Breaking my Toxic Addiction in Favor of a Medium One
In the age of the social, this is my struggle.
Medium has been a godsend.
Though I’m new to the platform, I feel like Medium has reached down into a dark swirling pit of loathing and toxicity and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. Now, ever so slowly, it’s pulling me towards the light.
It’s making me feel physically different.
I was in high school when I realized that I wanted to be a writer. Specifically, a fantasy novelist. I wanted to be an author like Laurell K. Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Christine Feehan. I still do, and maybe I’ll get there someday. I’ve been working on that first novel for years in between all of my university study and part-time jobs and … social media addiction.
From the time I get up in the morning to the time I go to bed at night, I’m scrolling the feeds with the attention span of a squirrel yet unable to stop.
How did I get here? How did I let this happen? I was never a sharer. I was never particularly open social, ever. I preferred the quiet of the library or a secluded corner away from humankind and surrounded by the books I’d borrowed (stolen) from the library or snuck onto my parent’s credit card. I didn’t have many friends and didn’t really want them, yet now I’m consumed with the incoherent ramblings of people I don’t know and would probably never look twice at in person, let alone speak to.
The only way I’ve been able to break it down is by going back to the beginning and wondering why I ever joined Facebook in the first place.
I don’t mean making an account like everyone else. The herd mentality of joining was unavoidable due to my uncontrollable curiosity. I didn’t like people but I still felt the need to join them en masse on this new platform. I did the same with MySpace back in the day. I joined up, made a profile sporting the faces of Tokio Hotel and H.I.M all over the background and declared myself another introverted goth weirdo. I then went on to ignore my account, and everyone else, in favor of my books and art. When Facebook came around I did the same thing. Signed up, posted a depressing profile image and forgot about it for years.
So what happened?
I got lonely.
I got lonely, but I didn’t want to be around people. I wanted to write, and I wanted to be around other writers without actually being around them.
Well, I turned to Facebook. I discovered the secret groups that were popping up everywhere. There were groups for everything. I joined a Christine Feehan Carpathian fan-group and finally met other people who were as obsessed as I was with the books. We even wrote fan-fiction and I exercised my desire for writing fiction. With other people!
I did that for years.
It quickly went from exhilarating to debilitating. Endless cycles of drama and emotional roller coasters consumed my life. I still had no real-world friends and spent most of my time studying and acting as a caretaker to my father who is disabled, and my brother who’s just a selfish prick. I was taking nearly ten classes a semester, and if I wasn’t studying or taking care of other people, then I was working on the group fan-fiction.
It was exhausting.
I was up between four and five o’clock every morning and didn’t go to bed until nearly midnight. If the fan-fiction assignments weren’t done then the demons of hell were unleashed upon me through my computer screen.
I look back and I remember how unhappy I was. I was so so angry. Angry with all of it. Angry that my writing was never good enough. Angry that I wasn’t reading as many books as I wanted to anymore. Angry at the drama I was constantly being yanked into, yet didn’t want to be a part of, because that just wasn’t who I was.
That. Was. Not. Me.
Yet that is what I had become.
I remember expressing to these people, my friends, my desire to start moving away from fan-fiction and start working on my own original works.
I was slapped down harder than the first time your mother heard you utter a cuss word by accident. Gaslighting and guilt tripping ensued. I was a terrible friend. I was ruining the group. I was hurting them.
Why are you doing this to us? Why are you always so selfish.
I look back and wonder why didn’t I just stop.
Why didn’t I just unplug.
Why didn’t I just leave.
I didn’t know how.
I didn’t know I could.
I was so wrapped up and ingrained with the atmosphere I never saw quitting as an option.
I thought that they were right, that I was the problem and that I was the selfish one.
Change for me didn’t start to happen until I was 21. (I graduated high school at 17 and went directly into junior college, in case you’re trying to put the numbers together).
I got into a school in Australia, and, with the help of my badass grandma, moved out of home and into my own place. On the other side of the planet.
The stress of moving, of starting university in another country, of finding a job that didn’t revolve around the family members that were drowning me…That became my life, but the group was still there.
After I settled into my new life I fell back into that life.
I wasn’t the same though.
I was back to it for just a few days when the drama started again. Something I’d written didn’t hold up to their expectation and the negativity and abuse was about to take off.
I lost my collective shit.
I’ve never been overly emotional. I’m quite a static person, but I snapped.
I deleted everything.
I deleted the accounts. I deleted the work I’d done, the drafts and outlines I’d been working on for weeks and months.
The guilt was monumental. Astronomical. The angry messages poured in. I ignored a lot of them, but was sucked into some of them. I fell into the cycle of battle again and again, but I didn’t restart that account.
I didn’t give them my writing. I wasn’t strong enough to cease contact cold-turkey, but I never gave them my creative energies again. That was a huge step. A good step.
They tried to take it from me. They tried to say that my work was theirs and I owed it to them, but I didn’t back down. I wrote it, it was mine.
Eventually, the messages slowed, then stopped altogether.
They forgot me overnight.
It was over.
But it wasn’t over.
There was now a hole in my life, and I filled it the only way I knew how. I got online, with a new account, blah blah blah, and I found a writers group. Not fan-fiction, not group activity, just a group for writers that was meant to be for helping and encouraging one another. Making connections. Making like-minded friends. Learning. Growing.
This group started out how I’d hoped but quickly went to the dogs. It was a never-ending barrage of anger, ramblings, trolling, hatred and conflict. For a while, I was in the trenches, but I pulled myself out. That was another step. A good step, but I was still addicted. I couldn’t put the phone down. Maybe I wasn’t engaging with these people, but the need to scroll through every post, read the comments, move onto the next one and so on and so forth is a disgusting addiction that I am still, today, trying to stop.
My attention span has, for the most part, diminished to that of a single tweet. My personal work has suffered. My time has been wasted. My mind is exhausted. My writing is quite bad, and I am fully aware that social media addiction is still a problem in my life.
I discovered Medium in 2018, and I was sucked right in.
At first, I just thought it would turn out to just be another site for me to scroll through endlessly. Another time waster.
I’ve spent weeks reading article after article and story after story and I feel so lifted.
I walk away feeling physically lighter. Physically. Lighter.
I walk away feeling inspired and motivated.
I feel like I’m actually capable of doing the thing. Whatever thing it is. Short story, blog, thought ramble, whatever.
I feel like it’s possible.
My time scrolling through the endless misspelled questions that could have been easily googled has lessened, I mean, I’m writing this story instead.
This is a good step.
In 2019, breaking away from the internet simply isn’t an option. It’s a part of our lives. It’s a part of my life. Personally and professionally our society is built around it.
Learning to manage it, and utilize it productively and healthily is my priority.
So I wonder how many other people have struggled, or are struggling, with something similar.
I invite you to share, and to break the ice, here’s a photo of my cat. Moose
JLRose is an American fantasy writer, 3D artist and game designer living in Melbourne, Australia. She’s spent the past three years working on the first full-length book of The Galean Universe titled Repentance.
Her short story, The Chase, is now available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. The Venue is set to be released in September. Click the images below for more.