It’s been a weird, unhappy couple of weeks. Stories that aren’t mine to tell happening to people around me, there was a terrible death and an accident resulting in surgery and a bunch of layoffs and outside of my own little life there is of course no end to the awfulness in the news, from our maddening clown-show U.S. politics to the no-words nightmare of the Israel-Hamas situation.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when I’m trudging my way through a hard time I tend to look at my phone a LOT more, which is the actual stupidest because there is a definite correlation between my screen time and my mental health. It’s like any other addiction: I engage with it for the dopamine hits and then I find myself doing it more and more until the empty act itself — picking up my phone, swiping, thousand-yard-staring — becomes the end game.

I feel about my phone like Homer (Simpson, not the greek poet): “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems!” I mean it’s an uncomfortable animated TV show quote because there was a time in my life when I identified with that statement a little too much and now I can just swap in “iPhone” or “laptop” instead of booze and it’s still true.

Okay fine, my phone itself does not typically cause or solve real problems, unless it’s when I use the calculator function because tipping USED to be something I could do in my head because it was 15% and even a mouth-breathing mathlunk like me could go well, 10 percent is this much, and then half of THAT is… I’m just saying that it feels like it causes problems, like when I’ve caught myself doomscrolling for the eleventy-billionth time in the same 60-minute timespan.

Over and over I find that I’m reaching for my phone to distract myself from the not-so-great thoughts in my brain, only to find myself wallowing in more negativity and sorrow. Our human brains have not had nearly enough time to evolve to cope with an existence in which every horror and trauma across the globe is available at our fingertips, mixed haphazardly into a neverending digital feed that also includes the absurd/meaningful/funny/educational/delightful stuff we’re constantly looking for.

Well, this topic is nothing new. I’ve personally been struggling with my relationship with the online world for years. I greatly miss the Internet That Was, as opposed to the infinite Two Minutes Hate/Aggressive Mall Vendor/Intermittent Reinforcement PSYOPs it is now.

What it seems to be above all other things, despite or because of our tech overlords, is eternally lonely. You can look and look and look. You can heart and care-react and do the little sad face. You’ll see so very much, all day long. It feels like humanity, a lot of times, or like community. But it’s so, so, so fucking lonely.

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Kristina
Kristina
5 months ago

I always enjoy your posts. Thank you for writing.

COURTNEY
COURTNEY
5 months ago

I follow quite a few zoos on instagram, it helps.

Nine
Nine
5 months ago

I too miss the internet of the Long, Long Ago. Aggressive Mall Vendor is exactly what it is now, plus the 80s National Enquirer (YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHICH CELEB IS ABORTING AN ALIEN BABY!!!) and All the Rage Bait, All the Time. It makes me sooooooo tired. I blocked my youtube front page because it was turning into thumbnails of LOOK AT THIS GIRL’S ASS SEE HOW IT FLAPS IN SLOW MO. Yeah, no thanks youtube/google/alphabet/whoever you sold my data to. My algorithm is clearly fucked.

Lisa
Lisa
5 months ago

This is so true, all of it.

Anna
Anna
5 months ago

So, so perfectly said. I’ve been trying to step away from my phone and the news because there is just so much awful, yet I can’t seem to shut off my brain from thinking about it anyway.

sara
sara
5 months ago

I’ve been trying to limit my phone scrolling as well. While I dont want to stick my head in the sand– id like to stay informed, it just shows me too many horrible things that make me feel helpless. Plus I keep thinking if the world were to end, which always seems a real possibility, i think ill regret how much time i spent staring at screens and not being present for all the good things that are actually happening around me in real life. We’re all being lonely together!

sara
sara
5 months ago

I wanted to add that ive been painfully nostalgic for the pre cell phone 90s as of late. As much as im an introvert and i have my ‘i hate people’ moments, i really miss having interactions. Just standing in a restaurant waiting for a pick up and everyone is standing around staring down at their phones. It’s such a downer. Remember going to the mall and not having anyone be able to reach you for literal hours. That seems WILD and exciting to me now lmao.

Meghan
Meghan
5 months ago

Please, please try to get offline as much as you can. My phone came with the News app as a default on my home screen, and I did not know how much anxiety and depression it was causing me until I stopped looking at it completely. This summer, after a weird argument over topics I KNOW were influenced by algorithms, I banned myself from social media and I have not looked at my Instagram or Facebook feeds in months (too old for TikTok). It’s a hard habit to break but it’s SO worth it. I told myself that once I did a detox, I would go back into Instagram (my drug of choice) and purge my feed, but even looking at my close friends’ posts was causing me to feel envious, FOMO-y, worthless. I may be missing things here or there, but what I have gained in inner peace is well worth it. I don’t feel personally impacted by everything I see on my phone now, and it’s wonderful.