What to Do When the Internet Is Making You Miserable

Is your phone on silent? Good.

Spend an extra ten (fifteen twenty thirty sixty) minutes in the shower and burn it all out of your body. Washing away stress is such a quaint description—scald off all the shit and the sludge and the slurs and the grime. Towel it away and put on your favorite outfit: the nostalgic t-shirt you stole from an ex-boyfriend turned yellow at the neckline, or those tacky “BYE HATER” sweatpants you bought for five dollars at Rainbow during a clearance sale. Or maybe a leather jacket, or that old team jersey. Wear what makes you feel like yourself and run your hands over the fabric, part armor part embrace. Remember that night you met your best friend? Remember that road trip to your new city? That was a good day. This is a good body to live in.

Take out the trash because that colony of flies is revolting and you’ve let it go way too long.

Go for a walk and leave your phone behind. Doesn’t matter if it’s an iPhone or an Android or a little flip bastard—leave anything that ties you to the outside world on your desk or your bedside table or your kitchen counter. Bring only your favorite music on an iPod without Internet capability, if you still own one. Bring that old Walkman that’s been collecting dust in your closet since the early 2000s. Or bring nothing but your keys and your brain, deeply in need of a break. Go outside and look at the trees and how old and beautiful they are. Watch airplanes dig white tracks in the sky and imagine where all those strangers are going, who they’re in love with, what job they’re struggling to improve. Try to remember what books you read when you were a little kid. Think about what you want to pack for that conference coming up and what you’ll give your family for the holidays. There is life offline, outside of the election, outside of activism, outside of WiFi range. Go visit that life for a while.

Attempt to cook something new. Embrace the fact that you will burn everything but pour over the ingredients list anyway. Pick up what you don’t have (fuck, you forgot eggs) at the corner bodega and chat with the owner who knows your name and teases you for not coming in for a while—you’ve been busy! Cook something that nurtures you, or at least makes you feel less guilty about eating cookies because you created those motherfuckers. The kitchen smells gorgeous and confusing and warm and different, at least. You are cooking in your home where you are safe and loved.

Binge that TV show you’ve been looking forward to. Close every other tab on your browser, shut all the doors and press play. Puzzle the ethical questions of another world. Fall a bit more in love with James Marsden and his perpetual Disney prince face.

Track down where you hid your cellphone and text your best friend. Ask her how her day was, yeah yeah, you saw, fucking terrible right? Make fun of your ex together. Ask her if she remembers that night you drank Corona tallboys in the bathtub because the hotel pool was closed. Ask her what color you should paint your nails. Tell her you love her. Ask her if she’s really okay, tell her you’re not either, tell her you love her again. Does she remember all the house centipedes in that little campus apartment? Does she remember watching them crawl around in the light fixtures and sacrificing them to the housing gods with the Swiffer? Yeah you’re tired too, but you’ll sleep in tomorrow morning. Okay. You’ll text her tomorrow night to see how her shift went.

Fall asleep listening to a podcast about the ancient ships buried under San Francisco and wonder if you ever cruised through one on the subway without ever knowing it. What secrets does your city keep? There are bats you’ve never seen in Central Park and unmarked cocktail bars only blocks from your office, and you’re going to scratch your initials into the sidewalk someday, and you haven’t been writing enough lately. You’ll fix that tomorrow, when you wake up. When you’re not this tired. You won’t always be this tired.

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(Photo by Gilles Lambert)

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

3 thoughts on “What to Do When the Internet Is Making You Miserable

  1. I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart for your writing and everything else you’re doing here. I just finished watching your TED Talk and I’m still wiping away happy tears and feeling chills. Reading your work and listening to you speak has deeply affected me, in the best way. I am so happy and grateful to have found you; it’s hard to even put into words how I feel. Thank you.

  2. So grateful you exist in this world. Your posts continually give me hope and strength. Thank you for being you.

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