I wrote in my previous post about the rational arguments as to why I’m quitting social media. What I intentionally omitted to mention was that I would also be ceasing any form of social contact for an undetermined period of time. As such, the change of wording in the title, from “social media” to “social contact”, is neither accidental nor overstated. Allow me to explain.
I’ve identified myself as an introvert for as long as I’ve known what the word meant. Starting in 6th grade, I believed that I would always be more comfortable when I would have only myself for company, free from the constraints of others’ demands or wants and free to explore whatever my heart sought after. Over the next few years, I sunk my time into video games, books and online chatrooms with the same enthusiasm as others my age would invest in going out and other, more social hobbies.
By the time I finished high-school, I had resigned myself to being somebody who would never enjoy the benefits of a large social circle; I cherished the few friends I had, and that was that. I wouldn’t go seeking new people because I didn’t believe I could connect with somebody more than I had already done.
The problem with this kind of thinking, of course, is that I never experimented. I didn’t actively befriend more people because I didn’t really know what the previously mentioned benefits were and thus underestimated them.
That changed during my university years. Joining a large student NGO meant that not only did I have a large pool from which to acquaint myself with others, but also that they have been selected to have the same kind of ideals and objectives like myself, something high-school and even the university I attended weren’t able to do. Over the next three years I found myself developing relationships with a myriad of people that I felt more connected to than ever before.
Throughout the past 8 years or so, I would periodically sink into pits of depression. They would last anywhere from a week to more than two months and would come around anywhere from two to four times a year. Some would come and go like clockwork, in a certain period and with a certain weight to their blow, others would dig deep down and change me. Change my views, my opinions, my values and, always, my sense of self-worth.
Slowly, I became a recluse. I started relying only on myself.
It has taken me the better part of my life to realize what drove me into them, what stood at their root, and it’s only been this autumn that I realized the festering cause: lack of social contact. Having no friends to interact with, nobody to have a decent or maybe meaningful conversation with, had been eating away at my mental health every year.
Slowly, I became a recluse. I started relying only on myself. I integrated an unhealthy amount of sarcasm into my sense of humour. Apathy began taking the place of empathy. I satisfied myself with transitory, ephemeral relationships through virtual mediums. Having friends I could activate only when I wanted to gave me a sense of power, as if I felt I could control the contact between us so I would draw only the benefits and suffer none of the downsides of what nurturing a friendship actually entailed. I put up walls so tall the sun wouldn’t shine on my side.
Later on, I would become excessively proud of my own independence. I would ask nobody for help, because I believed that having the strength to endure whatever life throws at you is a critical quality a man must possess. These days, I’m not so sure. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure of almost anything now - I became an agnostic sometime ago. Ultimately, the consequences of this type of independent thinking led me to turn into a solipsist, that is, if I can only be absolutely certain of the existence of my own conscience, then logically that means I’m the only conscious entity that does exist – until proven otherwise, of course.
The other logical conclusion I took was that the discovery of the cause of my depressions, meaning the lack of social contact, meant that I wasn’t an introvert – I was actually an extrovert. Interaction with other people made me happy and it carried positive results: over the past three years, my depressions were fewer, more shallow and they lasted less.
So why on Earth, after realizing all this, would I voluntarily choose to isolate myself?
I’ve mentioned previously that both the volume and the quality of relationships I have been a part of since entering university has overall been higher than the ones I entertained until then. I’ve found that the feeling of being connected, of sharing the same prospects, values or interests with somebody, has been stronger and more prevalent.
But why, then, if I had solved the issue and had (arguable) success with it, did I keep falling into depressions?
I realized that my proposed solution was incomplete, or rather, it required an addition that changed it enough that it required viewing from another angle. It wasn’t only the lack of social contact that sent me spiraling, it was the lack of what I considered high-quality social contact, which meant that I not only sought to feel connected with somebody, but to have someone with whom I could feel comfortable tearing down all the walls I put up and admitting I’m human – something that most of you reading this would think is difficult, but attainable. For me, it means giving up everything I’ve worked on for half my life.
I grew up with an old-school mentality on many things, and the old-school dictates that men don’t complain.
That kind of connection is something I don’t expect to find in a friend or even a best friend. I’ve tried finding it in romantic relationships, but somewhere down the line I realized that it was expected of me to fill either the role of ‘rock in the storm’ or ‘wise counsellor’; sometimes I would fill it voluntarily.
I grew up with an old-school mentality on many things, and the old-school dictates that men don’t complain, they don’t admit to being or feeling vulnerable, and they sure as hell don’t talk about their insecurities or mental health.
The conclusion I eventually arrived at is that until I found somebody with whom I could mentally strip down naked in front of, nothing was going to change. Basically, the reason I haven’t escaped my recurrent sinks is that, and I’m laughing as I’m writing this because of the absolute-fucking-ridiculousness of how this sounds like coming from me, the reason is that I haven’t fallen in love.
I can’t force something like that to happen. I can look for it, ask for it, beg for it even, but if I’ve learned anything from all the testimonials I’ve listened to and the literature and cinematography dedicated to it, is that it has a mind of its own. The result is that until it somehow magically and miraculously happens, I’m stuck with feeling down.
I’m not okay with that. The perspective of going in and out of depressions doesn’t exactly tickle me jolly. It may take anywhere from a year to 20 years to never until that certain someone comes up, which is altogether too much.
That means I need to buckle up and enjoy the ride, and the only way I can learn to enjoy it is by becoming comfortable with who I am and with my own company. In turn, achieving that entails spending more time with myself and with my thoughts.
I don’t expect it to be pretty. This isn’t going to be like taking a little vacation up in the mountains to smell the fresh air and pick daisies. I’m still going to go through daily life: working (remotely), paying the bills, buying groceries and learning, but I won’t have any of the support systems I’ve developed to help pick me up when I’m down, because I intend to go down.
The purpose is to climb out of this journey feeling at peace with myself.
Basically, the only way out of this cycle is going as deep as I can into a depression, because that’s when my self-analysis is firing at full capacity and when I can become as jaded as possible for the most objective possible viewpoint. I call this process “seeking the abyss”.
I have no intentions of harming myself. I’ve gone through this enough times that I know when I’m not thinking clearly. Just as well, my personal views on life, along with the solipsistic mentality I’ve talked about, make me enjoy life and have me excited for both future opportunities and experiences as well as the future itself.
The purpose is to climb out of this journey feeling at peace with myself. It’s a process a lot of people go through, some earlier, some later than others. I will be neither the first nor the last to embark on it, but nonetheless it’s something I have to do, and I’m determined to seeing it through.
Out of respect, I won’t jump into this cold turkey. January will act as a buffer month for easing into rhythm, and will allow me to meet up with everybody I would like and everybody who wishes to talk to me before I start this. It will offer me enough time to get as organized as I can with the logistics behind everything and to slowly withdraw myself. Likewise, I have one last responsibility of hosting a design workshop in early February which I’ve planned a few months back, and that’ll be it.
I have no idea how long this will last; I’m estimating anywhere from 4 months to a year. It’s a sufficiently complex process with a vague enough conclusion that I can’t make any promises of when I’ll be back. To be honest, it’s going to take a lot just to figure out how I’m going to know that the journey is complete.
As to the effects on current relationships with my friends, I trust they’ll understand why this is important to me. I don’t expect to return to the same situation as before, because inevitably both they and I will change over the course of the following months, but as one author puts it, “I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.”
Until then, thank you – it’s been fun.