How I Learned to Relax and Fall in Love With the Internet

We are still in the middle of winter in my hometown.  Got a couple inches of snow on top of the glaze of ice a couple days ago.  Haven’t really gone anywhere since the snow.  Driving on ice kind of makes me afraid these days, more so than in the past.  I guess since my car accident I have been more afraid to drive.  I think that wreck messed me up more than I cared to admit, especially at first.  Fortunately I don’t have to drive much if I don’t want to anymore.  Most of what I  need I can get here in town in less than a fifteen minute drive or even have it delivered to my house.  I usually get my groceries delivered twice a month.  I still sometimes run to the store if there is something I forgot.  I admit that it’s been over a year since I set foot in a Wal Mart or Target.  If I need something from those places bad enough, I usually order through Amazon or any other service.  I usually special order my clothing via a big and tall men’s online store.  Since I am a large man, sometimes finding a wide variety can be tough.  The store where I previously bought most of my shirts and pants here in town closed a little over a year ago.  In short, I can buy almost everything I need online anymore besides fuel for my car.  The only time I write checks is when I pay my rent at the beginning of the month.

None of this would have been possible when I was in high school back in the 1990s.  I didn’t even have an email address until I was a senior in high school, much to the shock of my nephews and niece.  I rather enjoy shopping online I admit.  Since I am much more  a visual learner than auditorial, it is far easier for me to see the selection presented in an online format or even an old catalog than hearing about the specials over the phone or even talking to sales people in person.  I used to work in sales when I was in my twenties.  It used to be frustrating to me to lose sales because we didn’t have what my clients wanted in stock or it was the wrong color or style.  We were only beginning the special orders online back in the early 2000s.  Now I would feel almost naked in public without these options.  Yet, as much as I enjoy shopping and interacting online, I do understand why some people lament the loss of going shopping, socializing, etc. in person.  I used to do all my banking in person for years.  But, as simple as my finances are, I can easily do every online now.  The only reason I would need to set foot in my local bank is to buy quarters for my coin operated laundry machines in my complex.  And I imagine it won’t be too many years before we go to the scan cards or something similar.  I usually don’t buy much with folding money anymore, which makes me kind of strange in my family and in the small town I live in.  I know some people in big cities have gone all digital money in most cases anymore.  Even my cleaning lady accepts PayPal for her services.

I still read as much as I did in years past.  It’s just now it’s more online articles, ebooks, and audiobooks now.  Currently working on a couple audiobooks and a couple ebooks.  I’m currently reading an English translation of the Quran and the Epic of Gilgamesh.  I have read the King James Bible cover to cover when I was in college as well as some of the works of Sun Tzu and Confucious.  I guess I have recently gotten more interested in foreign cultures than even previously.  I have seen a few documentaries on ancient Egypt and Sumeria as well as some on Native American civilizations before the arrival of the Europeans.  I have always loved learning and reading.  I understand why some things aren’t covered in traditional school, sometimes because there just isn’t enough time to cover everything that could be enlightening and beneficial.  If I were to die an unexpected premature death, I would hope to be found with a book in my hand or in front of a computer with a scientific article on the screen.

I admit to loving learning, sometimes just for my own enlightenment.  Some may consider this intellectual vanity, I don’t know.  But I will say that having easy access to the collected knowledge and wisdom of human civilization via the Internet has helped keep me occupied during my years with mental illness.  Even though I can’t hold a forty hour a week job anymore, I try to make up for it through self directed study and sharing this wisdom with whoever wishes to hear it.  The internet has been a godsend for me with my geeky and scholarly interests.

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How Facebook Saved My Social Life

 

I have to admit that I am grateful for social media outlets like facebook and even twitter. Made some new friends through these even if I will never meet these people in person.  For the first few years of being active on social media, I felt some sadness in finding out that there were lots of people scattered all over the world who shared my passions, interests, and mental pursuits but none of them lived within driving distance of me.  My closest friends to me now live in Omaha.  Most of my really good confidants live out of state.  And many of my newer friends live in other countries.  It is bittersweet in knowing that I am not as abnormal or damaged as I feared in my younger years.  Besides the few years I was in college, I have never fit in with the people I lived near.  There’s nothing bad or good in that either way, it just is a fact.  It has caused me much grief over the years knowing that I would never have the same interests or pursuits as most people nearing in my hometown or even my own family.  I didn’t have many friends as a kid, but that forced me to develop my own interests and ways of keeping myself occupied.  Had I been Mr. Popular in my teenage years, I may have never developed my mental muscles to the extent that I did.  I certainly wouldn’t be as self reliant or resourceful or resilient.  All of these attributes have helped me immensely in my life as a mentally ill man.

