lot of injustice out there, and you will find almost all of it on social media. For some people, this is energizing and inspiring and they do a lot with social media activism. For me, it’s just draining in large doses. I tend to become obsessed with following developments in every horrible event that occurs, so I have to engage with social media in a somewhat removed way in order to maintain my sanity–especially during periods where Black death is being shared incessantly or some political fuckshit is going down.  I know the injustice is still there when I put down the phone, but becoming overloaded and depressed isn’t helping me combat it at all.

3. Social media brings out the worst in me.

Because social media adds a layer of abstraction over interpersonal interactions, it tends to bring out the best and the worst in people. Strangers on social media care about other strangers and even help them financially and emotionally during a hard time. The organizing that folks do on various platforms is impressive, and so much of the current agitation around police violence was greatly assisted by connections made on social media. This is the best of humanity, for sure. But for me, social media is more likely to bring out the worst. I hear the siren song of allowing one’s vanity and hypocrisy to run free and it sounds like sweet relief, because I work daily on quarantining those qualities in my own personality. For the reasons I mentioned earlier, both vanity and hypocrisy blossom and are rewarded on social media, and I don’t particularly want to make myself feel like that’s ever okay.

There’s also this mob justice mentality for some on social media that is unappealing to me. Right now I have a pretty low follower count on my platforms of choice (Twitter & Instagram), so that limits the liability associated with engagement. Still, there are always those who just have to try to find something wrong with any tweet that gets some RTs. Although I prefer it to Facebook, the brevity of Twitter unfortunately leads to a lot of people making statements that initially lack nuance but are later clarified after the first tweet gets RTed a million times and their mentions are in shambles. Facebook, of course, with its lack of character limit, is just rife with long-form unchecked ignorance. I guess I picked my poison, and I chose lack of nuance over manifestos of ignorance.


My solution to all this is to engage in a limited way with social media. I don’t use the platforms that I hate–although I have been informed that when I get to UCLA in the fall I’m going to have to start using Facebook because that’s where everyone posts pertinent info, which sucks. But yeah, I don’t use Facebook; I mainly just stick to Twitter, Instagram, and the occasional journey down a Pinterest hole. During school, I rarely check my feeds because I’m so busy, but on breaks I tend to spend more time engaging. I don’t care too much about follower count; although having more followers means more interaction and more people to amplify your work (which may or may not be a good thing), it comes with a set of tradeoffs that I understand can really complicate and degrade your experience, and I’m not sure I’m ready for all that. There’s a lot I love about social media, but for me, it’s kind of like smoking weed: I can’t just do it all day if I hope to get anything productive done. For some folks, using social media is productive in and of itself, but I ain’t reached that level yet. Here’s hoping one day I do.