When lockdown happened I did what every other millennial did and took straight to spending hours and hours aimlessly scrolling through social media.
Twitter is my drug of choice. Kat Slater memes and Nicky Graham GIFs are like crack cocaine, I’ve got Kim Woodburn’s Twitter feed hooked up to my arteries like an IV drip.
But don’t you agree, most people on your social media timelines are insufferable idiots?
Twitter algorithms throw up the most bizarre recommendations; twinks with controversial political opinions of all shades. Facebook seems mad on telling me the inane inner thoughts of someone who was in my year 9 French class. And most oddly, Instagram keeps recommending I follow an alcohol sobriety guru- I think not!
The unending panic of coronavirus on social media was driving me insane- I didn’t need to know how difficult a former burlesque dancer was finding it to buy a can of tinned tomatoes.
I have never professed to be any kind of peddler for ‘mindfulness’ but I new I needed something to distract me from scrolling. I tried Headspace but was unconvinced, I thought the guy’s voice sounded too much like a university lecturer who tried too hard to sound down to earth.
Adult colouring books as a concept exasperate me. Why would I need to spend hours colouring cute floral patterns when I have an Orla Kiely kitchenware set at home?
I even tried taking up yoga again, but in reality it’s never quite as boho as people make out. There are a string of yoga teachers on Youtube who all look like Victoria Wood characters, but what’s the point if they can’t appreciated my over enthusiastic sun salutations? So, naturally I went back to Twitter and gin.
But the growing realisation of being stuck in my house for weeks on end with Twitter as my only solace was getting unberable. I began to notice that my brain felt so flat. Was my mind turning to dishwater because I had nothing substantial to do? Was I suppressing my fears by glaring at a glowing white screen and feeling soothed by the familiar scratch-pop sound effect of Twitter refreshing?
Then it hit me, it was the banality of the tweets being posted that was rotting my mind. An awful trepeze artist who I had met once was moaning about potholes. A theatre critic was writing ‘a poem a day’, christ, Ellen Degeneres was moaning about being trapped in her mansion. I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope with this nonsense for very much longer.
Give me your debased humour, give me your sly wit but whatever you do don’t give me your mediocre opinion! But I didn’t know how to stop these tweeters turning my brain to mush. And then suddenly, the vision of Marie Kondo visited me and asked;
‘Are these vacuous accounts sparking joy?’
No Marie, they weren’t. But her presence that afternoon instilled a reassurance that though my covid anxieties couldn’t be quelled, my timeline had the potential to be a virtual nirvana.
I had dabbled with the mute button in the past, blocking the phrase ‘Tom Daley’ on Twitter forevermore when he became a father. With Marie’s rallying cry in mind I knew that if someone wasn’t sparking joy, I’d simply have to cut them out.
As you read this, I guarantee you’ve already pictured the first three people to mute. That girl who dropped out of university in the first term and now her dog is making more money than you on Instagram? Go ahead, treat yourself, swipe on over to her profile and click that gorgeous MUTE button.
Take my tip and start slowly, muting only the most insufferable accounts first. But let me warn you dear reader, the mute button is addictive and within less than half a day I had decreed 58 accounts not worthy of my brain time.
Part-time pagan fortunetellers, MUTED. Former work colleagues called Norma, MUTED. Drag queens with hourly Instagram live videos, MUTED.
I don’t follow her but, JK Rowling, MUTED. Madonna singing about fried fish MUTED. You don’t need to be directly following these accounts anymore for their drivel to show up on your timeline. Therefore don’t stop at the source itself. You need to continue muting all other related accounts until you forget the person ever existed.
‘Why not just block these people?’ I hear you ask. Because that goes against the whole premise of social media. Blocking is like the virtual equivalent of sending someone a turd in the post with your return address on it.
Muting on the other hand, that’s like casually vacating a conversation at a party to go nibble on the buffet because the person that was speaking was an insufferable prig.
It’s far more polite to say ‘let me excuse myself from this conversation Larry and go finger a breadstick through some Thousand Island dip’ than slam Larry’s face into a wall because he wasn’t blessed with being born a natural raconteur.
Every unfollow on Facebook and every mute on Twitter and Instagram felt like a necessary catharsis. Like a baptism, I was slowly purging the sin of boredom out of my life.
However, I was conscious of not wanting my feed to be an echo chamber of Kenneth Williams quotes and John Lewis sofa recommendations. Naturally I had to even everything out so followed a bot that posts Gertrude Stein quotes to be the yin to my camp yang. But I honestly think I’ve reached peak equilibrium.
So what have I learnt? Well for a start I’ve got far too much time on my hands. Second of all, it wasn’t a case that mindfulness didn’t work for me, it was that I hadn’t found the right kind of mindfulness.
The mute button has become a lockdown joy. In a time when everything feels out of control I’ve been able to regain balance by muting everything that irritated me about life pre-coronavirus. My timeline is now a sanctuary of waspish wit and fifth-wave feminism in the form of The Cock Destroyers.
If you find yourself sat at home (which I jolly well hope you are) aimlessly scrolling wondering why you feel so dull, ask yourself; is it the constant thought of danger every time you leave the house or is it that the people you follow on Twitter just aren’t sparking joy?