I consider myself a needy person. If you subscribe to the enneagram camp, you’d say it’s because in those times I’m an unhealthy two. However, I just see it as form and function of how I was raised and who I am—it’s good and bad at times. However, this quality gives me a unique relationship with social media. I can endlessly scroll through my FB or IG feed looking at photos, reading articles, commenting, and liking. It’s natural and gives me a sense of connection to those with whom I follow. I can keep up-to-date easily with friends in other countries, with relatives we rarely see, or others who land on the periphery of my daily life.
But social media comes at a cost too. There are times I’ll get down a rabbit hole of checking in on an old buddy and find myself viewing photos of their family reunion from three years ago (how the hell did we get here?). Or I’ll get easily overcome by the FOMO of online posts (cool, my friends are hanging out without me…oh awesome, they’re engaged/pregnant/starting their own business/etc). I can obsess about whether folks have commented or liked my “recent”, mindlessly opening and closing apps to see if there is any new notification. Those are the extremes.
Throughout the pandemic I think this got worse, who knew that was possible! For a long bit, online/virtual was my only social outlet. And I let myself succumb. As things have started to open up and I’ve been connecting in real life with people, this techno-need hasn’t quite dissipated. But what I’m realizing (or perhaps I’ve known but I’m now admitting to myself) is that it isn’t healthy. Set aside the screen time and damage to my eyes and neck: social media takes a toll on my mental and emotional health. I’m not blaming the platforms, I fully recognize it’s my bad habits and internal struggle that makes it difficult. And if FB/IG/SC didn’t exist, I’m sure there’d just be something else in their place. I can’t change everything. My nature (susceptibility?) is not going to change. But there are things within my control: I choose how and when and how often I engage. And so I’m doing a social media inventory, figuring out what’s important and what’s not. I’ll make changes to meet my own needs. Does it mean I may miss out on your kid’s 1st birthday cake smash photos? Yup. Does it mean I may miss announcements of engagements and weddings and babies and retirements and funerals. Yup. Does it mean that I might not see as many conversations (polite or otherwise) about current events and the state of the world? Yup. It’ll be an adjustment for sure, and I may not always succeed, but I just might be okay with new habits. And hey, maybe it will give us something genuine to discuss when we next meet for coffee/see each other at the store/grab lunch/go for a walk/FaceTime/chat on the phone.
If I’m honest, there is part of me that will miss the drama. Hi, I’m human and I’m prone to gossiping—social media definitely fuels that (for me). So all of this to say if you see me posting and engaging less, if you notice I’ve unfollowed or quieted or taken a break from this or that person, if I’m somehow absent from a platform due to deleted account, know this: I’m trying each day to take a little bit better care of myself. This has been ongoing—it started with diet and exercise, which I feel I’ve gotten a handle on. Now it moves to social/emotional health (I sound like a School Counselor). And this is just one piece of the puzzle.
Perhaps you feel (or have felt) the same way I’ve described. If so, I see you, it’s not easy. Sometimes just being acknowledged helps. I’d encourage you to do your own self-reflection and inventory surrounding social media. How do you feel when certain things happen? Are there specific people that are triggers for you? What changes do you need to make for you? It’s tough. I think it’s worth it, though. Not everyone will understand the decisions you make. People are bound to have their feelings hurt along the way. Hopefully if they are your people (tribe/inner circle/posse/core group) they will understand. And if not I think it says more about them than it does about you. If you needed the push, here it is: take care of you.