• Christina

A self-imposed social media blackout

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m addicted to Facebook. I also really enjoy Instagram and Snapchat, and I recently started looking at Twitter, which, for the record, feels to me like the comments section of Facebook but maybe I’m just using it wrong.

But Facebook is my social media drug of choice, and I use it more times a day than I care to admit.

I never considered it a problem though. I’ve gotten really good at scrolling past posts that are upsetting in any way. Feeling jealous is not in my nature, so seeing pictures of happy people living happy lives, living in big houses or going on vacations don’t bother me or make me feel inadequate.

I almost never engage in the comments section of anything unless it’s positive, and I never engage if it’s at all political or polemic.

I’ve mastered the art of blocking people who constantly post content that annoys me, because I want my social media experience to be mostly positive. After all, I’m generally a happy and positive person and it’s my social media experience so I can make it what I want, for the most part.

That’s not to say I don’t pay attention to the news. I’m usually aware of what’s going on in the world, but news and politics are not what I use social media for.

I was, if you’ll pardon the expression, a high-functioning Facebook addict.

Until last week.

Last week, I couldn’t scroll fast enough, or for long enough, to escape the news about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh.

At first I wanted to pay attention and hear all about what would happen. Would she get to testify? Would he win the nomination regardless of the allegations and without any kind of investigation first? I was paying attention, and I wanted to know where this story would go.

Then on Thursday, I watched as much of her testimony as I could (I did have to work that day). It was gut-wrenching and yet heartening at the same time. It was hard to watch a woman have to recount her story of sexual assault to a room full of strangers, mostly men of privilege, power, and influence.

But it was nothing short of inspiring to witness her strength.

I didn’t watch his testimony later in the day but I did read about it, and I watched some highlights.

For what it’s worth, I believe her.

That’s as far as I’ll go with my opinion on the subject, because here’s the thing: I can’t handle it anymore. I need a break.

I recently wrote about how good I’m feeling about my life right now. I’m not perfect and I’m still learning, but I’ve gotten to a point where I know myself and I feel good about myself.

However, I also recently wrote about an attempted sexual assault that I experienced when I was in my early 20s. At the time, it was just a story I wanted to share, because I’d been sharing several personal stories. I felt that it was an important story to share, especially in light of the Me Too movement.

What I never expected was that the whole Kavanaugh thing would affect me the way that it did. I didn’t even realize it at first that it was affecting me because, to be completely honest, I was at peak hormone levels last week. Sorry/not sorry if that’s TMI but hey, this is the internet and one could argue that sharing anything here is oversharing.

So anyway, when I started feeling that raw pulse of anxiety in my chest, the flares of anger that came seemingly out of the blue, or the crushing sadness and feeling of despair, I thought it was just a really bad case of PMS.

But normally that would only last a day, maybe two. It’s been non-stop since last week. I thought it would get better over the weekend, but it hasn’t. Well, the flashes of anger have mostly gone. But the sadness and the feeling of despair remain. And I’ve realized why.

When I escaped an attempted sexual assault, I told people right away. It happened right outside my apartment and we had friends visiting that night, so when I walked in, they all knew that something had happened. I told them, and they all believed me. I later told other people about it — friends and family — and they all believed me. And for a long time, I took that for granted.

I never realized how lucky I was that the people in my life believed my story. No one ever questioned the details of my story or suggested that maybe it was my own fault for trying to walk home from the bus stop by myself at night. Sure, I‘ve blamed myself, but what victim hasn‘t? Self-imposed judgement is a lot easier to take than judgement from others.

Hearing Dr. Ford’s testimony was not what upset me most. Her story should have been the most upsetting thing, but no — seeing people rush to question her honesty and integrity and her reasons for coming forward while blindly defending the person who she says did that to her, is far more upsetting.

It bears repeating: when the immediate response is to deny the victim’s story — to not give a woman the benefit of the doubt when she tells a story of sexual assault — while immediately and automatically coming to the defense of the person she is accusing, that is nothing short of heartbreaking and infuriating.

Heartbroken and infuriated is exactly how I’ve been feeling since last week.

Sure, I could have chosen not to watch her testimony. But I felt that she deserved my attention. I thought that by listening to her tell her story, I was honoring her courage to come forward. I don’t regret that decision.

What I’ve been struggling with is the commentary against her. Whether in articles, opinion pieces, or comments on Facebook posts, the amount of people questioning her account shocked me. Perhaps I’m naïve and an idealist.

I can understand the calls for an investigation. What I can’t understand are comments saying flat-out that she’s lying, or that because it happened so long ago, it shouldn’t matter anymore whether it’s true or not. Or perhaps, worst of all, the idea that even if it did happen, boys will be boys and what boy hasn’t done something similar.

I tried to scroll past all the stories and all the commentary. But it’s too much, and I can’t scroll fast enough or far enough to escape this story, and I think that the trauma I felt all those years ago when I was assaulted is being brought to the surface again.

So I’m going to take a break from all of social media for a while. I’m going to hide all of my social media apps in a folder. I won’t open any social media tabs on my laptop. I will focus on my family, my home, my work, and myself.

I need to see what life feels like without social media stories influencing my mood for a while.

I’ve never been very good at self-care. But I know that, right now, this is what I need.

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