I roll the window down
Feel like I’m gonna drown in this strange town
Feel broken down.. feel broken down
– Jewel Kilcher, Standing Still
According to the internet, everything I’m doing is wrong. I’m slicing a mango wrong – the correct way involves a glass. I’m packing my suitcase wrong – roll, don’t fold. I’m making my bacon wrong – bake, don’t fry. I’m squeezing my toothpaste tube wrong – use a binder clip to help push every last bit of goop up through it’s nozzle. My life is wrong, I’m wrong and I’m useless without the internet.
It’s insidious, the kind of negging that used to be relegated to magazine covers like Cosmopolitan, that well-meaning font of wisdom on how to live your best life. Cosmo has always been about how to lose weight, have better relationships, make him want you again, all with the subtle inference that the reader is boring, vanilla and unattractive and that the only way to be a fun, fearless, female is to buy their magazine. That’s the internet. It’s like a cover of Cosmopolitan, turned up times a thousand. There’s no subtlety at all.
Well the internet can go hang. I decided to stay away from it this past weekend, going cold turkey, because somehow I had just had enough. I wanted to confront my own personal FoMO, and see if I could beat it.
In the never-ending barrage of information that is the present-day internet, our real and our online selves have merged, and FoMO, or fear of missing out, is that nagging anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, leaving us out of the loop, contributing to the feeling that missing out will contribute to a lifetime of regret, and so will not joining in. It’s just one of the many effects having a life online has on a body. There’s the sense of validity we gain from getting poked, tagged, liked, shared and talked about, the feeling of connection and belonging that can sometimes be even stronger in the world of the virtual rather than the real.
But it wasn’t just the FoMO. It was also the stark reminder that comparing myself and my life choices to someone else’s can give me crippling insecurity and lead to very damaging questions. Questions like, why can’t they be fat, what’s wrong with me, why them, why not me – a smorgasbord of whys that ultimately lead nowhere good, the kind of downward spiral that doesn’t feel healthy, or even good, and if there’s anything I dislike (and I know I dislike a lot of things), it’s being made to feel less than. And here I was, doing it to myself.
So I made like MTV, and unplugged.
And it was good. So good, I’ve decided to do without the internet on weekends.
I hadn’t realized how noisy and over-saturated the digital hum had become until I purposefully disengaged from the Matrix. There’s an almost audible absence of sound, digital sound, a silence that expands. There’s a freedom in not knowing what Mr and Mrs Smith are up to, a peace in not being up to date and not caring. Trump what? Oil pipeline who? FIFA World Cup how? None of it. Not a single thing matters, and it feels so sweet. Like a big burden being lifted, this burden we place on ourselves to be informed, to be in the know, to seem together, to be “with it.”
It’s not that I no longer want to know what everyone is up to. I just don’t need to know about it all the time.
Illustration by Penelope Gazin, from Vice.