This piece has a long winded introduction to bring you round to my point. But bare with me if you can be bothered.
I’m one of the students in halls in the North of England who have been isolated for two weeks due to one of my flatmates testing positive.
In this time I found myself becoming increasingly inexplicably anxious with no idea why that is.
Is it because I can’t go out and indulge in a normal human routine? Is it because I can’t socialise with my new friends face to face? Is it because I’m not being active enough, or because I’m drinking more than I usually would, or because I’m in a whole new environment with a big workload? Is it because I can’t access the library and the resources/ help I need?
Well, yes. To all of the above.
But at the root of all my anxiety was overwhelm.
I experience three main types of anxiety.
The first, extreme irritability. I will want to bite someone’s head off for making noise or saying a word I don’t want to hear when I experience fear. I want to concentrate.
This anxiety comes from feeling out of touch with self, out of control, disempowered.
Then I experience the standard ‘I don’t want to do that’ anxiety. Heart beating too fast, I get the shakes, a lump in my throat.
This comes from being out of alignment.
The third type of anxiety is what I have had all week.
I get set on an idea, and I want that idea to become a reality right in that moment.
I want to dye my hair purple, I have an impulse, and if I can’t do that right here right now I will not stop obsessing about it and talking about it and thinking about it- in hopes that it will secure me into that reality.
This comes from feeling trapped.
Being in isolation, I haven’t been able to act out on these silly impulses like wanting to dye my hair, or go to a dance class. Create the life that I want to live.
And this has made the anxiety grow.
This anxiety has literally been translated into my dreams. I’ve been having dreams where I’ve lost something and I NEED to get it back, but I can’t. Dreams where I’ve been riddled with uncertainty, feeling completely unsupported.
I can’t run from the anxiety, and I lose myself in the anxiety.
I am alone, I feel trapped in this reality, and isolated.
So I check my phone. I try to connect.
I’ve been sitting to read a chapter for my uni work, but I haven’t been able to focus. Every 10 or 15 minutes, after I make a page of notes and only partially digest the information handed to me I get the impulse to check my phone.
It’s taken me days and numerous breakdowns to make 4 pages of notes.
I end up staring at an instagram page of someone I want to be. Or I’ll stare at pictures of my boyfriend because I miss him.
Anxiety has made me check social media more as if I’m making a vision board of the future.
Then I will feel so down on myself for not being able to focus. I blame isolation, I feel like I shouldn’t be here, like I’m taking for granted the ability to be able to just indulge in learning.
It’s been shown that mental health correlates with social media, but I don’t think it’s cause and effect so much as it is drowning in a world where social media has become the foundation of the way we live our life.
Today was obviously a snapping point because I was guided (by my intuition, the universe, or my social media algorithm) to watch the Netflix Documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’.
10 minutes in I had to grab some pages out of my notebook and make notes in a way that I haven’t had an ounce of impulse to do for material relevant to my actual course.
There are so many things I could say about this show, but I encourage you all to watch it.
It’s the missing link. To ALL my questions and uncertainties that have led me to study sociology, psychology, time and humanity.
And it is the missing link to me taking control of my life and feeling at least a tiny bit more free.
This year of all years, there is so much division.
I can’t even watch gogglebox anymore without seeing people’s most vicious sides and (perceived) harmful worldviews.
2020 has put us all into an isolation. We are in a high pressure high anxiety environment, isolated from friends and family, where our primary method of contact is through a screen.
We are fed news every hour of every day unless we consciously disengage from it, and we are being guilt tripped and manipulated to check it more and more.
Increasingly due to the pandemic. This pandemic has used technology as a vice, which is doing more harm than good.
We’re being told to put others before ourselves.
I understand consideration for others’ health and well-being, but since when has this ever been good advice?
We are born alone, we die alone, we are our only constant, and in taking care of ourselves primarily we are able to then care for others.
In fact, caring for ourselves before anybody else prevents us from becoming sick in the first place. Educating ourselves on the immune system, eating well, keeping in a good headspace, making sure our vitamin levels are good.
This virus is not an exception to that rule. It is very under researched and new, which makes for a lot of anxiety, but it is not an artificially intelligent sickness which defies the laws of a person’s natural ability to fight sickness.
Yet in all of this we are being guilt tripped into believing that it might be the one thing in history that is unpreventable; and the only two things we should do is engage with the media and stay inside.
Following those rules, we are vulnerable to being manipulated into believing we should now suddenly put others first by the media, because more people are being left to die?
Us people ‘following the rules’ are not letting people die. Us people being fed the media aren’t letting people die. We’re on the frontlines, we’re wanting to save people. We’re ‘doing as we are told’ with the intent of stopping people from getting sick.
It’s those who fund these social media outlets letting people die. It’s the government not distributing money as they should who are letting people die. Because they would rather fund fear mongering algorithms to manipulate the masses.
