The Internet, Anxiety, and Disappearing.
I spent all of last year disappearing into my phone. I realized it was unhealthy even then, I think, but not enough to warrant a change. Each time I felt myself sinking deeper into the mindless haze of the internet, the endless scroll, I always told myself “well, at least it isn’t something more destructive.” There is always another vice.
Last year was a bit of a blur. Lots of change, I guess, and even more changes in store for me than I could have imagined. I found my days propelled by the dull throb of anxiety in a way that they’d never been before, in a way that I couldn’t control. Distracting myself with work only worked until the work was done, and lucky for me as a freelancer, there was always more work to do.
But when the sky outside my window turned sherbet purple and all the good light in my apartment had waned, I’d tear myself away from my laptop, falling into the glow of my phone like a hotel bed. From one screen to another. Glued to the screen of my laptop by day, hypnotized by the screen of my phone by night.
I know the general consensus is that the internet is bad for our mental health, and like……….obviously. But I work online so I don’t have time to entertain the idea that the internet is the enemy here. In some ways, I owe absolutely everything I have and all of the great things in my life to the internet. The internet can full of a lot of good.
Last year, in an effort to, I don’t know, stay in more? Learn to enjoy spending time alone again? Probably, in all honesty, to keep myself out of bars all the time, I made an effort to not go out every night.
“I could stay in and be so productive!” I thought. “I could write more. Read more. Maybe put together a business plan.” (??????)
I didn’t go out, so I went online.
My relationship with the internet is a lot like my relationship with alcohol, or my relationship with my eyebrow pencil, or my relationship with love. I always find myself asking: how much is enough?
How much of a good thing is too much? How much good do I deserve? Admittedly, I have never been good at moderation, as history has shown. I only know how much is too much when I’ve already gone too far. Last year was the first time I ever felt that I was really overdoing it with my time spent on the internet, though even as I realized, I had no intention in changing.
Like a flower turning back into itself with the sun was gone, I’d curl up into myself under the pink glow of a neon rainbow above my bed, with the blue glow from my phone caressing my face, every edge dulling. Scrolling god knows what until who knows when. It was never anything specific that would draw me in and keep me engaged, either. It was more the seductive release of detaching. A feeling I didn’t even know I liked until I loved it.
After the deadlines and the resumes and interviews and a new job and a new life hanging in the balance, the internet was an excuse to let it all melt into nothingness. To find a moment’s release from the weight of stress that had dug itself into my shoulder blades, the buzz of anxiety in my ribcage, in my jaw.
I’m bad at multitasking, but I’m never just doing one thing at a time. I was staring at Instgram or Twitter or whatever it was, but my mind was busy catastrophizing my next career move, all of the things that could possibly go wrong, dreading the next five years and regretting the former. My brain like an engine that stalled halfway between ambition and dread, not knowing in which direction to go and becoming addicted to the space in between.
Like being lulled to asleep by the in-vitro sensation of riding in an airplane, the hypnotizing cadence of scrolling through my timeline became a comfort that was too easy to forget myself in. I knew it at the time, and I surrendered myself to it. With nothing to quiet the echo chamber that my mind would become, anxiety rattling around my head louder than a Clipse beat, losing myself to social media was a welcome respite. Feeling numb was better than feeling anxious.
At times I’d come up for air and remind myself that there was more. “I should read more,” I’d tell myself. “I should update my resume. I should call my mom. I should write that business plan” (??????) Everything I said to remind myself that I do have an actual connection and responsibility to the outside world. To bring myself back to earth. Facts to tether myself when anxiety told me I was floating away.
I’d love to wrap this up with a narrative about overcoming everything and growing and learning and I suppose I could spin it that way if I wanted to, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I’m not done learning yet. Before I knew it, my life changed, as lives tend to do, whether you want them to or not.
I got that job, made that move. Everything I’d spent so much time building up? It all happened. Every single thing that I’d spent so, so many hours turning over and over in my head, they all came and went like they were nothing at all. All of these huge moments, signing a new lease in a new city, making a move, starting a new job, they were more or less just…normal.
Spending endless hours panicking about the prospect of all of them happening was so much more unbearable than actually going through all of them. I was so scared of all of these things that I spent countless hours slipping away into my phone, evaporating into nothingness, and for what? I should have just gone out to a bar.
I love the internet. I don’t love how I used it last year, what I allowed it to do to me, how I let it become a welcome distraction. I suppose I had the tools I needed to deal with the actual issues at hand, I just don’t think I realized I had let them become issues, maybe they weren’t as bad as I remember them, or maybe things needed to get worse before they got better. But they have gotten better. My life has, sure, but more so my ability to not fear the noise in my own head, to accept it for what it is and quiet it, or not, to live with it and not be so damn scared of it.
These days, I’m disappearing less than I did. It’s not that I like my life any more or less, or that I have less anxiety, but having lived through all of the things that made me so scared last year made me realize that the life right in front of your face is the only thing worth worrying about. I am still very online and very anxious, but every time I feel myself disappearing these days, I put my fucking phone down and, I don’t know, try to do something, anything else. I spent so much time worrying about getting this life that I now have that I might as well be present and enjoy it.
Name: Tynan Sinks
Occupation: Copywriter + Beauty Editor
@ name: @tynanbuck
First time I went online: Age 8