How Extremely Online People Are Coping With the Election
Twitter is a garbage disposal of churning anxiety on a normal day, but this Election Day? Trust it to shred even the most hardened internet psyches. And don’t expect the other platforms to offer much of a respite, as experts and ignoramuses alike promote an endless stream of worrying updates and apocalyptic scenarios, and the oversharers process their fears and fatalism (and, yes moments of optimism) in a real-time cascade of non-information. The best advice may be to simply log off. But that’s easier said than done, especially for those who are professionally compelled to be on the internet.
So, we checked in with a cross-section of social media superusers to find out how they plan to navigate the election ~online~.
Our panel: Sesali Bowen, nofilter contributor and author of the forthcoming Notes From a Trap Feminist; Caroline Calloway, writer and scammer extraordinaire; Josh Gondelman, writer/producer for Desus & Mero; Maya Kosoff, nofilter contributor and tech writer; Sophie Ross, nofilter contributor and leading chronicler of messy influencer drama; and Alexis Wilson, the self-proclaimed “unhinged sweetheart” of America.
On a scale of 1-10, how anxious are you about Tuesday?
Sophie Ross I’m extremely anxious. Like, no-appetite anxious. I think it’s because 2016 taught us that no matter how confident we may feel, or how optimistic the polls might make us, we really don’t know jack sh*t until the fat lady sings. (The fat lady, for the purpose of this metaphor, can be Trump.)
Josh Gondelman I'm going to go with a strong 7.5. Less than a 5 would feel irresponsibly chill, and more than a 9, I think I'd just like … pass out. Plus, outside of voting and phone banking, there's not much I can do. It's not like fretting at a 10 will cause better results through some sort of psychic X-Men power.
Caroline Calloway On a scale of 1-10 I have broken the scale with the nuclear blast of my anxiety. I couldn’t even tell you why I’m this upset at this point in the year. My mind is a barren radioactive wasteland with like, one tumbleweed, a ragged To-Do list and a three-eyed lizard.
Sesali Bowen I’m a 1. Super apathetic because I think we’re screwed either way.
Alexis Wilson About a 6 or 7, but that’s pretty normal for me. I’ve been working the polls since early voting started in California so I’m much more anxious that we’ll get more people who refuse to wear masks on Tuesday than I am about the election itself. The stipend they pay election clerks isn’t even close to being enough to warrant getting Covid.
Maya Kosoff Honestly, I just feel really numb! Last time we did this, I was in a newsroom that had no coverage plan for a Trump victory and we packed it in by 9 p.m. and went home when it became apparent we were blindsided. I think I'm a lot less naive about the stakes than I was four years ago, and I also don't know if we're going to see an immediate result, or what will even happen after Tuesday night. I'd just rather not even entertain the tepid comfort of a best-case scenario here until and unless it's official.
Which social networks will you be reading and posting on?
Gondelman I'll probably post an "I Voted" selfie for the easy dopamine boost and then various tweets throughout the day and night because I don't know how else to process things anymore if not publicly, 280 characters at a time. I certainly can't just let those thoughts roll around in my head, and it's bad form to scream them out the window.
Wilson I tend to stay on Twitter because I’ve got muting/blocking down to a science and rarely see things that I don’t want to see. I’ll see things about the election here and there, but only in small doses. Lately I’ve been obsessed with reading r/politics and r/conservatives. It’s sick but I can’t look away. I’m not sure why I’m even reading it, both of them are sheer chaos and I have absolutely nothing to gain.
Calloway I’ll be logged off of social media. Today. Tomorrow. Last month. A month from now. I’ll probably pull myself together to make one final “please vote for Biden” post on Election Day, but I’ll really only be reading the New York Times for news updates and watching movies about the world ending, because at least we’re not all dying because of aliens or robots or fire, right? *sobs quietly into hands*
Kosoff Twitter is my drug of choice, but I'm hoping to be glancing at it less than usual. I have the day off of work to vote, which is nice but unfortunately also provides me endless potential to be staring into the gaping maw of the internet. Right now my plans for the day are to do a bunch of chores that involve my hands during the day so I physically can't look at my phone. I hope to not be posting at all. I can't tell if looking at Instagram will make me feel better (maybe it will be nice to see some sort of collective optimism????) or worse (sanctimonious posts from my chosen filter bubble).