As an adult, I have been able to expand my social circles even though I don’t have a regular job.  This is because of facebook and twitter.  Sure I have had to deal with jerks and irritable people online.  But at least online, I have the unfollow and block buttons.  I don’t have such near God like powers in person.  If I have nosy neighbors or annoying people I see everyday, I just have to deal with it and smile.  If someone is giving me static online, I send them to the unfollow and block list.  It’s my personal version of digital purgatory I suppose.  Facebook has actually made me more social than I was as a child before internet.  It has also shown me that I am not the only person out there who feels isolated and alone because he/she doesn’t conform to the norms of his location.  And now that I have filtered out the garbage that can come through social media, it is a social bonanza for me that I have never experienced in the real world.  It’s rather amazing.

 

Finding The Positives of Social Media With A Mental Illness

Been staying close to home for the last few days.  I still really don’t want to socialize much in person.  Yet I still socialize online via facebook and youtube comments all the time.  I have found that I’m having more pleasant and enriching conversations with people that have common interests than even people I see on a day to day basis.  I’m beginning to think that connecting people from all over the world with similar interests but will never meet face to face is probably social media’s greatest contribution to humanity.  I guess I find myself alienated from many people I’ve known for years, including some of my own family, simply because we don’t share similar interests.  Kind of sad but at the same time I’m grateful that I can connect with people who share my enthusiasm for science, tech, and living overall.  I can’t imagine how bad it must have been for future thinkers and optimists in previous eras or even when my grandparents were teenagers.  I know that had I lived in Medieval times, I’d probably be under house arrest, burned at the stake, or just a serf farming someone else’s land.  None of those seem worthy of my nostalgia.

I suppose as it is I will be happy that I have a means to connect with similar minded people even if they are on the other side of the world.  I doubt I’ll live old enough to see a Virtual Reality setup where people with similar interests can form their own virtual towns or even virtual nations.  But I guess I am honored to see in platforms like facebook, twitter, snap chat, etc. the crude beginnings of such virtual communities.  Of course some will abuse it and get trapped in echo chambers.  But if I’m going to be in an echo chamber, I just as well be in an optimistic one that either attempts to solve problems or even just serve as cheerleaders for those solving problems in the physical world.  I never had the math scores to be an engineer nor the science scores to be a doctor, but I guess since I can’t be among those making the positives a reality, I’ll be among the ones who appreciate what they do and cheer them on.

Socializing In Person and Online

Even though I haven’t been socializing much in person lately, I still make a point of calling friends and family often.  I visited my parents in person a couple times already this summer.  I saw my nephews and niece on my birthday last month.  I call home at least twice a week.  And I try to contact old college friends a couple times a month.  Even though the last time I saw some of my college friends was three years ago, I still pick up with them like I never left off.  And I’m getting better about dropping in on friends on facebook more often.  I had been avoiding socializing over facebook for a year or two because of how contentious things could get even among friends.  But I think people are starting to adapt and use more caution and tactfulness when online now.  But two or three years ago, it was practically a nasty free for all that I wanted little to do with.  I wound up unfollowing most of my friends and family (and unwisely ended a few friendships too) just because I was tired of all the divisions and fighting.

Originally facebook was a godsend for someone like me who wanted to stay in contact with people but wasn’t exactly sure how to do it.  I readily admit I don’t have great social skills.  I never really have.  But I do get lonely at times, even when I don’t show it.  Sometimes the best thing a person can do with someone who struggles with mental illness and socializing is to make the first move and just ask us how are things going.  I am convinced that much of the stress of modern living is due to us not having as strong as personal social bonds as even our grandparents had.  Life may have been shorter and more physically demanding during the Depression, the World Wars, and definitely during the frontier days, but they were made bearable because people had living and breathing friends they could count on for things as mundane as playing a game of cards or having dinner together after a long day in the fields.  I think if we ever rediscovered the joy of having nearby friends in our neighborhoods and communities, we would see fewer cases of suicide, violent crimes, and drug addictions.  I am convinced that much of these happen because some people don’t have that sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.

