Letter 31

January 30, 2020

On social media

It’s time for my scheduled annual spiral about social media—that lovely time of year when I wonder what I’m doing on Instagram and Twitter, what I’m trying to get out of it, what I should be posting, who I actually care about following, and what it all means. The cycle goes like this: I decide I want to spend less time feeling bad on social media, so I unfollow a bunch of accounts that aren’t contributing to my life in a meaningful way to clear up my feed and make it easier to less time scrolling and more time seeing only the content I care about; a week later, I get bored and decide I’m not getting enough out of social media, so I find and follow a bunch of new accounts that are exciting or inspiring to me in some way; then, the cycle continues. Maybe the trick is to make peace with this ebb and flow of being very online, instead of feeling weird and bad about it. Maybe the trick is just not overthinking it. For now, I still don’t really know what I’m doing and I still feel very conflicted about the way I use social media—but if I figure it out, I’ll let you know.


I’ve lived most of my life online. I found my first internet friends when I was 10, feeling alone, caring too much about too many things; I’m 22 now, and sort of the same. My friends are far away, my boyfriend is far away, my family is far away. I’ve loved so many people from such a distance. As social media becomes part of everyone’s social habits, inextricable from the “real world,” those friendships are stronger, but they’re intertwined with everything that sucks. I read about a shooting and wish my friend a happy birthday in the same thought; I read about my people fighting for their freedom and see others celebrating a game before I finish the headline. I never want to be an old man shouting at a cloud. We can all care about so, so many things, and that is how I got here in the first place. I never want to dismiss the lifesaving connections social media has brought me. I don’t know how to navigate my escapism collapsing into what I escape from, even though it’s been happening for years—even more, I don’t know how to deal with the fact that I don’t want to escape anymore. I want to know. I don’t want distance. From anyone, from anything.


We recommend

📖 Reconstructions by Bradley Trumpfheller

My friend has a chapbook and it’s one of the most stunning things you will read in 2020. (I don’t care that it’s only January!) Bradley is ridiculously talented. Each of their poems just feels in love with the medium, in love with the page, trying to run off of it—there’s an elegance to the weight of just how impressive their work is. I read it on a plane & studied it for hours after. It deserves so, so much attention. You can buy Reconstructions on the Sibling Rivalry Press website!


📖 How To Do Nothing

I think everyone should be required to read this book, full stop. I highlighted lines on nearly every page, but here is a favorite, from the introduction, that will give you a sense of what this book is all about: “The point of doing nothing, as I define it, isn’t to return to work refreshed and ready to be more productive, but rather to question what we currently perceive as productive.” This is not just a book about birdwatching and quitting Facebook—it is a book about collective action and shared public spaces and attention and art and community. If you’ve read it, DM me so we can talk. If you haven’t, you need to fix that.


📺 High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

When the trailer dropped for this show, all I could think was this is for me. I’m a survivor of the Glee fandom (as is Jillian), and yes! It did warp my brain! I am hungry for disaster surrounded by a song (this explains why I can’t stop thinking about CATS (2019), too)! I wanted this show to be like Riverdale, or Nancy Drew, just absurd and a good time and makes you think wait, am I so irony-poisoned that I’ve turned this into my favorite show? BUT! TWIST! This show is actually fucking great! No irony! Full seriousness! It holds all of the camp and cradles it, it acknowledges its predecessors (HSM as much as Glee as much as all other teen comedies), and does so, so good by its teens. Basically everyone gets complexity, everyone gets a full life, they are kind, they are mean, and they are jealous, but never cartoonishly or destructively. They sing well but it doesn’t feel like, oh ok cool we love 30-year-old Broadway veterans. There are characters of color, there are queer characters (QPOC, even!) There’s a Palestinian flag! Just! In the background of a scene? Yes, reader, I cried! Watch it on Disney+, my reluctant ally.


📺 Shrill

I looked through our archives to see if we had already mentioned this show, because I was sure we had—but somehow, no! Which is a problem, because this show is brilliant and funny and makes me feel so good. The second season just came out on Hulu, and we are all so lucky.