Bowen I don’t think I’m going to check any social media about the election because I don’t want the strong opinions. I just want to know who won, so hopefully Google will have some sort of live doodle on their homepage.
Will you go on Facebook? If so, why?
Wilson I don’t love myself, so yes, absolutely. I’m addicted to reading posts from people I went to high school or church camp with.
Ross No. I don’t know why I haven’t deleted my Facebook account yet but I haven’t used it in years and only check it for celebrity gossip FB groups. Definitely not for politics, no.
Calloway Who uses Facebook still? Seriously, who???? This question raises more questions for me than I have answers for you.
Kosoff I don't go on Facebook on a normal day so I will also be pretending it doesn't exist on Election Day.
Gondelman I probably will, but more out of a kind of automatic cycle through various apps and websites than any intent to get useful information (other than whose birthday coincides with Election Day). I have found Facebook pretty useless for keeping up with friends and sharing professional projects lately! It's really great for...I...I honestly don't know. I took a running leap at that sentence but couldn't land it.
What’s something on the web that you know will help keep you sane? How do you practice self-care online?
Calloway I am looking forward to reading other peoples’ responses to this question because I have no idea. Everything is bad and I hate the badness of it all.
Bowen Binging Sister, Sister on Netflix will be great.
Kosoff I've been vibing to this video for hours. Staying sane online to me is, on days like Election Day, not really reading my NYTimes push notifications or my timeline in too much depth.
Ross True self-care for me is logging off of the Internet entirely, which I don’t do nearly as often as I should, but I always appreciate the takes on Jezebel/The Root (RIP old Deadspin.)
Wilson I follow the #westiegram hashtag on Instagram which always comes in clutch. I tend to focus on tweets/posts from Black women during times like this which helps a lot. I also practice self-care online by looking away and/or keeping my thoughts in the group chat as much as possible—which is what I think everyone should consider doing more.
Who’s a trusted person you’ll be following? Is there any one you intend to mute, block, or who you recommend ignoring?
Kosoff In terms of like, mainstream news outlets, I really recommend the disinfo reporters at NBC, Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, both generally and for real-time updates parsing the seedy and deranged underbelly of whatever is happening with the election at any moment. The one electoral politics reporter I will be following is Dave Wasserman, the guy who famously says "I've seen enough" when reporting finalized official election results.
Wilson I’ve had the names & accounts of every person who was in the running muted since about 2018 at least. I also mute buzzwords and nicknames just in case anyone tries to slip through the cracks. It doesn’t really matter at this point, I’ve come to accept the fact that someone, somewhere will always find a way to make me look at painfully corny political tweets despite my valiant efforts.
Is there a specific time you plan to log off completely, regardless of the status of the race?
Kosoff Yes! At night when polls start closing. My tentative plan is to either make an elaborate pasta dish or order takeout with my boyfriend, take a big old edible, and counterprogram with a whole season of Mr. Show before falling asleep before midnight.
Ross No, I’ll probably end up staying up all night like I did in 2016.
Will you watch cable news? If so, what time of day do you plan on turning it on?
Gondelman I'll probably watch for a while, but not until after voting closes on the East coast. I don't need to see the speculation before the speculation. I'd like to limit things to one degree of guesswork.
Will you read any of Trump’s tweets?
Bowen I’m proud to say that I’ve had Trump blocked since 2017.
Gondelman Only if they show up in my feed. I don't follow him or seek out his tweets because like … why would I? They don't communicate anything most of the time. And I kind of prefer the puzzle of having to figure out like … he said who should be a senator in Louisiana? Shaq? Really?
What do you think the vibe will be like online Wednesday?
Wilson I think the vibe online will be the same it’s been since March: miserable.
Calloway Like the social media feed version of an apocalypse where people are running away from the aliens and robot and fire.
Kosoff If the past week has been any indication, it will be, in a word, insane. Someone who does not have the luxury of having friends who would forcibly change their Twitter password at the first sign of a meltdown is going to lose their shit. There's that @maplecocaine tweet about never wanting to be the main character on Twitter. I've done a remarkable job this year of not being that person and I don't intend for that to change this week, regardless of the outcome.
Gondelman My hopes are not high for a good day online on Wednesday regardless of the outcome. Most days on social media are pretty rough lately, unless someone famous masturbates on a Zoom call for his job and we all get to make fun of him for a few hours. So maybe Trump will do that?