I spent the last month trying my best to avoid the scrolling apps. This pretty much succeed albeit a few moments of weakness where I wondered if any of my friends had tried to reach out to me on something like Twitter or Instagram. The entire experience resulted in a very quiet, even more peaceful, month in terms of the my day-to-day. As a result of this experiment, I think I might adopt this at-arms-length approach with social media because I, for the first time in a while, feel much more at ease.
This feeling of rest could possibly be attributed to other things as well. I also had my first real week of holiday in a while mid-way through August. Further, I made a much more conscious effort to try to be nicer to myself when I could and lo-and-behold, I feel much better after doing this for a month.
I also read a lot.
At the end of July, going into August, I read Carl Jung’s autobiography Memories, Dreams, and Reflections via audio book. I took an interest in Jung due to my own personal experiences with psychodynamic therapy (and only while reading was informed of the more contemporary associations of Jung’s ideas as they are associated with the Alt-Right bootstrappers which is, to say the least, unfortunate).
What I found most interesting reading this was how serious Jung took his own personal, lived experience. This is perhaps unsurprising given his position as a founding figure of talking based therapy, but my experience of his recounts of his experiences felt like an important lesson in self sincerity. I found the quasi-deterministic interpretations of his own visions and dreams a bit terrifying, especially given the confidence he had in his ascribing of meaning to the symbolism, but was glad he was honest about everything else from the subterranean phallus to the UFOs.
I think reading this was the tipping point that inspired me to take my own experiences a bit more seriously. I remember thinking that there probably would have been no way for Jung to have the experiences he did if he was scrolling through his socials whenever he got the chance. Not being tethered to my phone led to more control of what thoughts and feelings I needed to negotiate on a daily basis.
Looking back, it really felt like in the weeks leading up to August I would sometimes treat my phone as a game of feelings roulette. If I was feeling so-so, I’d open up Instagram or Twitter to see what my friends were up to. Sometimes I would see something nice, but more often I was confronted with very serious things that are unfixable when you are scrolling, which can lead to a feeling of helplessness. All of these serious and systemic problems need serious and systemic solutions (assuming one is aware of them in the first place). Not having a choice of when you think about them takes a toll on your ability to actually make those changes. Or at least for me it does. Another reason I’ll try to limit my exposure.
As mentioned above, it also helped to have a week of holiday this month. A week of no emails, slack, or other responsibilities. I wrote this draft of this on my last day “off” and cannot understate how much I just needed a break from everything.
I was pushing the burnout envelope and needed more than just a weekend off. This is probably why I also tore through so many books in the second half of the month. I read There is No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura after seeing a review of this posted on one of the slack channels dedicated to preventing burnout. It was a good read. I enjoyed it.
But most of the end of this month was dedicated to reading as much George Saunders as I could find. On a whim, I picked up A Swim in the Pond in the Rain and I think it’s replaced David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs as my new “I will buy this book for you if you read it and we can talk about it” book. I’ve already have sent out a couple of copies to friends who are interested in the creative process, analysis and (indirectly) teaching these ideas.
I liked this book in particular because it does what I hope all books do, which is give the reader that “first few weeks of school” feeling where the professor has re-opened your eyes to a new way of thinking about the world.
In this case, it is reading short stories from 19th century Russia. I could not recommend this book enough. I’ve since gone on to listen to Saunder’s Lincoln in the Bardo and even lucked out that he had a short story come out in this week’s New Yorker.