I've been very heavily online for 10 years now. A quarter of my life. In many ways it's been wonderful. I've had the opportunity to learn SO. MUCH. from others, particularly Black ppl, other Indigenous people, and people of colour.
I've met amazing people online, and come to know some of them in person where they continue to be awesome. I have a lot of good things to say about being online, about the way I've been able to curate my news feed the way many of us do, so we're not reliant on mainstream media.
But I'm here right now to talk about the toll it's taken. I never intended to be "out there" under my own name. I was outed without consent by the National Post when an article I wrote under a pseudonym on my own tiny little blog went viral.
I hadn't prepared for my name to be out there, and so folks found my email, and I got a lot of really terrible messages. You know the drill. It's so common, it's a FEATURE of this system. My family was really scared, and I was afraid for them too.
I felt like I'd brought this terrible energy into our home. And that hasn't ever gone away. There are flare ups many times every year where I question the wisdom of ever being online, because I worry about the safety of my kids, and my own safety.
And this is all the obvious stuff, the stuff that comes with the territory when you write under your own name. And you're Indigenous. And you're a woman.

But there are other impacts I have deliberately ignored because being on social media is super engaging.
Like it or not, once you get into it, being on social media does provide a lot of stimulation, a lot of positive feedback, or as a friend recently said, a series of dopamine spikes that keeps you coming back. Would I say I'm addicted to social media? Oh yeah. 100%.
I grew up pre-internet. I was a teenager and a young adult then, so my social needs were a bit different than now. I have no idea what having access to social media at that point in my life would have meant. Maybe good, maybe bad, I really don't know.
What I do know is that I've been a parent for over 18 years now, and that can be really lonely. I had kids before my friends did, and when you don't have kids it's hard to understand how your life changes, how hard it is to do the same things you did before kids.
In a very real way, social media has made these last 10 years way less lonely. I felt caught up on current events, I interacted with folks in interesting, and intellectually stimulating ways. I mean, also other ways because I ended up meeting my partner online.
But during the last 10 years I've also...done less. Or shifted my labour I guess, but, I slowly stopped playing music as much. I read less, and reading was my form of escape since I was really little, I really, really love reading. I wasn't doing as many artistic things.
I often have to remind myself to put my devices down and give my kids the attention they deserve. I remind myself I'm modelling behaviour. And when things get nasty as they do so often, it impacts my home life. It impacts my family.
Some stranger is terrible, and sometimes it manages to hit me, and my day is ruined, sometimes days are ruined. It's a theft and my family pays the price.

Being so tuned into the immediate has also had other consequences. Being aware of things happening as they unfold is...wow.
It's a bit heady tbh. You find out about thing before they hit the mainstream news, you can mobilize material support, raise funds for folks, get shit done together across thousands of kilometres and timezones.

But it also puts you in this space where you're always reacting.
Because things are always terrible. And sometimes there's no time in between crises, because it's all happening all at once, all of the time. That also makes it hard to just do the day to day stuff of living. You feel angry, and hopeless, and beat down, and angry some more.
It's like waves of bad shit just keep coming at you, and there are peaks and valleys. You feel this intense need to react to what's happening, immediately, and it feels like the most important thing in the world...
and then things fade a bit and the new crisis which is the old crisis hits you in the face again.

When I've taken breaks from social media, I become way less aware of what's happening. I mean that in general, in the world, but also what's happening within the online community.
After a while, things stop feeling so immediate, so intense, so in need of a REACTION RIGHT NOW DON'T DELAY. After a few days I start thinking about the future. Most of the time I'm firmly located in the intense present. That can be amazing, and it can also be devastating.
Anyway, I'd sort of like to find out, or rediscover, what being "less immediately tuned in" can be like. Not oblivious, we don't get that luxury. But rather, building stuff in person, offline, tangible, long-term. Without having most of my attention elsewhere.
Like honestly I remember visiting with friends who, during the whole time we were hanging out, were also completely focused on their phones and their various social media accounts. And then I started doing it. Literally even just sending messages to one another vs talking.
It's kind of hilarious but also fucked up, and also funnier because we know it's fucked up. I dunna. And what do I do without the constant dopamine spike of social media? Do I have to visit more? I think that's going to be a part of it.

Blah blah blah, just...
I think I "tune out" by being on social media, more than getting off social media is a "tuning out."
And my heavy social media use coincided with a real need to tune out. It helped me get through an abusive relationship, and ending that relationship, it helped me get through a lot of really terrible stuff. But when I'm spending most of my waking life tuning out, am I coping?
Netflix. Social media feeds. My little video games. Hours every day, immediate, feedback feedback feedback. I need to slow down and wake up and pay attention. I'm really, really feeling that right now. And I want to dream again. I want to be on the land and dream.
Anyway, I doubt I'm ever going to be fully offline unless everything goes offline, but I can be here in less immediate ways. Writing on my blog, in my patreon, doing the podcast, etc. And maybe I'll get tired of that and go live in the bush, that'd be ideal.
You can follow @apihtawikosisan.
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