In this article, I’ll explain the term vystopia, and tell a little bit more about why I think it’s good to have a social media detox every now and then, especially when being vegan.
Have you ever, as a vegan, felt despondent because you constantly see animal abuse? For example, that carton of milk in the fridge is not just milk. There’s a story of suffering behind it. The smell of bacon might instantly trigger thoughts of tormented pigs being brought to the slaughterhouse, day after day, robbed of their lives in horrible ways. And I haven’t even mentioned social media yet – the horrible pictures you might encounter on your feed day after day, stimulating people to stop eating meat. It might sound controversial, but sometimes I feel that that’s where all the trouble starts.
Nowadays, almost everyone has access to the internet. Facebook alone has 1.79 billion active users worldwide – that’s a huge amount! As a vegan, you’ve probably already had great experiences with Facebook, when you found out that there are tons of groups only for vegans, where like-minded share recipes, heart-warming stories and lovely pictures of animals they saved. But you will probably also have dealt with the downside of social media. People who put photos online from their BBQ where dead animals are exhibited on a stick. Someone who posts an Instagram-worthy photo of sushi – including raw fish that was probably skinned alive. But that’s not even the worst. In those cases, they might not know about the suffering behind eating meat. You can either choose to confront that person (in a peaceful or more confronting way) or to ignore it.
But what we often cannot ignore is the hatred that’s been projected upon vegans. Recently, an article was published by a Dutch Newspaper called “De Telegraaf”: “Vegans compete for plant-based kebab”. I was actually feeling quite happy with such news, but when I went to take a look at the comments, I instantly felt sad. Some of the comments were:
“I am fighting for a world without vegans, but I will never succeed… Oh well.”
“Jeez… There they are again. Would fat vegans eat succulents?”
“Well, I have a little problem myself. I want to eat more vegetables, but I feel sympathetic for those plants that are rooted out of the ground… So I demand an animal-based plant replacement.”
“Vegans… Everything they eat should look like meat or taste like it, or have the same name. They are hopeless.”
Kinda depressing, huh? Instead of nice, positive comments, I only encountered these kind of reactions. Strange but especially derogatory comments which are, in my opinion, completely unnecessary. Live and let live, right? Apparently not.
This is just one example of how things work in the world of social media, but many vegans will know that it can be like hell. If you come up with a well-written comment full of strong arguments and references to legitimate sources, you’ll get a verbal load of shit thrown at you, often closed with the sentence “I’ll think about you when having steak tonight”. Thanks, bro.
There are also lots of memes online where vegans are the butt of the joke. “How do you know if someone’s vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll let you know!” Because, of course, vegans are always telling everybody about their dietary preferences. And all they want to do is point a finger at you and make you feel guilty.
But is that really so?
Most vegans I know just want a better world. Not only for humans; especially for animals. Because the way it goes in this world in terms of how animals are treated is, well, outright shit. When people insult you because you’re vegan, when they share sparerib pictures because ha- that’s so hilarious, when they come up with bullshit statements (“but plants have feelings too!” – Like, many more plants die for your piece of meat, ever considered that?), it can quickly feel very discouraging.
This was what I experienced last week myself. In a WhatsApp group, I was challenged by meat eaters, and then it became an all-against-one in which I was driven into a corner and kicked with words and insults. It was too much for me. I left the group, put my smartphone away and did not touch it the first twenty-four hours. I was so fed up with the world.
And then I came across the term vystopia. I had never heard of it before, but suddenly I saw it on Facebook, of all places. Clare Mann, a vegan psychologist from Australia, coined the term in 2017.
- Existential crisis experienced by vegans, arising out of an awareness of the trance-like collusion with a dystopian world.
- Awareness of the greed, ubiquitous animal exploitation, and speciesism in a modern dystopia.
When I read it, I thought: yes. This is really describing my current mood. In my opinion, social media contributes a lot to this feeling. I notice that I suffer a lot from FOMO (fear of missing out). I always want to keep in touch, be well-informed, know what’s going on in the world. Every single day I scroll through Facebook, which also means I’m confronted with gruesome images of the meat and dairy industries. But that’s not the only thing: I always come across angry comments from meat eaters who find it hilarious to lure vegans into their traps. Sometimes you’ll spend minutes typing a good response, in which you don’t use any personal attacks and stay calm, and then they’ll just call you names. In short; you can never do it right.
At one point I thought: why do I keep tormenting myself? Why should I spend so much time persuading people who clearly do not want to be convinced? That is why I decided to schedule social media detoxes more often. Whether it is just a day or two weeks – complete peace of mind helps me so well.
Maybe it’s time to try avoiding the trolls of the internet for good. I am going to choose for myself, and I choose to surround myself with people I care about. That they happen to be mainly vegans, vegetarians and people who are already open to the idea of it, only makes that easier.
So if I do not respond quick enough to your Facebook message, or if you feel like I’m ignoring you on Instagram – that’s not the case. I’m merely taking time for myself, stepping away from that small screen full of frustrations. And I would advise you to try and do the same, even if it’s only for a couple of hours.