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  • Jørn Earl Otte

How to Keep Facebook, and my Sanity: A Lesson in 10 Parts


Social media is making me ill, and I don’t know what to say.


America is broken. Some say, it always has been.


Brutality, in all its forms, has been a part of the American fabric for 500 years.


But we seem to be at a critical tipping point, and I am not sure whether the future, either immediate or long-term, of our country will be something any of us recognize. Do we even want to recognize it in the form that it was, or would we rather our nation looked completely different in a month, a year, a lifetime? Perhaps the world will be a better place once we emerge from the other side of our current situations. I certainly hope so.


Our country is broken, but my brain is broken, too, and so I don’t know what to say or do. So I scroll. And scrolling makes me sick.


I live in a privileged world, and I know it. There are fears and concerns that afflict other people that will never in a million years be concerns or fears of mine. Which is bullshit.



My friends and family who are People of Color are hurting, are angry, and are exhausted. I weep for them and with them, but they don’t need my tears. White tears have done shit for them. It is time for white action. I want to be their accomplices in the fight against racial injustices in this country. (If you do too, there is an excellent resource for starting your journey at www.whiteaccomplices.org). But proclaiming my membership in the “One of the Good Whites” club across social media is as helpful as a fart in the wind.


My friends and family who are part of the beautiful rainbow that is LGBTQIA+ are hurting, are angry, and are exhausted. They have to fight for their rights to love each other, to have children, to adopt, to exist. But changing my profile picture to an equal sign so that folks know I am full of Pride is as meaningful as changing my underwear. They don’t need straight tears, either. They need action, too. (In West Virginia, check out www.fairnesswv.org. Nationally, the Human Rights Campaign, www.hrc.org.)


My friends and family who are among the thousands of Americans who have been hurt economically by COVID-19 are in desperate need of help, too. The government’s oh-so-generous $1,200 isn’t getting the job done, and having to wait one or two months to collect unemployment hasn’t helped keep the wolves from the doors. (Check out www.familypromise.org/get-involved to help folks who are experiencing or are on the verge of experiencing homelessness).


And lest we forget, there are still children in cages in the Land of the Free. (National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights: www.nnirr.org/drupal/).


There are people of all races, religions, gender identities, citizenship statuses, socio-economic backgrounds, colors, creeds, and everything else who are struggling to just survive right now, and have been struggling since long before COVID.


There are too many people who just. can’t. breathe.


Our fucking country is broken.


But I still don’t know what to say or do, in part because my own brain is also broken. And no matter how much I WANT to help fight these fights, sometimes my own mental health absolutely immobilizes me.


Especially when I start to scroll.


My brain has a love-hate relationship with a lot of things, but for quite some time now that relationship has manifested its best and worst qualities when it comes to social media.


Facebook has allowed me to stay close with my beloved family in Denmark. I miss them and love them so much, and being able to see pictures of the Danish countryside, see pictures of my cousins’ lives, homes, babies – these moments are irreplaceable, and I am so thankful to be able to enjoy them.


Facebook lets me stay in touch with my Goddard College and Lesley University families. My goodness, both of these places changed my life in ways I never could’ve imagined. I don’t know what I would do without these people. In so many ways, they are my soulmates.


Not to mention the opportunities to see things going on in my sister’s life, my in-law’s lives, my American cousins’ lives, and all the friends I have from all walks of life!


But the toxic, painful, disgusting shit that invades and dominates my feed everyday gives me enough pause to wonder if Facebook keeps me connected or keeps me infected. Seeing so much hate, racism, misogyny, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, bigotry, and utter stupidity spread its wings and fly all over the goddamn place truly is very unhealthy for my mind. No one in the history of social media has ever won an argument online by telling the other person how stupid they are, or by insulting the other person’s beliefs, or (heaven forbid) even by sharing facts and figures. Everybody hates everybody.


Scroll, oh look at Jan’s photographs, scroll, wow Mikkel’s kids are so big, scroll … “rioters are nothing but thugs,” “I can’t breathe,” “this isn’t about race,” “statistics show black men are more likely to be killed by…” “fake news,” “very good people on both sides,” cry, scream, shutdown, shutdown.


Try again, scroll, that’s awesome, Ah-Keisha’s kids are going to college, scroll, wow the cover to Janet’s book looks amazing, scroll … “transgender woman beaten to death,” “shooting at gay nightclub,” “conversion therapy,” “hate the sin, love the sinner,” “trump advisor says legally accepting gays will lead to accepting bestiality,” cry, scream, shutdown, shutdown.


It makes me want to close all of my social media accounts for forever, turn off my TV, throw away my phone, move to the north of Jutland, and never speak to another human being ever again.


Yet I also know that I have the privilege to be so selfish, to be so self-absorbed as to only worry about my own brain. Because there are millions of people for whom social media is the only way they can share their struggles with people who care. In fact, social media is how I learned about www.whiteaccomplices.org, www.fairnesswv.org, and www.nnirr.org/drupal. Social media can be a source of great help and hope for people, and at times, I have been one of those people.


Yet I also know that, if my mental health incapacitates me, I am no good to the people and causes for whom I care so deeply.


I have Bipolar I Disorder. I think I have documented that well. It has been my main struggle related to my health, and it will continue to be until I leave this earth. I’m ok with that, except when I’m not.


