Besides finishing Phineas Redux and immediately downloading and hitting play on The Prime Minister, at night I’ve been wandering slowly through Cynical Theories (one sentence at a time so it will take me a year), Unoffendable (which is for such a time as this), and now Digital Minimalism. I know all these books have all been around long enough for everyone else to have read them, but part of my rebellion against Modern Life is to do everything three or four years (or a hundred) after it is fashionable.
So anyway, I like the mashup of Unoffendable and Digital Minimalism very much. I loved Newport’s, “bright dings of pseudo pleasure” and his recounting of how the Facebook “like” came into the world. Likewise, I love Hansen’s right out of the gate admonishment to “forfeit” a right to anger that I don’t even have. As I said, I’m not very far along in either, but I fell asleep pondering my own inclinations on social media, and how anger–or rather rage–has been upwards in my being through the time of covid.
One of the worst parts of the last year has been that my life already was too oriented toward the digital. I was already on my phone too much, and already had a hard time getting together with people in person. I already lived in the outrage cycle and was constantly having to tell myself to walk away and not be angry about the wide world out there which largely doesn’t even concern me.
So anyway, ironically, everything having to go online–especially something like church–really boiled my onion. The assumption that zoom works as well as meeting with someone in person is specious, at best. And as covid has gone on, the platforms I use (facebook, twitter, insta sometimes) have gotten to be more and more intrusive. And one of the chief ways they continue to overstep their bounds is by inviting me to judge and condemn the behavior and thoughts of others. The cycle worlds like this: Every One Posts, I Scroll, I Go To Bed Angry.
Which is foolish because reading the news or even just the banal thoughts of others should be sort of interesting. But these platforms up the emotional ante, and make everything into a moral consideration, when only some things should be moral considerations. Like, as I continue to bewail and lament, masks should not be political and moral. Honestly, covid should not be political and moral. But it is, so there we are.
Anyway, just to self-fluff (Sorry, Going To Use This New Word I Created Every Day), God has smitten me down on the question of anger over and over again this year, and here is how that is working.
- Leaving Rage Alone. When I start to be “justifiably” angry with someone, I visualize actually putting my rage down and walking into another room and eating a piece of toast. In this way, I am fatter, but not so angry.
- Not being angry when other people are angry. You know what? If you want to be angry. That’s ok. I am not justified in being angry about you being angry.
- Once a month deleting facebook and twitter off my phone for a few days before putting them back on again. When they transgress, I put them in time out.
- Making excuses for my enemies. I have made some people angry this year by thinking and saying The Wrong Things TM. I have ruined other people’s days, and that wasn’t very nice. I think it was worth it, because I think ideas matter, but I’m not angry with other people for being angry at me.
- Remembering that the sermon is for me and not for everyone else (…except I know it’s for other people too).
- Trying to exchange rage for sadness whenever I can.
- Getting angry anyway and poking around when all the toast is gone to see if there are any cold tater tots lurking somewhere hidden.
So anyway. That’s the circle of death. I don’t expect to get out of this wretched year–or years–with very much of my sanity intact. Have a nice day!