I’m sleeping with Boris Johnson.
Every night he’s there, grinning at me like an annoying kid in the playground for Daddy to collect him in something polished and extravagant, wealth and inherited privilege dripping through his unruly Aslan hairdo.
Yes, it’s churlish to compare those two. One is an animated, fantasy character that looks like a fake animal from an uncanny valley on TV and the other is from The Chronicles of Narnia.
But Johnson calls to me, from my bedside table, beckoning me over to marvel at his latest stab at dictatorship, like a toddler calling to a parent, all smug and giggly because he’s poured paint over the rug and pooped in the sandpit.
I shouldn’t respond to the call. He’ll only make me sad. He’ll only further test my fragile mental health in the small hours. Depression thrives on fatigue. One supports the other, like a couple of drunks passing cheap cider on a park bench.
So I resist the flirtation, the whispered talk of a no-deal Brexit, parliamentary shutdowns and the suppression of democracy.
But then, there’s the other one, the world’s first, life-sized Cheeto, a human cheesy snack with a hairline further away than his grip on reality.
Donald Trump beeps at me. The American president whispers sweet nothings about skipping climate change summits and nuking hurricanes. He calls himself the Chosen One and teases me with one hysterical headline after another.
I’m weakening. I’m succumbing to masochistic temptation, the desire to be both outraged and heartbroken.
As if I’m driven to confirm both the miserable state of the world
and my sleep-deprived self at the same time.
The heart says no. The head says yes. The soul has fought an internal battle not to draw the curtains for good since Brexit, Trump and the increasing acceptance of anti-intellectualism, dogmatic nationalism and spectacular stupidity.
A tad over the top, you say?
Experts had to reiterate that nuclear weapons couldn’t be launched at an encroaching hurricane for all the obvious reasons that a primary school student could probably work out on a whiteboard between games of Fortnite.
But the reassurance was required after an orange man in the White House again removed all grey areas from a nuanced problem. Hurricane coming? Nuke it!
And still, they keep coming.
Hong Kong protestors demonstrate against superior, undefeatable foes. The planet’s lungs burn to satisfy our unsustainable meat consumption and mass shootings continue to terrify America.
They all speak to me. No, they scream at me.
And I scream back at them, in silence, raging in the darkness at the senseless brutality whilst loathing my own impotence to do anything about it.
I scream and I scroll. I scream and I scroll. I scream at the obvious debilitating impact that social media has on my mental health. And then I scroll some more.
The phone beside my bed, or on my desk, or on the MRT, or beside the kitchen sink, or even on the toilet bowl is not only omnipresent, it’s become an enabler of my most misanthropic tendencies.
If you really want to know if the world’s going to sh*t, have a crap and scroll through the war of words between online echo chambers; the interminable, and ultimately futile, screaming of polar opposites.
In a past, simpler life, different circles of friends, common sense and the odd restraining order kept these people apart.
Today, social media unites them. Apart from fiddling with themselves while the world burns, they pander to that nagging, internal pessimism in many of us.
I am not alone in that festering despair. There are millions of us, all certain of the futility of our existence, all convinced that we are a sensitive, vulnerable minority ruled by Muppets.
The idea that the good outweighs the bad online very much depends on the mental health of the individual. For every funny meme of Trump and Johnson pointing at each other like Bert and Ernie, there are twice as many horrific stories reminding us that we’re not on Sesame Street anymore.
Depressing news is on our bedside table every night, fluttering our screensavers to get our attention. News alerts confirm our worst suspicions that the famous song in Four Weddings and a Funeral got it upside down.
Hate is all around us.
It isn’t. Of course, it isn’t. But an unhealthy mind isn’t a particularly rational one and the last thing it needs is further proof that the natural state of being is an unhealthy one. In a world where Trump and Johnson can be considered strong leaders and a child like Greta Thunberg can be dismissed as a naïve loser, how could one think otherwise?
Sadness pervades. That’s the perception on social media anyway.
Something has to give. It won’t be my phone, not entirely anyway. I’d rather give up a piece of equipment that means less to me, like a kidney.
But the social media addiction, or more specifically, my addiction to the fetid, foaming quagmires of newsy echo chambers, is doing more harm than good, confirming my cynical belief that we’re not all playing the Good Samaritan.
Just as I could confirm my belief that sitting on a toilet brush would be detrimental to my rectum… by sitting on a toilet brush.
That doesn’t mean I do it. I don’t need to continually punish myself to confirm an obvious pain.
So I’m easing off on the negativity at bedtime and stepping back from the shrieking echo chambers in my spare time.
I’ll still check in, routinely, but not obsessively. We are obligated to remain informed, but not stuck in a perpetual state of anguish.
Sleep is already hard enough. So I intend to nod off with my wife, rather than Boris Johnson.