I’ll admit it. I used to be a little bit of a Facebook addict. It’s so easy to get lost in scrolling, especially when you’re lonely or bored. We all do it! However, during the first lockdown I began to question how my constant scrolling might be impacting my mental health. There were a few things I began to notice about my own behaviours and thoughts both when posting myself and seeing other people’s posts.
Firstly, as a parent of a young child who works from home, I began to feel intense jealousy when seeing posts from my single or childless friends, or people with older young people. I saw movie marathons, PJ days, date nights, extra time for hobbies, spring cleans and renovations while all the while I was (and am!) struggling to get through each day with enough time to eat sleep and get in even a minimal amount of self-care.
Secondly, I found the endless facts and opinions about the government, the virus and everything in-between confusing, frustrating, and downright EXHAUSTING! It’s good to have our own opinions and also to discuss them with others but to be confronted with opinions constantly without having asked for them is not good for anyone.
And finally, I found myself posting things just to seek approval, connection, or some sort of validation. I can remember pictures or comments and constantly checking back hoping for likes or agreement. Then are the feelings that come along with not getting comments or likes or worse getting comments that somehow disagree or belittle my thoughts.
So, I took a break. Taking a break was amazing but when lockdown was over, I went back. At first it was nice to be back seeing what all my old friends were up to but eventually the same negative thoughts and feelings began to return, and I realised that although lockdown made these feelings bigger, they were there all along! This time I decided to jump in with both feet and actually delete my Facebook and Instagram accounts for good. Here are some things I have noticed:
- I don’t miss out on speaking with friends. In fact, I have had many wonderful conversations both by message and phone since leaving social media. If anything, I feel more connected to the people who matter because they take the time to reach out to me and see how I’m doing rather than just watching my Facebook posts.
- I know that people are still having long walks and PJ days this time but it’s not constantly in my face. And because of that I realise the true complexity of the situation from everyone’s perspective. My friend who has movie marathons might be lonely, parents of older young people are worried because their teenagers sleep all day and stay up all night and people renovate because they’re bored, and boredom can be soul destroying.
- I don’t have to listen to anyone’s opinions unless I ask for them.
- I am more focused as a parent and at work without the temptation to have a quick check of my notifications.
Of course, leaving social media altogether isn’t for everyone and there are definitely parts of it I miss. I miss the number of people I was connected to on Facebook and the inspirational quotes and pictures I used to see on Instagram. If you are on social media here are some tips to get the best out of it.
- Fill your feed with positivity – On Instagram follow accounts that inspire and motivate you. On Facebook, unfollow friends whose posts make you feel inadequate, jealous, or annoyed.
- Don’t get drawn into negativity – It’s easy to get drawn into a debate, especially at the moment but think before you comment about how you might feel if you get drawn into an argument.
- Think twice before posting – Ask yourself why you’re sharing. Will it uplift and inspire others? Are you looking for validation? Are you feeling lonely?
- Reach out to people in other ways – Talk to your family, speak to someone on the phone, send someone a message to ask how they are.
- Turn off notifications – That way social media will be ready and waiting when you choose to access it rather than tapping your arm for attention all day.
Just remember that you are in control of what you post and what you see just the same as you are in control of your own thoughts, feelings, and actions in real life.
Stay safe, stay strong and stay kind – Terrie.