Sleep (Or Lack Thereof) In The Time Of Social Media

It’s 2:05 a.m. on Sunday night and I’m wide awake. My emotions flit from helplessness, elation, fear frustration, anger, guilt and envy in mere nanoseconds. This week is going to be awful, I just know it, all because I can’t shut down. In an attempt to be productive in my sleepless state (it’s possible this Type-A compulsion is part of the reason for my current problem) I figured I’d at least document what I’ve been doing in these insomnia-ridden hours.

Sleep for me starts with a phone (or iPad or computer, whatever is on hand and fully charged). I peel back the covers and settle down the space where stuffed animals and a blanky once kept me comfort as a child. The space is now filled with an array of gadgets. I set my alarm. I gingerly sleep next to them, awaking at any sound with the fear that my iPad has slid off the bed and shattered into a million useless pieces.

Technology has become a habitual presence in my nighttime pattern, like brushing my teeth or filling up a glass of water. I can’t remember a night where I fell asleep without cuddling up to my phone first. Reading settles me. Games distract me. Planning and organizing soothes me. There’s nothing as satisfying as knowing everything that’s going on. Though I spend my days at work as a blogger scanning the far reaches of the internet, I also spend my nighttime hours doing essentially the same. I’m searching for something else during these hours, I’m just not sure what it is yet. Randomly generated content takes my mind off other things.

This is seriously inconvenient. I have a million things to do when I wake up. Let’s take stock: No. 1, I have to find my checkbook, it’s almost the end of the month and I need to pay my rent somehow. Why hasn’t my landlady moved into the 21st century? I can’t believe I need a book of papers in this day and age…I’m getting sidetracked. No. 2, take the trash out on the way to work. Seriously, you’re going to be sad when you come home to the scent of rotting fish skin that’s been stewing in an overheated apartment all day long. You know what? You won’t remember this, just set a reminder in your phone…

What was I doing, and how am I now looking at photos of Mindy Kaling’s Thanksgiving vacation in Hawaii? It’s like waking up from a trauma, a blackout of my senses when I realize what I’m doing. Alright, might as well see what everyone else is up to. No photos in the feed that I didn’t see an hour ago, but I’ll refresh just one more time. OK, let’s see what’s going on in the world, Buzzfeed! Read it, read it, read it, read it. Oh this is new! Ugh video. If this isn’t apathy I don’t know what is. Read it, read it, read it. Really? No Facebook or Twitter notifications? I thought everyone was going to love my latest GIF round up.

Ok, I’ll write. Blank screen, blank screen, two letters, erase, two letters, erase. I wonder if what I’m about to write will make me famous someday… maybe I could write the next “Harry Potter!” This is going to be great and it will make an epic and inspiring story for struggling writers everywhere. I can see the opening lines to my Lifetime Original Movie biopic now: “It all started with a few sentences written in the iPhone notes app at 2:00 a.m.” All creative geniuses suffer insomnia for their work, right? OK, let’s get started, just put words on paper (phone). Just let it flow. “Once upon a time” …this isn’t working.

It’s cyclical. I stare out into the darkness willing my eyelids to get heavy. They don’t, so without even turning to look I grab for the nightstand, the faint glow of the dimmed screen drawing me in. I reach for my ever-dependable companion.

Paul Walker is dead. Amazon delivers with drones. Drones. Benghazi. Syria. Boots. Blouses. Obamacare. Kardashian Khristmas card. Pug puppies. My bank account.

Boundless information consumed without a filter or classification. It’s easily forgotten. I can tell you half-facts in the morning.

My eyelids start to tremble so I lock the screen (off is never an option) and lay flat with my arms to my sides like a Disney princess in a magical drugged sleep, impatient, yet still. I hope upon hope this will be the time that I actually do it, sink into a deep sleep and don’t rise until I’ve snoozed my alarm at least three times. The Prince Charming I eagerly await is somnolence. My phone is still clutched in my palm, wouldn’t want to expend the energy to reach over and put it down and risk waking myself up.

False alarm.

Once again my phone levitates five inches from my face. After a time, the feelings turn darker. Facebook posts from near strangers trigger memories and guilt (from feeling bad for leaving a few minutes early from work while others were toiling away on a project to reminders that I haven’t called my grandparents in far too long). Endless familiar faces fly by. There’s overwhelming guilt and regret at this hour. FOMO sets in. Impassioned emails are started and discarded and imaginary conversations ebb and flow. Text messages are sent to a sleeping audience. It’s almost 4 a.m.

This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

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I know I’m not alone. Living in the close quarters of NYC from my bed I can see into the homes and lives of those around me. That’s what social media is: endless open windows with the lights on at night. One by one the lights go out. Even if I have just a small glimpse into their windows, I know without seeing that thumbs lazily flick screens with eyes scanning over information that’s already been consumed or ignored by millions of others.

The night goes on. The faint backlight doesn’t waiver.

Ask me if I have a problem.

I’ll tell you I do. I pick my lips when I’m nervous. I pull split ends when I’m restless.

I wake up. It’s the alarm. The metallic clang that comes preset on the phone. I reach to stop it, but I don’t let go. Open email, check my calendar, to know the things I missed in my unplugged hours. There’s something to be said about keeping a routine.

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Tweet us your thoughts @litdarling.

Simone
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