Monday, 25 June 2018

Twitter, escapism, mental health and ponies

Some of you may follow, or at least occasionally glance at, my Twitter account: @louderyay. Not everyone now realises this, but I actually set that up in April 2013 specifically to go with this blog and intended it to be mostly used for MLP stuff. That's why the names match! This is relevant to what follows.

Last weekend, I took a semi-holiday from Twitter. By that I mean that I didn't avoid it altogether, but that I used it only for a few things – updates on the Worcester ponymeet on Saturday, talking about a walk I took, etc. I took a conscious decision not to post anything really serious for those two days.

And it helped. It helped a lot. It also made me think about some changes I need to make.

This is a long post, so I'll put it under a break, but I hope at least some of you will feel like reading it. If you do, comments are open, but please read all of this post before you make them.

As some of you know, I have social anxiety (SA). This is a mental health condition that is distinct from simple shyness. I wrote about it at some length on my Dreamwidth blog, and the posts are public, so please feel free to read. There are three of them: part one, part two and a conventions special.

One thing that makes my SA worse is feeling bombarded by anger. Now, I want to make very clear that there are plenty of things to be angry about in politics right now, and I don't want people to stop fighting for what they believe is good and right. But that doesn't mean it has to be done everywhere, all the time.

Think back to World War II. In 1939, the British government closed down cinemas, theatres etc for fear of bombings. It was immensely unpopular and was swiftly reversed. Why? Because even during a literal life-or-death struggle against the original Nazis, people needed escapism. The same is true today.

This is where the ponies come in. My Little Pony is my escape from the bad things in the world. Not my only one, but the one that's relevant here. As such, I've come to the conclusion that I need to make my Twitter account (an account, remember, set up because of ponies) a proper haven. And that means some change.

I cannot cope any longer with accounts that are 99% angry political activism and 1% pastel ponies. It is not exaggeration to say that the constant bombardment of anger is a threat to my mental health. Yes, I have talked to a doctor about this, albeit in more general terms, and they also feel the stress is something I should act to limit.

If your response is, "The political stuff is important!" then I agree. If you go on to say, "You're shirking your responsibility!" then I don't. Why? Because @louderyay is not my entire life. It's not even my entire online life. If you read my Twitter and assume I don't have and express strong political views myself, then you are just plain wrong.

As I said myself in a slightly frustrated tweet the other day, judging someone's entire life and interests by what they post on Twitter is like judging their entire health and well-being by what they eat for breakfast. It gives a window into their world but it's a long way from being the complete picture of their life.

There's also the factor that Twitter is a truly, truly awful platform for thoughtful debate. Even with 280 characters, it requires a highly compressed style that doesn't allow room for any nuance. You end up with "Conservatives are Nazis" versus "Leftists are mentally ill" and I am simply not prepared to play that game.

So, what does this mean for my @louderyay Twitter? Mainly that it will go back to being what it used to be: a largely Pony account with some stuff about my other interests (trains, cricket, weather, etc) but very little in the way of political stuff. I don't promise none at all, but it will be significantly rarer than now.

Related to this, I will be unfollowing a number of other Twitter accounts, either because they are little but angry political activism or simply because their owners have moved on to interests that I don't share. (For example, if you used to post ponies but your timeline is now 99% about wrestling, we really have nothing in common any more.)

The other reason I might unfollow you, or not follow you in the first place even if your account is heavily ponified, is that you post NSFW art etc more than extremely occasionally. It doesn't offend me, I just don't especially want to see it on my timeline. To be clear: things like discussions of sexuality and gender are not NSFW.

Finally, I'm not American. While a fair bit of US politics is of interest to me, a good deal of it isn't directly relevant or deals with people, places and things I know nothing about. It seems fairly pointless for me to keep reading accounts that mostly post about things I don't get and don't really need to get.

I intend to maintain @louderyay as a public account, and I don't intend to block people I unfollow, so they will still be able to comment on my tweets. I also intend to leave comments on this blog as open as possible. I'll change this if I have to, eg if I start getting harassed, but I'd very much prefer not to.

I know I don't have to justify why I unfollow someone, just as nobody has to justify why they unfollow me. This won't be a hard-and-fast rule in any case – there are a few people who mostly write about other stuff who I still like to read. So take this mostly as reassurance that I'm not doing it because I dislike you.

There's also a non-zero possibility that I will press the wrong button and accidentally unfollow someone I didn't mean to. If we still interact a fair bit and are generally on good terms, then you're very welcome to let me know. I may well have made a mistake, and if so I'll be more than happy to correct it.

