March 09, 2019

Why Marie Kondo’ing Your Online Life Isn’t The Answer

I often hear people say that social media ‘isn’t real life’. I suppose that is true in that it doesn’t represent the real world visually a lot of the time (who knows how many apps are used to edit, or how many laundry baskets are just out of sight) but the time we spend on it, using it, engaging with it? That is our real life now.

This is life; it is us. If you are being a troll online, you are being a troll in real life. And vice versa. I guess that can be a slightly depressing thought — that this is our lives — that we spend so much of our lives tapping on a screen. According to Ofcom, we now spend the equivalent of one full day per week on our phones (I reckon I spend more, sadly). No wonder a lot of us appear to be going through an uncomfortable phase of reframing our need for it and reminding ourselves not only why we use it, but how.

There appears to be new trend, offline and online, to “Marie Kondo” one’s life. An aim to gain some more control over our stressful, overwhelmed, overloaded modern lives. We should get rid of the things that do not spark joy, apparently. I am very much a fan of this life hack when it comes to removing mouldy socks from under the bed (they certainly do not spark joy) but can they same truly be done for our online lives? I mean, of course we should block or mute or delete things that are truly triggering . Or cause us any pain. For sure. My life has vastly improved the day I deleted someone toxic from social media.

But removing every little thing that offends us or makes us feel slightly anxious or envious? I’m not sure that’s helpful in the long run. I have been told many times to unfollow anyone who makes me feel less than, but sometimes I feel like that is just sweeping all my issues under the carpet. That Kondo trick only makes me feel like I’m avoiding the truth of the world, the issues we must look at, and the truth of my insecurities. ‘Out of sight out of mind’ isn’t that useful if you want to engage in the real world, make some change and accept the imperfections of the world.

Perhaps social media, like life, cannot always make you happy. Perhaps there is no magic wand.

Life in 3D is messy, unpredictable and chaotic. We can try our best to minimize the bad things that enter into our lives, but ultimately we can’t totally stop it or control it. Small and big things that don’t ‘spark joy’ come into our lives daily: an annoying housemate; the sexist man in the pub; the state of British politics; the argument with a friend; the rude stranger on the bus; the person running to a meeting and spills hot coffee on you. Without sounding too hippy-ish, we can only learn how to react and deal with these things when life goes a bit wrong. We cannot just snip all the bad things out of life by using a #blessed hashtag.

I personally don’t want to always live in a make-believe Internet bubble of my own choosing.

A well-known influencer recently stated she was unfollowing anyone who doesn’t make her happy, sticking to only following other people who look and sound exactly like her. Each to their own, but is it just me who wants to sometimes step outside of my comfort zone online? To feel other emotions aside from just constant justification, affirmation and validation? I am making a conscious effort to follow a range of activists who often make me feel uncomfortable and often angry or on edge. I remember reading the book ‘The Positive Power of Negative Emotions’, and it made me realize the power of so-called negative emotion — they can be useful. Envy can often motivate you to self-improvement, sadness can often be you feeling empathy for other people’s situation. Perhaps happiness isn’t the only goal we should be chasing, and perhaps it’s impossible be sparking joy 100% of the time. Happiness for me is often a fleeting emotion. The quieter smaller, less Instagrammable moments can be rare and beautiful, and I’m okay with that.

One of my favourite New York Times writers Ruth Whippman wrote a book called The Pursuit Of Happiness on how (ironically) our undying quest for happiness can often leave us feeling more miserable. The concept of happiness is sold to us daily, after all it’s a billion dollar industry. We can’t trust what society says is supposed to make us happy — we have to do the work ourselves. Maybe unfollowing everything isn’t the answer, maybe we need to go a lot deeper than that and start facing up to our uncomfortable feelings, and be more open to exploring our full human range of emotions. Surely that’s #living.

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