relieve me of the bondage of selfie

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How do I look?

How do I look when I’m struggling?

How do I look when I’m happy?

How do I look when I’m grocery shopping?

How do I look when I’m dealing with family members, cleaning up cat barf, watching reality TV or cooking dinner?

More importantly do you think I look?

Luckily for me, I have the magic mirror of narcissism that is social media which answers those questions with bubbly hearts. When illuminated several times over, I have won at the game of self-worth. The numbers can even tick up in front of my eyes like flashing beacons that say, “You’re doing amazing, sweetie.” Conversely, when nobody gives a damn these bubbly hearts stay clear, invisible, with no numbers beside them to alert the world that my likeability has confirmed kills. Yet recently, I reached the very bottom of the mirror and stared at the whole thing. Yes, that’s correct. I really feel as though I’ve read all of what Twitter and Facebook has to offer. I’ve heard the opinions. I’ve had my opinions. I’ve seen their opinions become my opinions.  I’ve seen them take my opinions.  In fact, I’ve now heard and read so many opinions that none of them matter or stand out anymore. Even my own. Yes, I truly think I’ve read it all. And what I’ve learned is, to quote Jon Bon Jovi, it’s all the same, only the names have changed.

This is okay. I mean how many things do we all have to actually talk about? It’s normal that we’d ramble on and ramble and repeat crap again and again. Besides, humans and their ability to have different spins on the same topics is one of the best things about humans. The “best things about humans” would be a great hashtag, by the way since it appears our collective qualities are harder and harder to celebrate these days and therefore should be gathered as evidence. It would be a great hashtag if I was doing those sorts of things anymore. But I’m not. In fact, I’m not really doing any social media anymore.

Or should I say “for today” I’m not doing social media. In case you didn’t know, “for today” is that give a way phrase we addicts use to signal that for hopefully 24 hours we won’t engage in something that is addictive and unmanageable. And by “not doing,” I mean I’ve cut back on Twitter and deactivated my Facebook for like 2 days so far. I know. I’m practically a monk. As someone who has worked in digital content and social media for the past seven years, I guess this is the part of the post where I should talk about the virtues that social media does have. You know– the ability to bring people together from around the globe, the ability to share information quickly and the ability to make you feel bad about you had for lunch– those types of things. And they are all valid and worthwhile. But I’m not going to talk about those virtues. Because my problem with social media is (wait for it) me.

Sometime over the summer after I had spent entirely too long styling a selfie for an author photo a website that I  contribute to, it hit me maybe my relationship with all of this is too intense. Putting my self-worth in the hands of others is something I’ve done for decades. So much so that if the folks at MasterClass are interested I’ll gladly share my knowledge with the world for the low, low price of $90.00. Us ninja level codependent people pleasers didn’t need no stinking social media to wrap our self-esteem in the approval of others but it sure the fuck makes it a lot easier! Now, instead of calling people or walking to their houses or showing up to their events that I don’t want to go to but will go to in hopes of them liking me more, I can just post witty, wise crap that will endear me to their hearts. In my pocket at all times, I hold the power to turn over my power to faceless others in 140 characters or less. Weeee!

I’m making light of this because that’s sort of what I do when a behavior of mine has become problematic. Like, “Ha, ha, ha! Isn’t it a hoot how much cocaine I can snort?” But the reality is my relationship with social media started to feel problematic. More than once, I’ve ignored my husband or missed what he was saying because my face was stuck to my iPhone like a fly on the windshield. Not a cool thing to do to my literal favorite person to talk to. Also troubling? Something about my dependence on it felt odd. Like here I was preaching the gospel of being sober and present in my life but all the while I had gleefully become my iPhone’s bitch. Uh, what?  I at the very least don’t use my phone or text during meetings. I mean honestly if I can’t live without looking at it for an hour, I really need help. But nearly everywhere else I’m glued to it and that’s primarily because of social media.

Even worse, I’d committed the cardinal sin of social media, the one I’d warn clients about, the one every article back in 2009 would caution against: I started to take it too personally. When the tweets of others start to feel like attacks or the vague online personalities of people you don’t actually know in real life start to affect you, it’s time to get a grip. After all, it’s all for entertainment purposes only which I fundamentally know. Yet somehow here I am. But it also kind feels like something else. Like it feels hallow and immature for where I am right now. Worse for a snob like myself, my dependency on it is shamefully basic. I’m no better than our president or Taylor Swift. Look what I made me do.

So what? I grab a stack of novels and go live in the woods? Not really an option especially since I have real life commitments and hate mosquitos. Like my other addictions, I have to figure out how to treat it. Listen, I’m my motto has always been “Why do something you enjoy when you can turn it into an obsession?” so I’ve been down this road with booze, drugs, cigarettes, tv, sugar, people, sex, ad nauseam. By the way, if you’re struggling with drugs and alcohol and this sounds like some trivial-ass bullshit, that’s because comparatively it is. Nevertheless, I know I first need to admit it’s a problem, which I guess what this 1200 word declaration is all about and then I have to take action. For me, action looked like deactivating my Facebook account and taking Twitter off my phone. The obsession, as the sober kids say, has not been removed just yet and I’m really starting to see how much time I was actually spending on it. Yikes. It’s becoming clear how much of a crutch it actually is.

Suddenly, I don’t aimlessly scroll like a zombie in search of little bubbly hearts. Suddenly, I don’t have you to tell me how I look. And now I have to look at myself.

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everything is rigged! everything is a conspiracy!

