have you ever experienced a psychological circumstance where the mental routes you were capable of taking,
when rationalizing things, felt sorted into two channels? with one normal, typically good & positive, & the other
was bad & negative? & maybe it felt like there was a switch which decided which channel was available. i want to
emphasize the impersonal & binary quality of an electrical switch. & maybe it felt like there was an external factor
that would flip that switch. a strange, irrational, fickle system that would feel difficult to disrupt
here i will try to describe a mental condition that i developed over the course of the mid-2010s
it was possibly largely my fault ...
it was possibly in part due to social isolation, perhaps parental neglect ...
it was possibly in part due to being a teenager with my brain still under construction ...
it was possibly in part due to being enveloped in toxic pockets of contemporary culture ...
it was possibly in part due to an arguably traumatic event which took place in the relevant time period ...
it was possibly in part due to excessive exposure to the dopaminergic quality of posts & notes since age 13 ...
it was possibly in part due to insecurity, believing i was fundamentally out of step with the rest of humanity, but blind to it ...
it was possibly in part due to finding nothing that inspired me,
or being frightened out of pursuing anything i really believed in,
feeling ashamed of my humanity ...
fortunately, i have managed to vanquish this condition!
i have used tumblr quite a lot for the past decade
i became fairly dependent on it as an outlet for self-expression
the core of the condition was that i could not handle getting zero notes on a tumblr post
when i would say anything, share anything, or create anything, & it'd get zero notes, i would concoct reasons in my
head that whatever i had said, or shared, or done, was illustrative of me being horrible & inhuman, even if there wasn't
really anything wrong with the content
this didn't stem from a narcissistic need to feel praised. it was more about feeling silently hated for whatever i had
posted. deep down, it never felt rational. it always felt silly. but at the same time, i felt deeply, deeply conditioned.
it was embarrassing. i felt like a dog that would bark on command. seeing a blank space under a post, where there should
be a number, just caused this simmering feeling inside of me that would become impossible to ignore. i would become
utterly desperate to know what i had done wrong
i think it was a product of using the site excessively for years & years, slowly gaining a dependence ...
slowly having an electrical switch construct itself in my head ...
i used to feel, even prior to developing this condition, like i was fundamentally disconnected from the rest of humanity,
& in the context of tumblr i felt that i was constantly making a sickening fool of myself, but no one would ever tell me
what i was doing wrong. they would only turn their heads away in silent contempt
this was compounded by a tendency to overshare on the internet, & post flippant things that no one could really be blamed
for finding uninteresting, or confusing. i felt very isolated as a teenager, & tumblr felt like my primary outlet. i felt a
constant drive to express myself there. it took me a long time to develop any sort of filter, or quality control, for what
i wanted to say ... i never felt like i mattered enough for anything i said to matter, to be worth tailoring.
(see Innocence Addendum, ctrl-f "feral")
of course, this imagined trend, where the absence of notes is an indicator of some kind of group consensus, was always
complete nonsense. the distribution of notes across tumblr posts is essentially random. i was essentially being driven
crazy by a random number generator
i think that part of why i felt this way was my follower count. i've had over six thousand followers for a long time. a lot
of them probably don't even use the site anymore. a lot of the active ones don't seem to have any sincere interest in me. they
are sort of impersonal & alienating. i think a lot of them followed me from old comedic posts that gained traction, posts that are
still circulating. but i find those posts embarrassing. & the people they attract can seem so ... prone to be attracted
by that lazy form of humor which i regrettably indulged & now dislike. so those people do not really connect with me ...
nonetheless, that number, that accursed number of several thousand, would stare me down ... i guess i couldn't rationalize the
idea of not even a single person engaging with a given post, unless it was so completely repugnant that absolutely no one would
want to acknowledge it or think about it
& so day after day, i would drive myself crazy in an echo chamber. i would feel a self-disgust & embarrassment which felt, truly,
like it was being imposed on me by some massive, sadistic other. but in the end, it was always coming from inside of me. i would
try to talk about my emotions, & no one would be interested, & there would have been nothing wrong with that disinterest, if not
for my interpreting it as active contempt. & so i would feel hurt, & ashamed for having thoughts & emotions ... over the years i
became deadened. deep down, i would always feel like i hadn't done anything wrong, but if six thousand people would display such
a "consensus" about me ... then there "had to be something fundamentally wrong with me", didn't there ... ?
i would always feel so punished, so unfairly punished ...
as though there were clear punitive intent to what was happening ...
day after day, i would feel like i didn't deserve to be punished ...
yet there was never anyone to blame, really ...
it always felt so weird, so inconsequential, so petulant, that it was hard to convince myself that i wasn't ...
roleplaying the reaction, while forcing myself to think it was legitimate. i think it was real, though. absurd, but real
still, a very absurd & digital & petulant thing. i think in its worst occasions it was in large part my fault, for not
stepping away, not finding something else to think about. it was a very dumb phenomenon, but whatever it was, i think
composing a measured description of it is productive
there were points where i felt that this phenomenon would cross a line, into outright psychosis
i came to believe in a sort of blurry & deliberately vague list of concepts that would usually cause
a post to get zero notes if i mentioned them ...
i mentioned that it is productive to compose a measured description of all of this. well, compare that to 2017, when
it would get to a point that i earnestly believed that people were, consciously or not, & for reasons i couldn't comprehend,
collectively making efforts to corral me away from ever outwardly acknowledging certain topics or ideas, or displaying
certain emotions. & i would make fervent posts, pleading for answers about it. begging for people to please stop
punishing me & trying to condition. begging anyone to just talk to me, to tell me what i was doing wrong. but i was
looking for answers no one would have, of course ...
then, when no one would acknowledge posts (understandably), i would feel as though i was being discouraged from talking
about it. like i was expected to "follow the rules", & not try to pick apart the logic of them. i would post increasingly
extreme things, trying to provoke anyone into just "breaking character" & answering me ... i really think that whole thing
counted as me being driven outright psychotic by internet numbers!
The Heart of the Matter
i think that this phenomenon was largely responsible for me slowly
& poisonously distancing myself from many positive facets of being alive
if someone posts every single thing they ever think to tumblr, & nowhere else, & they have no real private life
... it's like ... there is no context within which to ever meaningfully recognize concepts like love & empathy
unprompted displays of emotional vulnerability to a crowd of parasocial strangers are already kind of odd, but
for someone immersed in self-critical thoughts ... they become synonymous with being an embarrassing, disgusting
pig! & by proxy, things like love & empathy begin to feel vestigial, irrelevant, disgusting, embarrassing
& maybe there are people who take the initiative to put contextless expressions of love & empathy on the internet.
but maybe they surround them with emoticons that you find silly, contrived, patronizing. maybe your friends dislike
them too! maybe you are too young to trailblaze your own personal methods of acknowledging these things, & you only
know this "mainstream" outlet of those contextless expressions, & everyone dislikes them, & there you go! mass
reinforcement that it all really must be vestigial, pathetic, embarrassing!
well, no more of that.
it is only after vanquishing this condition that i feel i have been able to wake up & become real