Even though I haven’t been to church services regularly or been part of civic organizations for a few years, I understand why things like church, local sports teams, neighborhood associations, and civic clubs like the Elks Lodge or the Masonic Lodge are popular among those who participate; they give a sense of belonging and community.  I guess I get my sense of community from shared interests in a few of the science groups I’m part of via facebook and through my blog.  I used to be a member of a local writers’ guild.  It’s too bad that group kind of faded away after a few of our members moved away.  A sense of community is important for people.  We are by nature social animals, have been long before recored history.  Even the most introverted humans are more social than many animals in the wild.

Optimism in the Future

Even though I haven’t heard from many people besides family and a couple close friends,     I remain optimistic overall.  I get much of my optimism from reading science journals and intentionally looking for humanitarian efforts stories online.  Reading these stories from sites like futurism.com, human progress.org, future timeline.net, among many youtube science and tech sites helps to keep me optimistic overall.  I know we have problems.  But I just became sick and tired of always hearing how bad everything was and how it was never going to get better.  I have been hearing about how bad the world was and how bad everyone was since I was old enough to listen in on conversations.

Growing up, I almost never heard my elders or teachers have anything good to say about the future or the world in general.  That bothered me for many years.  I have been hearing dire predictions for years, yet most of them never came to pass or turned out to be manageable.  Several years ago I finally had enough.  So I forced myself to do some research and find out what was actually going right.  I had to do a lot of research over the last several years to see what we were doing, where we were going, and what had already accomplished.  We are doing some really cool things in the realms of science, technology, and humanitarian efforts.  You just won’t hear about them on Facebook or the news.  Granted this is not a license for problem solvers to get complacent or lazy.  Humans have an incredible ability to see into the future and spot potential problems long before they happen.  Not only do we have the ability to see what could happen, we also can plan and change accordingly.  And we change and plan so well sometimes we forget what the original problems were to begin with.

I haven’t spent much time on Facebook or twitter lately.  I still go to Facebook a couple times a day just to see what’s up with friends and family.  But, for me, Facebook is the internet’s version of looking in the refrigerator and hoping there’s still some left over pizza from last night.  Most of the time you’ll get stuck with hot dogs, moldy cheese, and old lunch meat, but sometimes you get lucky. I still drop in on my tech enthusiasts’ groups, but I don’t participate much beyond liking articles that are being shared.  Unfortunately, mental illness and social media don’t mix well.  Not much I can do about it besides staying away when I don’t feel well.

I still stay awake quite late most nights.  It seems to be when I get the most research and writing done.  But at least I’m still getting enough sleep.  I do enjoy the quiet and solitude of the overnight hours.  I may have odd hours and odd practices, but at least I can still function with my mental illness.

Socializing, Family, and Facebook

The Memorial Day weekend has come and gone and now the weather will definitely start getting hot soon.  I’ve been feeling stable but on and off depressed for months, especially since the middle of winter.  I think some of this depression comes from just being so lonely all the time.  There are only so many books I can read before I’m burned out.  Fortunately I was able to see a couple cousins and their families for the afternoon over the long weekend.  I hadn’t seen either cousin in a long time.  It was fun catching up with them.  First prolonged intelligent conversations I had in months.

I gets bouts and depression and loneliness more frequently than I used to.  It doesn’t help that I don’t really have any friends in my apartment complex anymore.  It also hurts that I had major falling outs with a few old friends that I had known for several years.  One of these friend couldn’t respect the fact that I’m not working a regular job and spending most of my time alone.  This person also thought I’m wasting my time with this blog.  Well, I sent that friend packing.  If a person can’t respect my decisions about work and how I spend my time, then we can’t be friends.

