Patton Oswalt has The Spurts: on signing off and social media

Patton Oswalt is taking a self-imposed ‘summer’, in a recent post on his Facebook page (which I’ve copied in its entirety below) Oswalt discusses something I have been struggling with myself; the need to find a balance between ‘real life’ and social media. When I started this blog over a year ago I was so excited and became very entrenched in all things social media, I was constantly on twitter etc. to the point where I may have lost sight of my real life and what was truly important.

At the beginning of this year I reached a turning point where I no longer felt the same enjoyment I once did for my social media life. I no longer check twitter constantly, have very rarely tweeted in fact, compared to my activity of a year ago. In the same way Oswalt has chosen to have his ‘summer’ I suppose I’m choosing to be less present virtually and more active in reality.

The novelty and gloss of social media has now worn off and I’m sure I’m not the first person to be unsettled by the very self-involved/self-important reality of most social media interactions. This is not to say I’m completely walking away from my ‘web life’,  I’m so very grateful for the opportunities it has given me. Without this blog I would never have turned some of my twitter followers into very real friends. Admittedly I still get a thrill seeing the little ‘follows you’ icon beside some followers names and really the experiences I’ve had this past year have been truly surreal. But the fact remains that a lot of the time lately I’ve met this blog with dread, and have picked up some very bad habits. At one point I was staying up late or would check twitter in the middle of the night, case in point I started writing this post at 2AM!

I shouldn’t feel stressed when my followers go down, or worry that this blog isn’t getting enough views, this was meant to be an outlet for my enjoyment, and a place where hopefully people found entertainment. So I’m finding a way to still love it but on my terms.

Patton Oswalt writes:

“Summer is upon us, and I’ve got a bad case of The Spurts.
I’ve gone down an internet/Twitter/Facebook rabbit hole and I need to engineer a summer spent in nothing but humid, skin-to-air reality for myself. If I don’t, I feel like my psyche is going to suffer permanent slippage.
I’m going to try to keep this short. And this isn’t going to be a diatribe against the Internet or the information age or Twitter or anything like that. It’s going to be a gentle, winking diatribe against myself, and my ego and its appetites.
I was reading some — not all — but some of Camus’ THE REBEL. At an airport, waiting for a flight. And this line hits me like a ton of bricks:
“Tyrants conduct monologues above a million solitudes.”
I’ve become my own tyrant — Tweeting, and then responding to my own responses, and then fighting people who disagree with me. Constantly feeling like I have to have an instant take on things, instead of taking a breath, and getting as much information as I can about the world. Or simply listening to the people around me, and watching the world and picking up its hidden rhythms, which crouch underneath the micro and the macro. But I’ve lost sight of them. And it’s because of this — there’s a portal to a shadow planet in my right hand, the size of a deck of cards, and I can’t keep myself from peeling off one card after another, looking for a rare ace of sensation.
The Spurts: I’ve aggressively re-wired my own brain to live and die in a 140 character jungle. I’ve let my syntax become nothing more than a carnival barker’s ramp-up to a click-able link where I’m trying to sell something, or promote something, or share something I had no hand in making.
So — I’m engineering a summer. From today, June 1st, until Tuesday, September 2nd. Radio silent. No Twitter, no Facebook. There’ll be a few announcements here and on my Twitter feed — mostly for shows and some movies I’m about to appear in — but I scheduled these to drop weeks and months from now, without me having to do them on the day. The chairs are up on the tables, the floor’s been swept, and I’m locking up my tiny, personal online nightclub until the leaves turn brown. If Chili John’s in Burbank can thrive while still closing for the summer, I ought to do just fine.
I want to de-atrophy the muscles I once had. The ones I used to charge through books, sprint through films, amble pleasantly through a new music album or a human conversation. I’ve lost them — willingly, mind you. My fault. Got addicted to the empty endorphins of being online.
So I need to dry out, and remind myself of the deeper tides I used to be able to swim in — in pages, and celluloid, and sounds, and people.
Another writer I read some of, before nervously refreshing my Twitter “@” mentions or updating my e-mail Inbox, was Garret Keizer. An essay in Harper’s from 2010. Luckily, Keizer writes the kind of sentences that, even in the all-night casino floor of a world we live in now, can punch through the din like God’s gun. The line that stuck with me was this:
“For fear of becoming dinosaurs we are turned into sheep.”
I don’t want to be either. But whatever options are left? They’re on the other side of the silence bath I’m about to take.
Have a good, safe, fun summer. It’s upon us. Stay cool when it comes down.”

A Question of Connection

“Everyone’s connected but no one is connecting,
the human element has long been missing.
Tell me have you seen it? Have you seen it?
Or are we alone?”
Lyrics from Alone by Armin van Buuren

I’m currently obsessed with Armin van Buuren’s new album Intense, especially the track Alone; on a superficial level the song is pure aural enjoyment but offers the listener a truly thought-provoking experience when you listen to the lyrics. I found myself considering our human need for connection. We live in an age where you can avoid physical human interaction almost completely but can digitally connect with people more intimately than ever before. All over my twitter timeline I’ve seen tweets about people’s virtual connections and how social media has impacted our human interactions.  Notebook of love tweeted: “Relationships are harder now because conversations becomes texting, arguments become phone calls, and feelings become tweets”

When I created this blog one driving force behind it was the need to make a connection with others, to inspire the way so many others have inspired me. I wanted to feel a part of the bigger picture to leave my mark in whatever way the future has set out for me. What I didn’t expect was how this desire would impact and affect me. I’ve been reluctant to post my personal thoughts because even though I’m relatively anonymous the process can leave the author feeling very exposed. There is also something to be said about the catharsis of allowing yourself to be vulnerable even if you’re still hiding behind the screen.  The various social media communities offer us a way to connect with like-minded people who weren’t accessible in the past, virtual strangers can become best friends without ever meeting in the physical world. One of my closest friends has never physically met me but I feel more connected to her than some people I have known almost my entire life. Our shared pop culture interests allowed us to develop a very real friendship, which I have found is increasingly rare for adults. I am constantly interacting with people in my day-to-day life but have yet to make a connection as deeply as the few I have forged during my brief foray into this social media world. There are so many inspiring stories that have left me in awe and rejuvenated my belief in the good of humanity. There is a melancholic feeling that comes from realizing that some of my more profound interactions have come through a screen but I’m also hopefully optimistic for how I can translate my virtual social confidence into the real world.

So if this is our future what does that mean for connections? I’ll leave you with the lyrics from one of my favorite songs:

“If this is communication
I disconnect
I’ve seen you, I know you
But I don’t know
How to connect, so I disconnect”
Lyrics from Communication by The Cardigans