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I consider a myself a master inventor of excuses. If there’s a lame brained, half-witted idea to get out of something, I have usually tried it and without the visual aid of a vintage I Love Lucy episode to boot. So imagine my dismay when the excuse of “The System is rigged!’ went mainstream. See, over the last several months this idea of the system being rigged has taken off. “What system?” you ask. Kids, it truly does not matter! Washington DC. The electorial process. The debates. The Oscars. The DMV. The line at Starbucks. It’s all a system therefore eligible to be considered rigged. This ingenious and totally testicle-free way of blaming something we have no control over is an excuse that me the bullshitter, er I mean “storyteller” should have thought of decades ago. Alas, it took an orange billionaire to illuminate us on how if we tell the world the system is rigged, we in turn have zero accountability.

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Before we continue, please note: I have taken considerable care to ensure that this blog is free from inflammatory and hemorrhoidal political content because quite frankly it’s fucking boring and currently on every other website therefore making anything I have to say equally as boring. However, I’ll dip my toes briefly into those waters this morning. But have no fear. If all of this goes according to plan, this post will seamlessly loop back around and return to talking about the thing I love the most–me! I will even not soil these pages with images or the name of said orange billionaire. Instead, please enjoy this disco space portrait of Lester Holt. Which is appropriate as I talk about him too. Moving on!

Yesterday (or was it two days ago?) a story broke about how whats-his-face had already declared the debates rigged as he knew in his little black heart that moderator Lester Holt (I’m assuming the normal, non-disco space version) was a Democrat, making him incapable of fairly conducting the debates. Let’s just say this was a reasonable concern. And let’s even assume, although we have no evidence to suggest this, that Holt has a history of being biased and shady. Let’s go a step further and say that the political party of every television debate moderator ever has warped the debates they were in charge of and so we can assume that as a Democrat that Holt will do the same. But the thing is,as we know now, Holt is a Republican. Oops. Yet this little snafu and mild, mistaken character assassination doesn’t even matter. The point is that guy already sent out the loudly cawing, “It’s rigged! It’s rigged!” carrier pigeons into the world and now we’re suspicious of an event that hasn’t even happened. What’s more is, if the little dicked casino owner totally tanks next week, he can blame a rigged system. It’s genius.

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Last night, I read a juicy piece on celebrity conspiracy theorists. These colorful characters believe everything from the relationship of Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift (you can’t make me type ‘Hiddleswift’ dammit!) to the hidden romance of two One Direction members is a conspiracy. They are mainly harmless types and often hilarious. The piece highlights how we the people create these back stories and conspiracies to make our own lives and consequently the lives of celebrities more fascinating. As a casual celebrity gossip dabbler, I enjoy a good Illuminati or Katy Perry conspiracy like everyone else. Thankfully, that’s kind of where it ends for me. Ditto with systems being rigged. It may not have occurred to me to blame fucked up systems because as a sober person, I’ve committed to a life of personal accountability. This means, as much as I’d like to blame America, the IRS, the Grammys, Groupon, Southwest Airlines, Apple, my parents, straight people, pot smokers, the LAPD etc. for rigging systems and solely bearing the responsibility for fucking up my life, I cannot. Curses! Foiled again!

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I guess I’m being rather flippant about something as problematic as our depressing cultural default setting for blaming systems and claiming things are rigged and that’s intentional. I mean how ridiculous. Yes, there are systems that are “rigged” and unfair. Thankfully, there are tireless watchdogs policing those systems. I’m a gay man with HIV and honey child, I have done been a part of some for legit fucked up, rigged, bigoted systems. Please. If that reality show hosting twerp thinks he knows unfairness, let him take his orange ass through the public health matrix and get back to me. Thanks. Yet believing in conspiracies against me and that the world is out to get me, that’s old behavior and something I cannot indulge in. As I’ve talked about recently, I just did one of those inventories that sober people do to clear out resentments and hopefully have chance of staying sober. This time around I was reminded of ongoing refusal to take responsibility for how I act. I acted out because I was bullied. I lied because I need to protect myself. I used people because I never had enough love growing up. It was always something or someone else’s fault. This thinking lead me to drugs and alcohol too. “If you had it as bad as me, you’d be drunk too” was my motto for so many years. As nice and easy as putting the blame on some else sounds, it’s a toxic and unsustainable way to live. When I bottomed out, I had to realize most of my problems were ones I caused. Well, that was certainly an ugly realization but one that needed to happen.

Thus, it makes me wonder: what if the system, all systems, are in fact rigged? So what? I mean it. Who cares if they are. Listen, pulling off this daily mental health miracle takes all the effort I can summon from the four corners. I ain’t got time for a conspiracy theory. I reckon no one else does either if we are all doing our best to pursue emotional intelligence, compassion and a little damn dignity. It is appealing, however, to point at something larger as trying to sabotage our every move. Take writing this post, for example. I’m a fan of the midway edit and spellcheck but a few moments ago this was impossible. My website was not having it. The edit button froze and I was kicked back to my post. I laughingly wondered if it was a conspiracy against me. That WordPress knew I was writing a smartass piece about conspiracies and didn’t want me to publish it. That someone gave enough of a shit to continue their evil plot against me, just to fuck with me. Within seconds, the edit was working again. And that’s it. Sometimes, things are just fucked up, with no ulterior motive. And sometimes there are evil forces out to get you. But if I’m working on being a little less shitty than I was yesterday, none of it actually matters.