As for more serious MLP fandom issues? That's a good question, and I haven't yet decided how to approach that. Most likely is that I will post right here on Louder Yay, and maybe add a link to my post from @louderyay with a request to discuss it here. That approach has obvious flaws, but it's the best I can think of right now.

As I said, @louderyay is not my life, and indeed the MLP fandom as a whole is not my life. Far from it. It's unhealthy to let one interest consume your life, and I don't. If you'd like to read my thoughts and discuss with me on politics and other more serious things, I have a public Dreamwidth account that I intend to use more from now on.

I know this has been a long post, but I wanted to do the best I could to explain why I need to change how my @louderyay Twitter works, and why this doesn't mean I'm ignoring everything happening in the world. My SA is not something I can simply pretend doesn't exist, at least not without adverse consequences.

That's about it, I think. As I said, comments are open and I'm happy to answer questions. If you'd rather say something privately, you can do so through Twitter DMs if you have that option, or private messages through UK of Equestria or Fimfiction. Thank you very much for taking the time to read my lengthy ramblings!


  1. If you care about politics and activism, one of the best things you can do for yourself is have a haven away from it. Burnout is real.

    Also, I am exactly the same way. :B Like, exactly.

    1. Thank you. Yes, exactly.

      And yeah, the more I've talked to people, the more common I've come to think it is.

  2. This is an incredibly healthy attitude. I am very politically active in real life, but I hardly ever post anything online regarding politics because, aside from being an open invitation to abusive nut-jobs, it just doesn't achieve anything worthwhile.

    Escapism is necessary for good mental health. If where you go to escape becomes an environment for unpleasantness and contention, then it's not doing its job!

    1. Thank you too. It does seem to be social media, specifically, that's the problem for me. When I was first online in the late 1990s, I posted a lot in political groups on Usenet, and even that wasn't as unpleasant as Twitter has become.

      I'll try to keep people posted occasionally on how this is going, though the very early signs are promising. :)

    2. And I just saw this:

      Seemed appropriate.

  3. It's my turn now

    1. No. No, it is not "your turn now". This is a completely inappropriate reply to this particular post.

      My post is a long, detailed explanation of something that has caused me considerable unhappiness and stress over a long period of time, together with what I'm going to do to address it. I said comments were open, but that was so that anyone who wanted to say something about what I was doing, to suggest something else I could try, to ask questions, etc could do so. Present Perfect and iisaw get this.

      Comments on this post are absolutely not left open just so that you can shoe-horn in a 37,264th rant about the same bloody subject.

      You want to rant about the S6 finale every three seconds in your DA blog? Fine. It's your blog. I'm certainly not going to tell you what you should and shouldn't post over there. As long as you don't break DA rules, that's totally your choice.

      But I have absolutely zero interest in reading yet another rant about how "TWABA ... killed the brony fandom". I've seen more than enough. You know full well I don't agree with that point of view, so stop pushing it at me, please.

      You've posted some interesting stuff in comments here this year, especially about the more recent S8 episodes. That sort of comment is 100% fine. But if you go calling the fandom I love a "stupid fandom", don't expect me just to sit here and be okay with it.

      Your posts about "TWABA" are honest, but they're not generous, kind or friendly. Please keep them away from this blog from now on. I don't want to block you, but if you can't abide by my house rules on my blog, that is what will happen.

  4. I honestly think you've made the right decision, without a doubt. I used to post and share no end of political stuff on Twitter, LJ, Facebook... and frankly when I used to look back at those posts, it was depressing. Yes, I will still very occassionally put a political item on Twitter, if it's something very important or a glorious bit of satire. But otherwise no, not any more. As you said, and this is such a key factor here, we need escapism and fun and magic etc more than ever. Let's face it, the world isn't doing great at the moment, and although I'm 100% sure it'll figure itself out in the end, right now we need reminders that there *is* still good out there. Not constant reminders of Wotsit Bullyboy and that toad faced Brexit bloke.

    (Also, I'm tired of seeing people attempting to make a point about politics, and the other side - both of which are just as bad - starts demanding links to sources, evidence, and so on. I could ramble on at length about how that's a mind game designed to wear people down, but I can't be bothered. The point is, as you've said so many times before, people don't want to debate politics. They just want to bellow their opinion and then cover their ears.)

