Negative noise machine

Paul Jun loaded his post Twitter Brain with plenty of quotable moments, but this stood out to me:

Twitter, I realized, is a stationary bicycle to self-generate chaos. It is a buffet of madness. It is a marketplace for anyone who wants a desire for any desire—and most of the time what you’ll get is anger, outrage, and stupidity. No one leaves Twitter feeling better. But what’s sickening is how hooked we can get.

What I learned from my burnout—and trying to reorganize my life—made me face the reality that being comfortable in chaos can be an excuse. It can be a form of trauma response. It is easy to find identity in trauma and pain, to make that the background music of your life. When we crave chaos, and life is actually good, oddly we want things to be bad again. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s a profound realization. 

When I pull up Tweetbot, it’s a filtered experience. I check in on people I know with their tweets in chronological order, check my replies, and can’t do a lot of interaction with trending topics unless the people I follow participate.

If I go to the website, though, I’m choosing chaos.

This bothers me as much about my behavior as it does about the platform itself.

It may not be true of everything, but plenty of aspects of my life are much better than they were two, four, or six years ago. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the volume on the ambient daily outrage and confusion isn’t what it used to be.

The fact that I’m even interested in talking about Twitter to talk about Twitter feels like a weird negative feedback loop. A conversational Groundhog Day.

Back in undergrad, my friend Sam and I were talking about drawing from negative memories when writing fiction, and he said “You don’t have to feel it now in order to remember it and use it.”

I understand now that part of what was going on was undiagnosed depression, but there’s also something going on with that back-asswards craving for the stability of knowing things are terrible and on fire.

That compulsion to wallow in the negative used to only have a home inside my own head. Now I can take on other people’s misery, and there’s always something wrong.

Michelle Yeoh with hot dog fingers in Everything Everywhere All at Once
Seriously, this movie deserves all the awards.

Last night I finally watched Everything Everywhere All At Once. What an explosion of joyous creativity! A heartfelt story about breaking the cycle of generational trauma, an action film, an absurd existential comedy, and a pitch perfect parody of a dozen genres at different points.

Enjoying something like that requires disconnecting. Giving yourself over to the whirlwind.

And when I think about how I feel after watching something like that versus how I feel after a check in on social media, I know the difference. I know what gives me energy and creativity and ideas, and what makes me want to roll over and have a good wallow in the muck.

But change doesn’t come from acknowledgement alone. It’s a step.