Social media causes me so many conflicting emotions.
I actually met some of my closest friends there. When I lived hours from my family, I used it to share my life quickly and effectively. I announced my second pregnancy to groups of my cousins via Facebook Messenger so that their first time learning about it would not be when I posted a public announcement. My extended family is close and having my cousins find out that I was carrying twins at the same time as the girl who sat behind me in freshman comp would not have been very fair to our relationships.
Social media allows connections that can overcome great distances.
I am glad it exists. Truly.
I am also glad it did not exist when I was a teenager. I am so happy that my Timehop cannot show me what fifteen year old me was up to. No one needs to see that. And fifteen year old me would never have understood the responsibility that comes with social media. Fifteen year old me would not believe that the internet never forgets, that screenshots last, and that not everyone who smiles is your friend. In this case, not every like is a positive connection.
But the thing with social media is… Well… It sucks.
Like… It really, really, really sucks.
It especially sucks because of my anxiety. Social media is not good for my anxiety.
There are two reasons for this. I am aware of them. I know what they are.
The first is the one I talk about more. When I deal with exceptionally high levels of anxiety, the keep me awake at night for days on end kind of anxiety, I log out of Facebook. Sometimes, if my anxiety has consumed me too much, I deactivate altogether.
I do not announce this. I just go. My best friend and oldest sister are usually the first to notice. I do not do it to get anyone’s attention. In fact, with few exceptions, I would prefer not to be contacted about it. Deleting Facebook seems like such a show of my inability to keep it together. I do not need anyone to know I am falling apart. I would tell them if I wanted to.
Social media, especially Facebook, is crammed with so much negativity. Some people simply love to complain. It seems to be all that they do online. While I am glad that they feel they have an outlet for their thoughts, when mine are spiraling, I cannot handle theirs too. I am in Facebook groups that have a steady stream of complaint threads. I ignore them because I cannot be weighed down with all that is wrong in the world.
I absorb a lot of what I read. I am deeply affected by it. Too much personal negativity becomes my own personal negativity.
And it is not only personal negativity, but news article after news article comes up on my newsfeed filled with the worst that the world has to offer. It seems that people are most likely to share articles about children being raped or beaten or murdered than anything else. I do not understand the compulsion to share that horror with the world. I know it happens. I do not need to know it happened again. I want to hold my babies and cry and promise them that I will do whatever I can to make sure that they are not one of those stories that people share because they feel compelled to share the ugliest side of the world day in and day out.
When I am already anxious, when my world is spinning out of control, these stories affect me so much more.
The first reason I hate social media is the negativity.
When I leave and my sister or my best friend notices and reaches out to me, I always say, “I needed a break from the negativity. I am trying to remain positive. Facebook does not help. Maybe in a week.”
But there is another thing. Something that I talked about with a colleague last week.
She recently recommended that I follow a particular account on Instagram. The account was that of a woman rocking her role in a similar position as mine. Like… Rocking it.
I followed her and then another like her and then a third and suddenly, I was knee-deep in follow requests for people who figured I was also sharing how I rock at what I do.
And I do rock at what I do. I am passionate about it. That is half the rocking.
But I do not post much about work on Instagram. Only occasionally. As I do here.
I made a separate account for these follows and follow requests. I began sharing how I rock too.
Last week, I was speaking with that original coworker, and I told her about the separate account.
“I figured that I could keep it all in one place as well as share what I’m doing too. I don’t need these random people seeing all the pictures of my kids, but I love what I’m seeing. Also, having a separate account lets me choose not to see their posts when I’m feeling down about myself.”
Because we all know that social media is filled with hyper-inflation of the ego. While some people breathe negativity, others only share their 110% moments.
The fact of the matter is that not every moment could be 110% for anyone. It is impossible. The truth is that we all have ups and downs and in-betweens, but social media is not really a true depiction of that.
I have mental illness. What that means for me is that I can know something is true, but I cannot make myself feel that truth.
Feeling the truth is what I struggle with.
So even though those rockstar Instagram accounts are filled with brilliance and wonder, I know that those account owners are not like that at every moment of every day.
But I cannot feel that knowledge when my anxiety is rising.
I need to be able to avoid people who are too awesome when I feel like my life is in shambles. It is too difficult not to compare lives, especially when I cannot feel the truth of its being unrealistic.
So what is someone to do when she loves social media because of the way it connects her to her friends, her family, and people who rock at what she does every day but who also has a mental illness that causes her to dwell so much on her negativity that she cannot even begin to handle the negativity or exuberance of others?
(Wow… That was one sentence. Crazy!)
What does she do?
She shuts it down.
She picks up a journal. She does better for herself.
When my anxiety is out of control, I need to think about what is positive in my own life. I need to let go of my own negativity. Social media will not help me do that.
I have a gratitude journal. I recently picked it back up again after a very long hiatus.
I keep my gratitude journal next to my bed. Every night before bed, the last thing that I do before laying down is write in my gratitude journal a short list of things that I am thankful for from that day.
Sometimes, there is repetition between days. I am almost always happy for quiet time spent with Saint Daddy after Sunshine, Grumpy, and Sleepy finally go to sleep at night. Sometimes, I feel gratitude for something large, like the fact that I come home to my family every night. Sometimes, it is something small, like that someone held the door open for me on my way into work that morning.
I use it to forget the negative that happened. At the end of the day, I do not want my final thoughts to be of the guy who cut me off or that Sleepy peed out of his diaper during his nap again. I want to think of the happy parts of my day.
It is not foolproof. Nothing I do is going to cure my mental illness. I know that. I understand it. But my gratitude journal helps me do something important. It helps me to remember that, even when it is really bad, there is something beautiful in every day.
Since I began my journal again, I have been falling asleep more quickly. I am telling my brain to let go of self-doubt and to focus on what went well each day.
It helps me see my days in a positive light and to remember that it is not always bad.
There is not really all that much to complain about.