The mistake we don’t even realise we’re making is internalising the idea that this is our fault, and that we are the bad guys for not listening to the people on our screens.
This is causing division, and social media is fuel to the fire.
Good Intent translates into vicious actions.
Again, the only information we are being fed is ‘stay in’, ‘keep looking at a screen’.
Well first of all the effectiveness of a lockdown is being questioned. In Australia (a densely populated country, albeit not as densely populated as the UK) it was even on sky news that a lockdown didn’t really do anything in terms of preventing the virus.
It has been said numerous times that more people die when more people are left to die.
So anyway, we are isolated. And we can only communicate with loved ones through screens.
As Bailey Richardson stated “we have a basic biological imperative to connect with other people”.
However by doing this through a screen, we fall into the subliminal and intricate trap of an increased screen time.
It’s only when you watch this documentary and are exposed to the psychological warfare used that you realise screen based interactions are the foundations of so many core issues in society today.
We all know screen time is bad, we all try to justify it because we’re addicted to it. However empowerment comes from learning about it and knowing that as humans, we can find purity in life outside of a screen again.
Outside of the exhausting news notification trap.
As Jaron Lanier (computer scientist and author) said in this documentary, when these people connect there is always a sneaky third person trying to manipulate these two people trying to have a pure interaction.
So people’s screen time is up through the roof, probably at a record breakingly high rate.
We all feel internal anxiety and as a result we look for certainty through a screen.
Social media sells certainty. For these algorithms to adapt to you, they collect your data and know everything about you- so they will sell you what you want to hear and this becomes a safety net.
But social media sells certainty through subjective news.
Justin Rosentein (American Software Programmer) illustrates this in the documentary by telling us that if you search ‘climate change’ into google, you will be presented with several options based on your location. Not on truth or objectivity, but based around what the algorithm thinks you want to hear. Or what will be useful to you and whatever point you are trying to prove.
The documentary goes on to explain how this creates polarization and radicalises people, founding extremist groups who go out into the world and cause change.
To me, it reaffirms the knowledge that the most peaceful thing you can do in the world at this time is to delve into self.
Minutes before turning on this documentary I was watching a video by Matt Kahn titled the ‘Apathy of Options’. I watched the first few minutes before my intuition screamed at me to turn it off and watch this documentary- but in those minutes Kahn was talking about flow state.
When you are in a flow state, connected with your mind and soul, there is only one series of options.
One thing you are led to do at a time.
When you are disconnected, you are vulnerable. You are overwhelmed, easy to manipulate, zombified.
The algorithm doesn’t care about your wellbeing as demonstrated by this entire documentary and the knowledge of anyone who has ever worked there.
The algorithm doesn’t care about the mental distress you experience from being right over happy.
It doesn’t care about the downfall of a person’s mental health or the collapse of humanity, because it’s not real. It’s a thing that we created which we have allowed to take over, through no fault of our own.
Social media for me has done many positive things, it’s helped me meet people and make money, start my blog, make a voice for myself.
It has also really ruined me and it’s taking a lot of discovery to get myself back.
When you really have a question you want to ask, a discussion you want to contribute to, a human interaction you want a pure part in; division is now more prominent than ever and I don’t know how long humanity can last like this. It’s vicious because “over time the algorithm gives you the false sense that everyone agrees with you”, and any outlier to your way of thinking becomes an enemy tribe.
So people with pure intent, the power to be able to change the tone, frequency, vibe of a blood bath of a conversation begin to shut up for self preservation.
As a take away, I will continue watching this documentary and read up on some books about social media.
Hopefully with a growing knowledge of how this social media psychology affects me, we can adapt our lives in a way where the self preserves itself against the dangers of social media.
I will make connecting with self a priority even in isolation.
I will do what I want, because I cannot help but feel like this lockdown (coercive control) has been some kind of psychological experiment on our susceptibility. Not just because of my social media feed, but because of my own reading and outlook on society.
And most of all, I will contribute to conversation not to be proved right, not to argue, not to take personally the demonisation and insults thrown at me by people who have an algorithm manipulating them to believe their ideology is the only correct one. But I will contribute to conversation to alter the frequency/tone/vibration and hopefully get through to another person’s bigger picture way of thinking.
I watched a Louis Theroux documentary earlier this week where he visited the Westboro baptist church, and one of the takeaways he took from that was that this insular group of people were filled with pride when insulted as this affirmed to them they were doing the right thing.
We all fall into this trap. The conditioning that ‘the correct will be isolated’ comes from ego.
Diversity has been a main theme of 2020, and knowledge of how it is created may save so many people’s mental states. We do not need to demonise those with opposing views, but it is beneficial to understand ourselves and our ego before being plummeted into our daily news feeds.