Thank You for Not Scrolling

I’m not sure which is harder for me to give up; cigarettes or social media.

48 hours without a cigarette. I woke up this morning with startlingly high levels of energy. More shocking, was my complete lack of irritation at having been awoken an hour early. My mood, it seems, is on the mend.

Still, as I went about my daily business today, I could not help but feel those familiar pangs. That first cup of coffee triggers something that makes me want to light up. Finishing breakfast. Whatever. It’s more muscle memory than chemical addiction, I think. The hand into the pocket for a pack of cigarettes that isn’t there. I don’t realize what I’m even reaching for until I’ve felt the emptiness of its absence.

That absence though, isn’t real. It’s a void created by the removal of an object which had no place there to begin with. Only a matter of time before my brain rewires itself out of the expectation of the cigarette pack’s presence.

A funny thing happened though as I reached for a phantom smoke. Déjà vu. A while back, I finally decided to stop wasting so much of my time on social media. Endless – mindless – scrolling was consuming me. My accounts had to be checked. Facebook, Instagram, whatever. It was the first thing I did after I woke up and the last thing I did before falling asleep. Countless hours were spent lying in bed looking at the infinite scroll of advertisements, arguments, and anticipation. Anticipation, of something worth seeing. Anticipation of another “like.” But it never came. Just a slot machine jampacked with corporate garbage, it doesn’t stop and it doesn’t pay out. It’s a treasure map drawn on a Möbius- strip.

So, where does the déjà vu come in? Weren’t we talking about smoking?

I deleted social media from my phone (my accounts are still around; I just do not look at them) and went about my business. At first, I did not quite know what to do with myself. Every time I got bored; I took out my phone, pressed my thumbprint to the button, and realized I was looking for an app that was not there. Hell, I’ve felt vibrations from notifications that never happened. Just like that pack of phantom pack of cigarettes, my brain had grown accustomed to a certain type of regular stimulation. But time passed and eventually it stopped as I found other, better, things to do with my time.

So, the takeaway here is, what? That social media is addictive? Thanks. Yes and no. Yes, it’s addictive; I don’t think any sane person would question that. The revelation here is – for me – just how addictive it is and that it took nicotine withdrawals to make me realize that I had been just as hooked, if not more so, on the pop-culture slop trough of social media. Obviously, it isn’t a 1:1 comparison. But even so, I’m more productive and not at all stressed about the very important internet things that I might out on. I freed myself from its hold; I’m better for it and I can do the same thing with cigarettes.

Will I be tempted to bum a smoke the next time I’m around a friend who has them? Maybe. But I’ll resist the urge. Just like I’ll resist the urge to check the stats on this post. The trick, maybe, is just to remind myself that I’ve got better things to do.

3 Things that are Going On: a Mid-Month Update

So far, my decision to keep this blog updated and refreshed with “content” has seemed to be a good one. I’ve more or less held to my schedule (despite having not posted at all last week) and I have made some decent progress on a few projects.

So what’s going on?

  1. I am frustratingly close to the end of my novel’s first draft. The last chapter, it seems, is the most difficult to write. I suppose that’s what happens when you get to the end of your outline and realize that the ending you had in mind is, well, lame. So it goes. I’ve got the thing figured out and am confident that the changes I’m making are to the benefit of the larger work. That said, once I’ve squeezed the conclusion of the first draft out of my brain, I’ll have to begin revising so that it will make sense to anyone but myself. I think it was Stephen King who said that first drafts are never to be read by anyone but the author. If it was, he was right on.
  2. I’m playing around with writing more nonfiction. Essays, reviews, that sort of thing. It’s not something I generally do a lot of (outside of school, that is) and a blog feels like the right platform for that sort of thing. Just an occasionally examination of whatever is on my mind at the time. It’s fun and, if nothing else, it will keep me in the habit of exercising my writing muscles.
  3. Lastly, and not really writing related, I’m trying to quitting smoking. barely 24 hours have elapsed since my last cigarette but I’m already noticing some changes. First of all, I don’t have cigarettes breaks to distract me away from writing. Just last night, instead of sitting on the back porch and chain-smoking until 1am, I wrote a solid 1300 words or so of my novel. It hadn’t occurred to me how much as I’d been leaning on cigarettes as a means of procrastination! Second, I got a decent night’s sleep and woke up before my wife. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I’ll take it. Third, and most noticeable, I didn’t start the day by hacking a huge blob of phlegm into the bathroom sink. Sure it’s gross, so is smoking though.

In conclusion, I’m writing stuff. Be safe out there kids and be nice.