Another friend and I had a falling out over politics.  I’m sure I’m not the only person who can claim that these days.  But I just can’t stand how divisive and hateful modern politics has become.  It didn’t used to be this way.  Besides, political fan boys on all sides seem to be too blind to realize that modern politicians don’t care about the voters unless said voters are lobbyists or big money donors.  The way some of my friends and family post on Facebook, you’d think they were getting paid for every post about politics they put on their sites.  Besides, does anyone change their thinking because of these posts.  It’s like watching monkeys at the zoo fling manure at each other but not nearly as entertaining and far less civilized.  I’d quit Facebook and twitter if they weren’t the only means I had to keep in contact with most of my friends and my key promotional materials for this blog.  Mark Zuckerberg really has a business monopoly that would do any 19th century robber baron proud.

The biggest reason I don’t post about my particular beliefs is that, well, no one group reflects what I value.  When it comes to social issues, it depends on the issue.  When it comes to having a good military, I’m in line with some Reagan era Republicans even if I’m not as interventionist.  When it comes to curbing the abuses and excesses of Wall Street and big business, I’m almost as militant as any Occupy Wall Street guy.  And I definitely won’t support any politician of any stripe that wants to cut science funding.  Science funding is quite small compared to military or social programs.  I don’t have a political home because there isn’t any party that reflects what I value.  And I think many people in the under 40 crowd feel the same way.  And I know it may irritate some of my elders to write this, but I think the last thing our world needs is a senior citizen politician who isn’t familiar with science and modern technology.  My parents generation has been in charge for almost thirty years.  Retire and play with your grandkids already, you earned it 🙂

I guess the biggest reason I have been fighting depression for awhile is that my primary means of socializing and communicating, social media sites, have become so toxic and nasty even among friends and family.  And I think it sucks.  Some days I doubt I really am making any positive difference.  Heck, some days I wonder if people even want positivity and happiness in their lives.

Socializing, the Internet, and Mental Illness

Got a few things done over the weekend.  I renewed my lease on my apartment.  I did this because my lease was going to expire in May and if I do move it won’t be until late summer at the earliest.  Also got new license plates for my car.  My state changes the designs every few years.  And for the first time in years Nebraska has plates that aren’t sensory overload 🙂  Simple is good sometimes.

I’m still feeling quite stable mentally.  I think I finally cured my problems of sleeping too much.  I usually sleep only six hours a night now and nap for an hour in the afternoons.  Haven’t felt any real depression or anxiety for a few weeks now.  I go sometimes get lonely as I don’t have much for intelligent conversation in my apartment complex.  Outside of my landlady, I don’t get much for interesting conversation.  Most people in my complex seem to be content to complain about how they don’t get enough in social security or about the antics of fellow tenants.  Well, it’s not my fault some of these people spend so much money on cigarettes and lottery tickets.  And it’s also not my fault that some people allow themselves to worry themselves sick over things that don’t matter.  It just gets old after awhile having the same conversations about the weather or who did what to whom.

I admit to isolating more than is healthy.  At least more than is healthy for most people.  But I never really have enjoyed socializing.  Let me take that back, I enjoy socializing with certain types of people.  I enjoy socializing with intellectuals, avid readers, and people with a wide range of interests.  I just don’t get that very often.  I have never gotten that very often, especially when growing up.  I did get to socialize a great deal with interesting, intelligent, and well read people when I was in college.  College was the happiest five years of my life.  Unfortunately it was also a temporary environment.  I have never met the range of people and intelligences I met in college since.  It’s not even close.

The older I get the less chances I have to socialize.  Many of my well read college friends now have careers and families, so I don’t get to see them very often.  Even my friends without children I don’t get to talk to as often as I would like.  Right now the big thing saving my sanity and keeping my social life alive is participating in group forums on Facebook.  Sure I’ll never get to meet those people as we are spread all over the world, but I still get to have some kind of socializing with people I can relate to.

I don’t enjoy going to bars on Saturday nights.  I don’t enjoy talking about sports or politics for hours on end.  I never cared for people who complained about their jobs or spouses.  I guess I am ultimately not someone you would want as a dinner guest.  I just have little use for small talk about mundane nonsense.  I imagine that makes me look like a show off to most normal people.  But I’m really not showing off that much of what I know and can remember.  I actually have to dumb down around most people.  And I can’t stand it.  That’s why I love the internet so much.  I can much, much easier meet with people with similar interests than I could ever have imagined twenty years ago.  The internet is a social God send for me.  I don’t think I’d be as stable without the interactions I get from others through it.