I’ve talked about addiction to naughty substances and spicy drinks before, so I’m not going to repeat myself here. Instead, I briefly want to talk about another addiction that is equally as sinister and has a huge impact on my life, and quite possibly yours too. I am totally 100% powerless over my use of Twitter.
Regular listeners to my show The Late Night Alternative (weeknights from 10 on www.talkradio.co.uk kids!) will be aware I have a really shitty relationship with Twitter. I manage to ignore all of the love I am shown on there and absorb all of the hate. And there’s a lot of hate. I don’t if it’s because I am an actual c*** as I’ve been told many times on there, but I can have 100 positive tweets sent to me and 1 negative and guess what, I only see the negative tweet.
Yesterday I got involved in some argy bargy with someone I had offended and upset about 8 months ago. I was mortified that something I had tweeted had caused this other human being to be hurt on a very personal level. And while I only vaguely remember the exchange, it certainly was not my intention to cause him any more pain than he was already going through. I found myself getting angrier and more depressed and more desperate to somehow right the situation, to explain my point, to make everyone like me. I was out with my 6 year old son at the time. He was climbing a wall and exclaimed ‘Daddy, look at me’. To my shame, and I cringe thinking about this now, I didn’t turn my head. Instead I stared intently at my phone, pointed at him with my right hand and snapped ‘Not now son, Daddy is busy’.
What a horrible moment. I feel actual shame typing that.
Of course the argument wasn’t resolved. They very rarely are. Both of us went away feeling angry, upset, righteous and cursing out loud. That’s Twitter in a nutshell for me.
I’m halfway through the new Matt Haig book, ‘Notes On A Nervous Planet’. It’s a cracking read and the spiritual sequel to his excellent ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’. In the new book, social media is put under the spotlight. Does it really help us as much as we think its does? What are the positives and negatives? What if we maybe let go of it, just a little, would we as a species feel better?
Matt is an incredible writer, and in my opinion a pretty special human being. I have to thank anyone who writes and speaks honestly and openly about mental health. When I tentatively put my toe in the water and wrote a blog about my depression (you can have a peek here https://www.iainlee.com/2015/02/04/what-i-mean-when-i-dont-say-im-depressed/ )I was overwhelmed by the responses. Most of them were positive, a few not so, but it was the outpouring of human stories that I couldn’t cope with. Strangers telling me of their suicide attempts, or how they’d lost a wife to depression, or what should they do to help their son who wouldn’t get out of bed? I was terrified by the 400 or so emails and I withdrew. I’ve been more vocal since but at a very measured pace. My head and soul can’t cope with everyone reaching out to me with their own stories. Not that I don’t appreciate the honesty and sharing, I really do, but I just have to sometimes back away for my own sanity.
The thing about Haig is he puts himself on the line on an almost daily basis. And he certainly gets a lot of flack. I see a review of his new book from the Times today basically takes the piss out of him for having depression instead of, I don’t know, reviewing the book. Nice move guys! Anyway, the book has got me thinking a lot about how I interact with social media. I keep saying to people ‘If I didn’t need Twitter to promote my show, I’de delete it’. But I don’t know if that’s actually true. I don’t think I can. Like I would find it almost impossible to throw away a gram of coke (although I have managed to do it on several desperate occasions) I just don’t think I could completely walk away from Twitter. 97,700 people follow me! That’s important! (I can’t tell you why it’s important though, another sign of addiction, putting forward weak arguments as to why you can’t stop).
So this weekend I am trying a compromise. I have deleted the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone. I have blocked the Twitter and Facebook websites from my phone. I have blocked myself from downloading any new apps. My friend has typed in a 4 digit code to prevent me from unlocking those features. And…I…feel…terrible. Actually ill. Typing this is causing my chest to tighten, my fingers to tingle. A low level anxiety is settling in. All because of fucking Twitter! Jesus!
It’s only for this weekend to begin with and I can still access these websites on my laptop. But I certainly won’t be lugging my laptop to the park today, or booting it up as soon as the credits start to roll in the cinema. I don’t know. The 12 Steps have taught me that complete abstinence is the only way forward when it comes to drugs and alcohol and in the back of my head, I know that is probably the route I will have to follow to deal with my social media addiction. But like all addicts, I’m looking for an easy way out, a cheat if you will, that will allow me to have my cake and snort it.
I’ll let you know how the trial goes next week. And yes, I get the irony of me writing this blog and then tweeting about it to get you to read it. That’s dumb, isn’t it?
If you want to get Matt Haig’s new book ‘Notes On A nervous Planet’ (it is ace) then here are a couple of links you can buy it from.