Our pop culture mostly presents telepathy as a curse: The power arrives, the cascade of thoughts overwhelms the telepath, temple-grabbing and visual effects ensue. In our narratives, only a few characters usually possess or gain the strength to wield their skills successfully; most dissolve under the flood. In many of these stories, telepathy is an apt metaphor for the hormonal coup of adolescence, when new biochemistry opens up overwhelming new social and individual complexities. The fledgling telepath is likewise flooded with too-personal information from everyone around them.
Anyway, some of the baby nerds raised on genre media grew up and made a computer network that gradually turned into a giant real-life telepathy machine for all of us to plug into. That’s been fun.
Most of my internet sanity-retention tactics over the last couple years have been rooted in the assumption that the online roar of anxiety would lessen a bit, especially after the 2016 election. I did a few things to tune my experience, and they helped me stick it out. Then the worst thing happened, and now we’re facing down a new flock of existential threats, along with old ones and the usual systemic, ongoing wrongs. Terror blended with uncertainty is one of the mammal brain’s worst enemies, and the social internet—especially Twitter—is soaked in it. The life-ruining capacity of something like Gamergate was real, but looks tame in comparison to a neo-Nazi resurgence inspired by a malignant troll-in-chief. The camaraderie and sheer fun of hanging out with good people is increasingly hard to remember.
So back to fundamentals. My first duties are to my family and close friends, to my communities of work and care, and to myself, though that last has taken me a very long time to understand. The panicky rhythm of Twitter is no longer compatible with those duties, so I’m off it. I was genuinely sad about its decline for a couple of years, but I don’t have any sadness to spare anymore.
I’ll be here more now—maybe a lot more. I’ll be writing more tinyletters. If we know each other, you can probably find me on Instagram. (I have a Facebook profile for logging into local things, but I don’t really add people.) I’ll be keeping up with colleagues’ work via @source with a million filters on. And mostly I’ll be doing my best, in little groups and one-on-one, to help strengthen my communities and myself.
Oh, and by the way, it turns out that—like most people—I very cleverly hold my breath when I’m emailing (or on Slack), which can cause significant problems if you already have breathing trouble. I’ve surrendered my dignity and am using a small app that makes ocean wave sounds when I need to inhale and exhale. If you’re feeling tightly wound and/or need air to live, you might check that you’re actually breathing while in front of your screen.
Note: Telepathy is not an original metaphor for the ‘tubes, of course, and others have done much more interesting things with it.