It was after dinner this past Wednesday evening when I found myself pulling out my phone scrolling through Twitter and Instagram. Something I have not done in, well, over four years now after I made the choice to leave the polarized noise bubbles of the platforms. I honestly don’t know why I signed up again two weeks ago, but I am thankful for the reminder of why I left in the first place as the impetus to renew that decision.
Hearing Mark Zuckerberg disavow his company from any responsibility to help mitigate the polarization that his own studies show is actually what is happening on his platform is, well, aggravating, to say the least. Given, the platform runs on advertising monetization of people’s data based on social relevance, tagging, and other data points; we can entertain the idea that there might be more non-humans than humans in the mix that are swaying the actual “connections” in one way or another based on dollars spent with Facebook. I mean, @Zuck is making an understandable choice on behalf of his shareholders for sure. But what about the human beings that his platform is partly comprised of? What of the small towns, neighbors, cities, rural communities, states, political systems, social paradigms that the technology impacts negatively in the process? What about Twitter in how it polices all other world leaders except for Mr. Trump? Let alone how that individual wants nothing more than to stir the fires of division, hatred, and ignorance in such a way that it is tantamount to Nationalized propaganda. It’s good for business in his opinion. Dangerously skirting back to wartime practices where regime change was on the table.
Those considerations aside. When my husband commented that I had not put my phone down in awhile somewhere between dinner and our streaming movie from Amazon that I kind of realized what the effects were of being quarantined for so long now. I work at home, we get groceries delivered, I work out at home, I experience the outdoors at home on our balcony above a parking lot (a far cry from climbing Thunderhead in the Smoky Mountains let me tell you). It’s affected my mood on many occasions. With anxiety rising and falling like waves in a storm. Feelings of disconnection and loneliness intermixed with gratitude for all that I have and guilt for what I need to start doing, somehow, for others.
Still, through this on the other end of the rough patches, I joined a support group that I used to belong to which has been super helpful. I re-deleted my Twitter and Instagram profiles. I’m working on some professional, technical personal projects, writing that actually gets published, working out consistently, re-calibrating my diet toward a healthier benchmark, trying to get some sun daily and planning trips out to go backpacking (sometimes meeting a friend – but distancing and masking up) which are all positive changes. I feel good about all these things. Much more so than while living life exclusively through a computer. The dreaded Zoom experience or the social media us vs them bubbles.
I guess, in the end, after all these mental/emotional gymnastics during a pandemic and historic economic crash while America takes the lead over all the world in, not science or some aerospace accomplishment, but death and infection because some jerk with a thin skin can’t bear to do the job he was hired for… lead; well, it’s a choice. Do I want to jump into the mud over to the right or take a cool dip in the mountain lake to the left? I choose the mountain lake. Those are usually hard to get to. Bring up all sorts of big ideas. Sport landscapes that are free and untouched. Provide the privacy of a brisk naked cold plunge with no embarrassment. But, most of all, leave you feeling that the journey is worth it. Looking back at the other choice, where fear, anxiety, politics, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms function? Yeah, the choice is very clear to me. As clear as the waters on Mt Hood or at Heart Lake in the Olympic Mountains are in my memories from past climbs.
So that’s where I am headed. Onward once more.