Hacking my addictive personality to become a better writer.
Hi, my name is Jonty and I’m addicted to TikTok. So much so that yesterday I deleted the app entirely… for the third time.
It wasn’t like this with other apps. I would occasionally enter a scroll trance on Instagram for sure, but never to the point of looking at my phone and seeing that somehow three hours had been swallowed up by a suspiciously accurate algorithm that knows what I’m into on an eerily deep level. Why yes I would like to watch a man and his dog hike to a cabin to cook nachos and watch The Goonies, thank you algorithm! According to TikTok I yearn to be some kind of renaissance outdoorsman with a penchant for salty snacks and nostalgia and, I mean, aside from my preferred tent style being an immaculately considered AirBnB, they’re not wrong which is probably why my fear is so real.
The issue came with the rush of dopamine I would feel on seeing a video that made me feel heard, understood and entertained at the same time. I know I’m not alone in the “one more swipe up and I’m done” dilemma. As an adult I struggle with friendships and to suddenly be met with a feeling of understanding from a stranger makes you feel like you’re part of some secret society, which in itself is not a negative thing but coupled with the ease of use and an absolute tidal wave of content it’s a recipe for disaster for someone of my constitution. Suddenly you’ve gone from longing for friendship to having hundreds of people talking directly to you about your favourite things. And honestly, I really do know that the issue here is not entirely inherent to the format and is more about my lack of discipline and being able to say ‘no’ to that temptation to just enter the scroll zone. I also don’t think that TikTok is going to stay deleted for very long, it was a bratty act that made me feel a sliver of what I can imagine someone throwing their phone into the ocean would feel like; liberating and terrifying. The tiny act of rebellion in deleting an app I’ve been spending too much time on is exceedingly mild, but I’d like to reevaluate my relationship with my phone and what level of content I am comfortable consuming before my brain turns to putty, something I fear has very much already begun to happen.
I tried Screen Time, which if you don’t know it’s essentially a time cop for your phone that narcs on you if you go over a specified time limit on an app. To be honest all this did was remove any enjoyment I’d originally had because instead of being immersed in the content I’d be thinking “ugh, how long to go before I get sold out? How long before my phone dobs me in and let’s me know I’ve been naughty”, but it certainly didn’t stop me from scrolling, I’d just do it more defiantly. And then I thought to myself “but Jonty, there are other apps to get addicted to! Productive, smart person apps!”, which I know is akin to a drug addict saying they’re no longer doing ketamine and have opted for opioids instead but this is MY digital crisis thank you very much! So that brings us to the now, to me typing this and thinking to myself, this is it, this will straighten me out. A nice productive writing habit, and that’s okay isn’t it? To convert one addiction and funnel it more positively?
I’m telling myself yes. And you’re all along for the ride.
My hope is to utilise that same part of my brain that screams at me to continue scrolling in the pursuit of droplets of happy juice, and to instead use it to interact with a community of writers and people also looking to put a closer lens to their consumption of media and to develop a healthier relationship with my phone. I don’t want to stop eating digital junk food, but I’d like to get to a place where I can actually objectively see my online diet and give my brain the nutrients it actually needs, which I know sounds very YouTube-bro Personal Development-y, but I honestly don’t know another way to put it. I’m not out here waking up at five in the morning to meditate and take cold showers or anything, while that seems to be working wonders for minimalism hucksters at the moment I like my sleep, and my showers steamy. I just think that we can look at our pop culture habits the same way people giving Ted Talks look at micro-dosing and breathing exercises.
They say stick to what you know so my wheelhouse is general geekery, pop culture and video games. Give me a nice discussion on how Robert Pattinson will actually most likely be the best portrayal of Batman we’ve seen, how people forget that he’s actually supposed to be the world’s greatest detective and that the focus has always been on the villains and the portrayal of Mr. Wayne has always been secondary to his nemesis. But I’m also interested in seeing how we can use the content that we choose to fill our lives with to our benefit, how the right movie can point us in a new direction, how the right game can ease our anxiety and how music can be a far better mindfulness tool than a meditation app. So while I may be a self confessed content glutton I’d like to think I indulge with intentionality, and that I can use Medium as a way of exploring with you how the media that surrounds us affects us and whether or not, in an age where anxiety and depression has never been more prevalent (or at least discussed so openly) can be of benefit, and where it falls short.
If that seems like something you’re into then, please, hang out a while.