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Surviving the internet in lockdown 2.0

By October 10, 2020No Comments

There’s only one way past it, and that’s through it. Make friends with the mute, block and unfollow buttons, says Louise Bruton, and it’ll make your life somewhat easier…


It’s 2am and the glare from your phone is underlighting your face so much that you look like the last survivor in the Blair Witch Project. There’s so much horror to digest at that hour that, well, maybe you are. We absorb what we scroll. We take it in – the good, the bad and the ugly – and it moves around in us, reappearing in opinions that we didn’t realise were so bristled and in backs that we didn’t realise were so firmly up against the wall. 

We have probably never been so attached to our screens as we are now. Video calling friends we haven’t seen since March. Waiting for Gavan Reilly or Richard Chambers to translate whatever muddled message the government is trying to send out. Watching stories where people overstate  that they’re not breaking any rules – “socially distanced, of course!!!” – and learning that some people just don’t care about the rules at all. They really do not care. 

Each update comes with a new sense of dread because we are just waiting now. Waiting for this whole thing to tide over. Waiting for numbers to drop. Waiting for a Christmas that we will dutifully make as warm as possible, no matter who we’re with or where we are. 

We don’t want to be here but here is where we are; our phones held closer, looking for the answer or looking for an escape. Our brains are riddled as we live with one foot in our screaming reality and the other in the unforgiving online world.  Things are bad but it doesn’t have to be so bad. 

To survive life, we need to learn how to survive online. The two are interlinked now. I’m sorry. We handed over the keys the first time we created an online account.

We’ve gone so far that it’s impossible to log off but we can curate our feeds so that the hyperbole doesn’t eat us alive. And it’s nibbling. Always nibbling. 

When it all gets too loud, there is an option to walk into a different room where kittens are cute and French synth-pop plays. When house parties were a legal thing and consisted of more than six people, you didn’t have to stay sitting next to the loudest person or engage with the bore who insists on playing devil’s advocate as you pass the dip. 

To survive online, you learn how to mute, you choose to unfollow and you know when to close the tab. 

Mute the humble braggers. They’re only looking out for themselves. You work just as hard as they do. They’re only playing the underdog because they’re still unsure of their worth. 

Mute the misery guts who refuses to stay anywhere but down. We are all going experiencing varying levels of headfuckery and sad tweets can sometimes prolong the feeling, weirdly turning it into an online brand or currency. Cathartic as it is to tweet anger, sadness, frustration and rejection, sometimes screaming your feelings into the abyss of the internet means that they have nowhere to land. Find a proper landing pad in a friend or a professional. And, honestly, this is the year to go to therapy. If you keep returning to the abyss, maybe it’s time to make a different kind of appointment.

Mute the people who give you a daily pain in the head and then return when they’ve re-centred themselves. We are all going through it but we don’t have to experience every groan and bowel movement of the people in our online circle. 

Unfollower influencers who are selling you products you do not need. We’re in so deep now that humans are now walking billboards and you probably don’t need to see them unboxing another freebie that they don’t even use. We know that capitalism is bad but we didn’t know it would get to the point where we needed the #gifted or #ad tags to tell us what’s real and what’s fake. 

Unfollow your exes. Unfollow the people who have ghosted you. Unfollow the people from school who got married and you felt nothing when they posted their engagement pics. Unfollow the people you went to college with who you wouldn’t even stop to say hi to on the street. Unfollow that person you met at a festival three year ago whose updates you have to double check because you think that they might be racist. Spoiler: if you have to assess if someone is racist, sexist, ableist, classist, transphobic, they usually are. 

Unfollow Madonna. Her online brand is ruining her legacy. Unfollow Kanye. People retweet him into your feed enough as it is.  Unfollow anyone who posts screengrabs from accounts you’ve blocked. Speaking of which, if you haven’t blocked J.K Rowling, now is the time. Unfollow anyone who blindly signs a petition supporting her. Actually, maybe you can block them too. Nothing good can come from their lack of empathy. 

Blocking is ultimate but soft blocking is self care. You have every right to choose who sees your account. In fact, maybe you should even go private. There’s freedom in adjusting that lock. When you’re on private, you don’t have to perform. And we’re tired of putting on a show. Maybe we’re even more exhausted from watching so many people performing at once. 

We lose time online. If you scroll past the same joke retold in multiple ways or the same outrage presented in different formats, you’ve overstayed your welcome. There’s nothing new to learn here. If you’ve watched the cycle go from good announcement to backlash and then onto backlash to the backlash, you’ve aged ten years and it’s only Tuesday.

We live in the internet, but move around. Stretch your legs. Don’t get stuck. Don’t get absorbed. Hit that X and breathe.

Photo by Oleg Magni on Unsplash