The Plug Pulled (on social media)
Carolina Reapers are listed as the hottest chili peppers in the world. According to the Guinness World Records, they measure 2.2 million SHU (Scoville heat units). That number sounds so ridiculously high. It did not mean much to me when I bought them. However, if you cook with these peppers, it’s clear that they are something else. I recently purchased a second pack.
That is not an act of bravery or exceptional heat tolerance. On the contrary, I could hardly finish the first dish in which I had used these peppers, somewhat recklessly. But the process of cooking with them left me with a valuable memory.
I could sense the capsaicin with every cut. The peppers themselves had the feel of living velvet. Soon my skin began to pulsate. Don’t cut these chilis without gloves. These small and irritatingly red things brought a breathtakingly vivid, intense, and implacable reality into my kitchen. Their heat quickly put my mind back into matter.
When I quit my (on some days excessive) presence on Twitter half a year ago, I imagined regretting it at some point. I now think I should have done it earlier. Initial reasons for quitting the chorus of online life involved my desire for a greater presence of mind, which felt constantly pulled away from myself and into a strangely faceless hum of social anxiety, echoed in the voices of others. That desire was met in a way that I did not fully anticipate. It was like cooking with Carolina Reapers.
I rediscovered my joy about the implacability of physical reality, a reality that is not measured by the words shared by others. It is not forced into repetition to be talked into submission. While that implacable reality lacks convenience (it stings and blisters at times), it also simply lets you be part of itself by sensing it. You don’t have to mold yourself within the words of others to feel anchored in your present state of mind.
The reason why I am still thinking about social media is that everyone else does. Social media posts dominate news articles, people’s hobbies and offline conversations, work collaborations — and it’s an interesting phenomenon to see how far their language has begun to lose a personal connection with mine. None of the people I have been in closer contact and conversations with this summer are on social media. Meanwhile, some people I was in more immediate contact with during life on social media have become more distal relationships on the horizon, even though they sometimes live closer. That wasn’t planned. It just happened. I think we just found our minds out of synch. And what is not sharable on social media ceases to exist for some people who desire to be noticeable in the minds of others. It’s deeply human. We all share that desire. I still have it. I still wrestle with it. Yet I live better by wrestling to live without it. And so I cannot provide momentary shareability anymore.
Like I cannot share with you just how intense that first bite into a Carolina reaper was.
That sensation you will simply have to experience on your own.
And then we can talk about it.