The Great Unfollowing
I finished writing this post, ironically, as soon as Facebook and Instagram crashed.
Think about all of the tweets, facebook comments, instagram wars, politics, photoshopping, trolling, scamming, phishing, exploiting, bullying, filmed fist-fights that could have been stopped if the fuckers enjoying being the cinematographer would intervene, clout-chasing, DM sliding, memes, GIFs (this is how 75% of twitter communicates, I swear to God), calling-out, phoning-in (now you're reaching, you George Carlin imitator)... that have completely consumed your sanity for any given amount of time?
Speaking strictly for myself, I could probably eliminate 95% of the triggers I feel on a daily basis if I simply delete the social media apps on my phone. That's it. It's as simple as that. HOWEVER. If I don't have social media, I can't plug this here blog post, and I can't get my likes. I can't brag about being on FBI last week (catch it on demand and on the Paramount Plus app), or Blue Bloods this Friday at 10pm EST, and get my likes. I can't post photos of happy times when I'm feeling down, and get my likes. I can't plug my acting classes, and get my money. I can't post that screenshot of me on television, and get that casting director's attention. I can't check in on people I find to be idiots, and get my self-esteem boost.
Opening social media is like entering an echo chamber of, I don't even know how to properly describe it... a screaming fuckfest of a moldy cesspool of garbage thoughts and ideas where no one listens to each other and has to be righter and prettier and smarter than everyone else?
Jesus, I'm in a foul, generalizing mood today. Let's pause. I catered my soul away on Saturday night, spent all day Sunday laid-up on the couch, icing and recovering, then slept till 1pm today and could barely peel myself out of bed. Why? Because I was depressed. Why was I depressed? I don't fucking know. That's how depression works.
But I managed to slither over to this chair and start writing, so suck it, depression monster!!!
Anywho, today's blog post is about social media triggers.
I did a really unhealthy thing on Thursday night. Like most unhealthy things, it start out feeling really, really good. It scratched an itch. It provided a dopamine drip.
I did a mass-unfollowing on Instagram. It started out as just unfollowing accounts that haven't posted in a couple of years - lots of friends who created new profiles, or pages of web series and projects that the social media manager lost interest in updating. Then I moved onto pages that either pissed me off, or added nothing to my life.
If I'm being 100% truthful, my motivation wasn't to unclog my feed. It was to shrink my number of "followings", so my "follower" number looks juicier next to it. See? I'm everything I hate. Happy? Huh? Asshole? WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO JUDGE.
Sorry. Kidding. Thank you for reading.
So, yeah. I was doing that. I told myself I was doing one thing, while my unhealthy inner monsters snuck in through the back of the control room and took over the show.
Here's where things went to fuck:
For some reason (self-punishment), I decided to start checking to see if people, who I was on the fringe about, were still following me.
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, is this something I deeply regret. It started small - people I took improv classes with like ten years ago, comedians from that brief period where I did a few bringer stand-up shows and talked about my penis for eight minutes, stinking up the joint, people who I had no idea existed, actors who randomly followed me after a "hashtag working actor" rampage, etc. I was stunned by how many people weren't following me, even after I liked their stupid posts and "applauded" their instagram stories.
Wait, what the fuck?! Who else has unfollowed me?!?!
Ex-girlfriends? Wait, no... I've watched your baby grow up and I thought we were cool! You mean to tell me you haven't see me become a "that guy" on television?!! I was happy for you!!!
That actor I cast in my web series? Dude, no!!! I gave you one of your first acting gigs! You showed up to the film festival in a fancy dress and we had a blast on the step and repeat!
My friend from college, who showed up to support me in a play that one time, who I had a lovely conversation with afterwards, whose husband's hand I shook? I thought we reconnected! I know we never got that drink, but I was following your art and rooting for you!
What did I ever do to offend these people?!
I did this till about 3 in the morning. I found myself obsessively checking every profile on my feed. For every "following" list I didn't see myself on, I couldn't mash my finger on the "unfollow" button hard enough. I was in full-blown "well, fuck you too" mode. The next day, I drove to Target and sat in the parking lot, doing this for another twenty minutes before going inside.
Then, it got darker:
I started checking in on fellow artists - the ones who have achieved certain levels of fame and success - ones who, at some point, were my peers. People I've collaborated with. People I were really, really proud to know and have worked with. My friends. Scene partners in acting classes. People who, at one time in their careers, were willing to work on my stuff for free. Was I a casualty of their mass unfollowing - their showing off that they have more followers than pages their following?
And so, the "compare and despair, splashed-with-ego" spiral ensued:
Why did they keep this other fucker around, and not me?! I'm so much more talented than them! Who the fuck do you think you are to unfollow ME?!? I'm Chris Russell, god damnit!!! Did you just tolerate me when you were struggling?! Because we had mutual friends?! I championed you! I was so proud of you! I told glowing stories about our time together. YOU JUST GOT LUCKY. I CAN'T WAIT TILL I HIT YOUR LEVEL AND GO ON A TALK SHOW AND TELL THE WORLD THAT YOU FORGOT WHERE YOU CAME FROM. AND I CAN'T WAIT TO GO ON THE STEVE HARVEY SHOW AND AMBUSH HIM AND TELL HIS AUDIENCE THAT I WAITED ON HIM AND HE WAS REALLY MEAN TO ME SO FUCK HIM TOO.
I've been in therapy long enough to understand that a great deal of this is my projection. My projection that I I'm on two major network television shows this month, but still had to do a job I swore I'd never go back to, which put me on my back for an entire Sunday. My projection that I'm 37 and still haven't gotten to where they are. My envy is rooted in the disappointment I feel about the struggles I've had.
Does it hurt to feel left behind? Forgotten? Taken for granted? Of course it does. Is it true that all of these people who unfollowed me did so because they think I'm worthless, an asshole, or untalented? Of course not. Do I really feel all of those vitriolic things about those people? Absolutely not. They are some talented motherfuckers. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it was a misunderstanding. Maybe they aren't completely in charge of their social media pages. Maybe they have a good reason I don't know about. Maybe they really are an asshole. Maybe it's a mixture of all of the above. I wasn't always my best self, especially in my 20's. I very-well could have been a toxic person in their lives.
Hell, I deleted Facebook last year and made a new profile. How many people do you think reached out to me after the fact, thinking I unfriended them? Like 5. There's a good chance the rest of the people who saw my new profile and feel the same way about me as I do about the ones I just wrote about. And the truth is, I rarely, if ever, check the god damn thing. I don't have the time or energy to go back and find all my old Facebook friends.
I will make myself sick trying to figure it all out, so all I can do is make my peace with it. I can control what I can: how hard I work, how much I want it, and who I choose to surround myself with in the present.
Anyway, the moral of the story is social media is a dangerous place.
If you are struggling with your mental health, there is no shame in getting help:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.