I NEED TO TAKE THIS
I Need To Take This is an audio-visual work which looks at the ways symptoms of mental illness manifest through our unhealthy relationships to social media and phone use.
It's recommended to watch this video in full screen
This is a living document - it can (and likely will) be updated with resources, and if/when valuable community input is provided
Why was this piece created?
To discuss the creation of this piece I want to first briefly touch on my Checking OCD experience. I have a history of different manifestations of OCD (more on that below): the two main manifestations being Checking and Harm OCD. Checking OCD is perhaps most relevant to this project - for me, what this can look like is locking my apartment, walking half a mile, and then needing to go back home to check and make sure I did, in fact, lock the door. Then, after leaving a second time, I return once again need to come back to make sure that the second time I did, once again, actually lock the door.
In Summer of 2020 I was using dating apps in the midst of the pandemic. My relationship to these apps was incredibly unhealthy - sometimes I'd get a new match, and after sending them the first message I would be incapable of doing anything but wait for a message back. I'd try to get back to work, but at least once every five minutes I'd be checking my phone whether I heard vibrations or not. I realized that my Checking OCD was manifesting through this interaction with dating apps, and started considering the ways in which obsessions and compulsions are encouraged by our relationships to our phone and social media apps. By extension, I was thinking of all the ways we live in "hyper-reality" / "non-reality," however you want to define it, and how it was relating to my own experience to dissociation and difficulty in distinguishing what is real and what isn't.
This reflection of relationships between mental health and phone use/social media was brewing in my subconscious for a while, and it wasn't until the beginning of 2021, when I was taking a multi-disciplinary class with Adam Lenz where I first considered creating a work exploring this. I didn't want this to be a monolithic experience, or to represent or speak on behalf of everyone with OCD, or everyone who experiences dissociation, or struggles with phone addiction. Hence the interviews, which were free-flowing and unguided, and participants graciously entered a space to be vulnerable and discuss how all of these things relate to them. The interviews contributed to the audio-visual piece that became I Need To Take This.
Can you talk about your relationship to OCD and Dissociation?
I first had a therapist suggest I might have OCD when I was talking about wasting time multiple days a week by returning to my house to make sure the house was locked, or the oven wasn't left on, or there wasn't a candle still burning. I would leave my house, walk for maybe half a mile, and return multiple times just to make sure. He recommended The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD, and as I started to read through it, I began to contextualize these fears and struggles better.
For years, I have had visions and imaginative scenarios which have been terrifying to discuss and share with others. I would come to learn that these came from my own relationship to what is known as Harm OCD*. If you have ever drove on a bridge and had a voice in your head suggest driving off the bridge, that is not exactly Harm OCD but gives a brief glimpse into what it's like. The way my Harm OCD manifests is by similar visions, often toward other people: when I'm using a kitchen knife, I'll obsess over visions of using that knife to hurt someone else or myself; when I'm waiting for a subway I'll step as far away from the platform as I can out of fear I will lose control of my body and throw myself or someone else in front of the arriving train. These visions are uncontrollable, and before I could name it as a symptom of OCD, I was constantly afraid that I was an evil and violent person for having these thoughts. Again, many people have these thoughts - it is not that having Harm OCD means I have thoughts other people don't. It means that when I do have those thoughts, I have trouble letting them go, and will take measures to ensure the thought doesn't become reality.
Dissociation is the feeling of being disconnected from your mind, body, or reality. For me, this first started manifesting after my first panic attack 5 years ago. I would get this sensation that my body was wood, that somehow I as a person was separate from my body, and would have trouble connecting the two. This expanded a couple years ago as I would have episodes that would fade in and out where I would feel like the world was not real - like I was fake, everything was fake, and that it would all come crumbling around me and would all fade into nothing.
What if this piece made me question my own mental health and whether or not I experience mental illness?
This piece is not and should not be used for diagnoses in any way - this work is not designed to suggest that social media causes any particular mental illness but rather looks at the ways in which our relationship to social media relates to and encourages symptoms and experiences similar mental illness, particularly dissociation and OCD.
If you think you may have OCD, dissociation, or other mental illness, please seek a therapist or psychiatrist for more information. (https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/how-to-find-therapist ; I hope to get some community input on recommendations/processes people have found helpful in finding a therapist soon - I know that can be one of the biggest barriers. Stay tuned on that.
Christina L. Booker
Books and Literature
How to Do Nothing, by Jenny Odell
The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD, by Jon Hershfield and Tom Corboy
Persuasive Design Techniques in the Attention Economy: User Awareness, Theory, and Ethics by Devangi Vivrekar
The Social Dilemma, directed by Jeff Orlowski