Garbage in, Garbage out

Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay

Like many of you probably do each year, toward the end of last year I made a promise to myself to get a fresh start in 2021 and try to concentrate on what’s working and why, what isn’t working so well and why, and what I want to do better and why. I decided to take a more focused approach to journaling, and am using a tool from a company called Vertellis, which I found from a Facebook ad. They also promoted some games which were aimed at bringing people together with real conversations, not just jovial, silly stuff (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Since my family was going to be here with us for Christmas, I thought those might be an interesting way to get everyone talking, and more importantly, listening to each other. This isn’t an ad for Vertellis, but the games were awesome. More on that in another post.

Anyway, I knew I wouldn’t get started exactly on January 1, since the last of our guests weren’t leaving til the 4th. But, I thought, I can definitely get started then. Last Monday. Well, maybe Tuesday. OK, definitely Wednesday. And after Wednesday, I just sighed and said….ok, maybe NEXT Monday.

So, here we are and here I am. As I went through the first few pages of my Vertellis journal this morning, a quote on one of the pages hit me like a ton of bricks as I reviewed what my honest answer would be:

You are the average of the five people you deal with most.

Yes, almost all of us are working from home. No more meetings, no more business travel. Most social events have been cancelled. When we are out in public, we’re wearing masks and that tends to make interactions faster and less personal than ever before. So, as I reflected on “who” I deal with most besides my husband, the other answers aren’t actually people, but amalgams of people. I can’t even come up with 4 other real life people who I consider myself to “deal with” regularly – (I don’t consider Zoom calls with work colleagues as the kinds of interactions that shape me one way or the other.)

  • My husband
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

I love my husband. He makes me a better person and empowers me with his belief that I do the same for him. Facebook used to be a great place to stay in touch with family and friends and share baby and pet photos, or general small talk about what’s going on in our lives. Twitter used to be entertaining, but over time became a dumpster fire. Both of them are garbage, and both of them have way too much of my information – given to them by ME. I have allowed both of them to have a hugely negative impact on my time management, my productivity, and my overall general well-being as a person. So, according to my not so scientific survey, if I’m the average of the “people” I deal with the most, I’ve become a two-thirds garbage person.

Photo by Emmet on Pexels.com

Now, I don’t think of myself as a garbage person. I don’t actually think I am a garbage person. What this realization this morning has done for me, though, is make me realize that I have to find ways to have more real, live interactions with people I truly love and admire more often, pandemic or not. I’m filling the time that would normally be spent at dinner or lunch with friends, or at parties or other social functions, with garbage. I’m saying things to “people” I may or may not know that I would never say to their faces. I’m having things said to and about me by “people” that I know they would never say to me to my face. What started as a wonderful way to stay connected (as Facebook was for me, since I don’t live close to my family and have friends from all over the world who I don’t get to see regularly) isn’t that for me, any more. It’s actually disconnected me from more people than not.

When we used to go to dinner parties or social events, almost everyone was just generally happy to be there and be part of some larger community effort. Whether it was socializing with a few other people and having fun and learning about what was going on with each other, or whether we were attending a function where everyone was contributing to some greater cause, just the event of being in the room together, breaking bread together, laughing, maybe cutting a rug on the dance floor, whatever it was…it created connections. We were genuinely interested in what was going on with the kids, or the pets, or each other’s latest vacation or business trip or whatever because we hadn’t already read about it and seen it on Facebook. Think about it, how many times has someone started to tell you about…whatever it might be….and you have interrupted with, “Oh yes! I saw that on Facebook. Great dress! How wonderful!” We didn’t always know every single thing everyone else thought about every single issue, and when we did, we didn’t comment. We certainly don’t say things like “and if you don’t agree with me, then you can literally burn in hell. OMG! Look at my cute little puppy! Did I tell you about our weekend in Vegas? I don’t need you in my life. What a great looking yard! I can’t believe you’re not taking this virus seriously, do you realize you are a literal mass murderer? Can’t wait to see you at the reunion! What do you mean, you can’t make it? You have to come! Seriously, I don’t even know who you are anymore. Your an idoit. By the way, could you please pass the butter? Copy, paste and share. You know, you really are starting to literally sound just like Hitler. Oh, and the salt and pepper please, if you don’t mind.” when we’re in the same room together. The more I think about it, it might also be better if I just heard what people had to say live, so that I didn’t need to fight the additional urge to pass judgment on spelling and punctuation. 🙂

Photo by ELEVATE on Pexels.com

Social media technology is amazing and powerful, when used to bring people together, or to help others, or to reunite us with lost pets. At its best, it can make me roar with laughter. But the instantaneous and incendiary nature of social media serves these purposes far less frequently anymore than it serves other far less noble and more dangerous purposes. I love seeing photos of everyone. I REALLY love their dog pictures, and I am always intrigued by food and travel porn. But I’m reminding myself that I don’t need Facebook to see those things. I need to re-connect with people that I really care about, whether it be by Zoom, or email, or heaven forbid, an actual letter in the mail. Pick up the phone and dial someone rather than text. Sure, social media posts or texting are easier and faster. But they aren’t better. I have to stop convincing myself that they are, just because the ease and speed of social media has made me lazy. They’re not better.

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on Pexels.com

Twitter, for me, was never a tool I used to communicate. Rather, I considered myself a consumer of Twitter. I followed many different Twitter users, from all sides of the spectrum and all of my diverse interests. But it has become a crutch, a gigantic time sink, a distraction. What if I put down my phone and actually LISTENED to the words people are saying, and not some distillation of them into a series of quick sentences, usually accompanied by how they think I should feel about it? What if, when I can’t sleep at night I picked up a book or counted my blessings instead of looking at my phone? What if, instead of reading our individual Twitter feeds in the evening after dinner, my husband and I actually read a book in common, or talked about that great trip we took and where we should go next, or something we would like to do in the community, or played with our soon-to-be-home-with-us new puppies? Who knows? But I’m going to find out. I don’t think any of those things will leave me feeling worse or more anxious and angry, which Twitter almost always does. When something happens that I need to know about, I’ll find out about it. 99.99% of what happens on Twitter only has the impact on my life that I let it have. And that’s going to stop.

I’ve let the social media garbage stack up for so long in my kitchen, my bedroom, my office, my living room…I had stopped noticing it was even there. And no one can take it out, clean things up, and get the stench of it out of my life except for me. It’s time to take out all that garbage and see what all this “in real life” stuff is all about. I may not know how it’s going to go, but I know that I’ll have a lot more time and emotional room for other healthier, happier and more productive pursuits without it. I’m taking both apps off my phone and I’m getting rid of Twitter altogether. I’ll check Facebook once in a while, but it’s not going to occupy nearly as much space in my life. And yes, I realize the irony that this blog has its own Facebook page. That will eventually change, too, so please follow it here if you are interested in reading more of my musings. Thanks!

It is not the events that cause your feelings, it is your thoughts.

Vertellis journal

One thought on “Garbage in, Garbage out

  1. This hit home. I, too, began journaling as a resolution. I also discovered that I’ve allowed this pandemic to allow me to sink into the virtual world instead of the real one. I lost my work back in May and it’s been downhill since. I realized that my only communication with my bunco gals has been on “groupme” app. How did that happen? I am working my way back. Haha. Thanks for your very thoughtful words.


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