    Also, if a site or subject etc is grinding you down, it's not worth it. Without naming names, a friend used to keep leaving one particular art site for a few months, then he'd return, find himself taking a battering in the comments, and he'd leave again. And other people used to tell him to stop going on there if it was making him so unhappy. He just couldn't help himself and then regretted it every time. It just isn't worth it.

    So if you want to use Twitter to concentrate on a particular subject, absolutely nobody has any right to complain. It's your account, not theirs. If you want to dedicate it to talking about rare Australian marrows, or crowdfunding M&M supplies for the very needy, go for it. As for unfollowing, again it's your right to do so. I stopped following a whole bunch of political people because it was just tiring and a constant diet of depressing news.

    (Also, I stopped following a whole load of writers, famous bands, MLP voice actors and so on. I just didn't feel that I needed to see Tara Strong's political views or pictures of her rare cornflake collection. Her opinions on Trumpoid or the weather added not one jot to my life, and she wasn't following me in return. Not that any of them *would* have wondered why, or necessarily cared that I'd unfollowed, but nonetheless I don't feel the need to explain why to them. And I don't expect others to do the same with me either. If they unfollow, I unfollow them, wave goodbye and close the door.)

    Life is frankly just too darn short! :)

    1. Thank you very much. :) A lot of that speaks for itself, so to avoid a three-million-word ramble I'll just pick out a few things.

      right now we need reminders that there *is* still good out there

      Mmm, though sadly I sometimes slip in my ambition to post Fluttershy pictures at every hour of the day or night. ;)

      sources, evidence, and so on

      I think that depends. If someone says, "My local MP is pretty useless" then nope, no sources needed. Just accept it as a point of view. If they say, "Vaccinations kill people" then I'm most definitely going to ask for evidence, because that's too dangerous to go unchallenged. However, in many cases you can't fit the assessment of those sources in a tweet. Another reason I want to move that sort of thing to blogs.

      crowdfunding M&M supplies for the very needy

      *narrows eyes* For example, I'd need very detailed evidence of what "very needy" meant in this case, because I have serious suspicions. ;P

      I stopped following a whole load of writers, famous bands, MLP voice actors and so on.

      Yup, me too. Even if I agree with them, I just can't deal with reading [VA name] posting 30 times a day about their strong political views. I might be interested in other places, but not on my MLP/escapism/fun Twitter.

      Life is frankly just too darn short! :)

      Yep! And so far, I don't regret my decision one little bit. The only seriously political thing I've posted since has been the civil partnerships ruling. Otherwise it's ponies, fun, ponies, photos, ponies and trains. And ponies.

  5. I hope this pro-active approach to making things better works out well for you, and that it continues to do so :). I certainly won't complain about pictures of Fluttershy taking over Twitter. Although can we have some RD in there too? ;P

    In terms of unfollowing/unsubscribing from people or things, I often find it quite therapeutic, as if weight has been lifted from my shoulders. The act of coming to terms with no longer needing that thing in my life, feels like setting myself free I guess.

    1. Oh, there'll be some Dashie in there, don't worry about that. :) To a very mild extent, I'm giving each pony a spotlight month based on their appearances on the calendar I have. So it's Applejack next month, then Pinkie in August, Rarity in September, Rainbow in October, Twilight in November and Fluttershy rounding off the year.

      Obviously, nopony will squeeze out everyone else for her month, and there are also all the non-Mane Sixers to consider. Where would I be without pictures of Scoots and Tia? :o

      I hadn't really thought about unfollowing/unsubscribing in those terms – but now that you mention it, I can definitely see the point. It probably is the same for me, at least to some extent.

  6. I apologize For the journal I posted the other day Logan. I Write it in a state of anger and frustration. Just ignore it please (I already deleted it by the way)...

    1. Thank you for the apology. As for the rest... well, same as usual. You can say what you like (within the law and T&C) on your site. Over here, there are limits. If you accept that and stay within them, we'll get on fine. :)

  7. Hi! (Remember me?) I'm not as active as I used to be, but this post struck a chord. I made a decision to avoid making political posts on social media a while ago and I think I'm happier that way. I sometimes do get the temptation to engage in arguments, but having learned that it's usually more trouble than its worth, I manage to stop myself. You have the right to choose where to direct the limited time and attention you have, and it doesn't have to be what some algorithm vomits out for you.

    1. Hi there! Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. Thank you for that; I know of a number of people who've gone this route and not many of them seem to regret it. I don't think I do either -- in fact, I'm probably going to double down on it now.