I also have OCD. For years, I actually did not know that it was unusual for people to have to count the number of times they stirred the honey into their coffee, only being allowed to stop when you reach 100. Did you know that there are people who DON’T have to have the TV volume set at multiples of 5? There are even folks out there who do not require the number of ice cubes in their drinks to be 3, 5, or 8! I know, right?!? I can’t have my coffee cups facing different directions; every person at the dinner table has to have the same style forks, knives, spoons; if I am walking down the sidewalk with someone, and we pass by opposite sides of a barrier (fire hydrant, tree, bench, whatever), if I don’t say “bread and butter” immediately, our relationship will be ruined.


Yeah, my brain is exhausting.


But I also am an empath. Empathy and empath are words that get thrown around a lot and lose some meaning because of how people use them. I genuinely am an empath. I feel – physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically – the feelings of other people. If you are depressed, angry, hopeful, despondent, exhausted, enraged, thrilled – my body will often pick up on those feelings and will literally imitate their physiological reactions inside of me.


Someone reading this just said, “Bullshit.” I get it. I really do. It sounds like New Age Metaphysical Five Dollar Palm Reading crap. I know.


There is nothing I can do to convince you of this, and if you are skeptical, I understand. All I can say is, I really do feel these things.


So when I am scrolling through Facebook trying to look at pictures of my cousin’s new baby, and am hit with seeing the brutal murder of a man played out right in front of me – It. Fucking. Hurts.


And yet how self-absorbed and privileged and selfish and rude and ridiculous of me! How can I lay claim to such feelings, when my friends and family who are POC can literally see themselves, their children, in the face of the murdered man?


Yet I claim to be an accomplice in the fight against racial injustices.


When I see a post making fun of a friend for being “gay” because he doesn’t leave his house without a mask, I genuinely weep for my friend because I know the reason he is wearing a mask is because he has a critically ill family member at home, and the mockery he is receiving is stupid and stings.


But I also weep because still, STILL, in 2020, people are using the word “gay,” or worse, as a slander, an insult. They mean it as a way of saying someone isn’t “manly” enough, whatever the hell that means. They mock not only the person they are insulting, but also an entire group of marginalized people whose sexual identities and gender identities are STILL not allowed to exist out in the open for fear that they will be hurt – physically, mentally, emotionally, and more.


Our country is broken and so is my brain.


So I began writing this blog because, even though I do not know what to say, I feel like I have to try. I hope that someone reading this will go to one of the websites I mentioned and do something to improve the world. That is one way bipolar OCD empath me feels like he can help.


But I cannot, just simply can NOT, continue to have Facebook or other social media do the kind of mental damage to me that they have been doing for so long.


I deleted my Twitter account, and immediately felt relief. There is nothing on there I cannot find elsewhere, and I am sure my enormous following of 93 people can learn about me elsewhere too.


I shut down my Instagram. I did so days ago, and I have not wondered once, not even as I am writing this, what news I may have missed by doing so.


Facebook was my first social media account, and will likely be my last. For aforementioned reasons, I do need to keep that account. But I need a solution for how to manage it.


I have created one, and here it is. This is a solution made for me, by me, in an effort to help me. If you can see yourself in this, if you can find something useful, then I hope it helps you. I give it to you, with my blessings. Let’s both put it to good use.


How to keep Facebook and my sanity, a lesson in ten parts:


1. Limit my time on Facebook to TEN minutes a day. That is plenty of time to see, like, and comment on the picture of my cousin’s baby throwing up, to see the skyline of Copenhagen at sunset, to read a joke from my sister, and to see the latest meme from my daughter, who likely already showed me that meme in person.



2. Download the app “Freedom.” Program it to block Facebook every single day with the exception of only those TEN minutes. (Have done so. Love it.)


3. Go through my list of groups I am part of or pages that I follow, and LEAVE/UNFOLLOW any one of them that causes me to have PTSD, grief, anger, or any other negative empathetic reactions. It may be difficult, but it is necessary.


4. Set my feed to have my family and closest friends be the first things that I see.


5. At the end of my ten minutes, do deep breathing for 2-5 minutes, just to make sure I am calm and centered.


6. Actions speak louder than Facebook posts. If all I am doing is showing folks on social media what a good person I am, then am I really a good person? So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men..” Matthew 6:2 Therefore – Go to www.whiteaccomplices.org and do one thing, every single day if you can, to help the fight against racial injustices. Or if the daily calling is to help LGBTQIA, or immigrants, or rape victims, or worker rights, or voter’s rights, … Get the idea? Do the good deed. Do not post a damn thing about it, for verily I say unto thee, the folks that post-eth all of their good deeds-eth have had their reward-eth. Part of my own mental health issues are resolved when I ACT on what is needed rather than just reading or talking about it, and doing something meaningful without posting one single word is cathartic and comforting on a level that bragging about it could never reach.


7. Immediately after doing so, 2-5 minutes of deep breathing again.


8. Call my friends and family who are suffering – POC, LGBTQIA+, Fellow Mental Illness sufferers, or just someone I love who needs me. Tell them I love them and am here if they need or want to talk. Ask NOTHING of them. If they are POC, especially do not EVER ask them to help me figure out “what to do.” It is up to me to figure that out, not them. (Followed by the breathing).


9. And if those hurting folk don’t want to talk, remember – IT IS NOT ABOUT ME. Give them the space and time they need. They know I love them, and they will reach back out to me when they are ready. (Breathe).


10. Lastly, every single day, count my blessings. I have a beautiful, caring bride. I have two brilliant, kind, loving children. I have all of my needs met – food, shelter, clothing, and more. Deep breaths. Know that I am loved.


Know that you are loved too, my friend. If you are reading this, there is a damn good chance that you are loved by me personally! 😊 And doesn’t that make me the lucky one?


And if TL;DR, then here: “Do good things. Don’t post about it. Love you.”


With a hug,

jeotte

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