Every couple of months or so, I decide to step away from social media for a few days. I have an app called Freedom that blocks the apps I want to avoid so I’m not even tempted to check them. I even have my buddy Corey change the passwords to completely eliminate any chance of logging on to any of them. Having these roadblocks shuts my mind off to the idea of checking them at all – as in, I may be at the gym and think “Oh, I commented on that person’s status, I wonder if they ever responded?” and then fall into the trap of checking it. I don’t even have the opportunity to check it, so it shuts down all thoughts of checking social media.
I do this for a couple of reasons. I’ve found that constantly being logged on is a major trigger for my anxiety. Each social media app triggers a different type of my anxiety; Instagram and Snapchat both trigger my FOMO or belief that everybody else’s life is so much more interesting than mine when I definitively know that not to be the case; I follow tons of news accounts on Twitter, so whenever I check that, I’m constantly inundated with the most depressing shit happening across the world; Facebook is where I feel compelled to engage with statuses I find interesting or controversial. All of this together is not great for my mental health. I believe social media presents an opportunity for amazing things, but with that being said, if it starts to trigger anxiety more than it produces any serotonin bump, then that’s when I realize I need to take a break. So when I take these breaks, I re-learn a lot of valuable lessons and also eliminate that habit of checking everything dozens of times a day, which allows for me to have that healthy balance when I come back.
What did I learn from this break?
Well, first of all, when you’re not seeing what other people are doing all the time, you become so much more in tune with what’s happening in your life. As dumb and naive as that sounds, it’s something that I think we all need to be reminded of sometimes (that includes you boomers or older millennials! If you have social media, it’s easy to get lost in it, no matter your age!).
Being bombarded by news, posts, statuses, likes, and all of that is generally not very healthy and is a way for us to disconnect from what’s happening in real life. Scrolling through social media is what we do when we’re sitting around doing nothing, or it’s what we do when we’re just trying to avoid something we don’t feel like doing. While there is of course a place for this, if social media is disrupting your ability to do daily or weekly things you should be doing, a break may be good for our mental health.
It’s pretty insane how much more vibrant our lives feel when we’re simply living and not posting about it. Hanging out with friends, bowling, going to grab a beer, or just getting a coffee all felt more interesting just because I was doing it to do it, and didn’t feel at all compelled to post to the world I was doing it. Again, I don’t think it’s inherently a bad thing to post on social media! I think our compulsion to document things is good because we have such a deep library of our lives to reflect on. We document things because we enjoy them…mostly. When we’re documenting things to brag, well, that’s when it’s a problem. Humans are always going to feel the need to broadcast their most excessive parts of their lives; social media just grants a simple platform for doing so.
A downside of my openness about CF, mental healthy, and my sister is that I feel like I have to document everything. Which means I feel guilty when my anxiety is getting bad again, or worse, when my depression is. On my blog, Facebook, and Twitter, my writings and posts are deeper and reflect the waves that come. On Instagram and Snapchat, my posts are generally livelier, documenting my life with my friends, dumb, funny (at least they’re funny to me) thoughts while I’m walking Duncan, or pictures and videos of Duncan being adorable. I recognize that I’m willing to express sadness in my writings, but I’m a lot less likely to openly explain or talk about these problems when it’s me talking. This also compounds my guilt; how can I post a Snapchat of me joking around at 3pm then write a blog post discussing how my depression is worse than it’s been in a while at 6pm? To the people that only see the Snapchat, the response is “Wow, Tré seems to be doing really well, all things considered.” Conversely, people that only see the blog post think I’m struggling more (which is probably the more accurate portrayal). To the people that see both, it probably reduces how they view one or the other. But the reality is: this is my life! There are days where I’m feeling really well, days times when I feel like depression is kicking my ass, but the harsher truth is that these are my days. My emotions can swing from one extreme to the other in the same hour if something reminds me of Lyss. I’ve accepted I want to be open about my life, but taking a break from social media grants me the opportunity to take care of myself without concerning myself with how others are viewing that.
This lesson itself encapsulates both the positives and negatives of social media. My writing is what keeps me afloat and it touches peoples’ lives, but social media, where I have capitalized to expand my writing, can subtly force me to be a little too active sometimes.
I didn’t have some grand epiphany after being off social media for five days. But, I did get better sleep, I was more productive at my job and in my life, I felt generally better in regards to my mental well-being, and remembered that life is bigger than any single social media platform.
I also realized how fortunate I am to have people that read my blogs or columns or care about what I’m doing with my life and that they keep up with me on social media. I hope I’m a force of positivity on social media or at least a conversation starter. I love social media and being involved in it, but just like we need a break from exercise sometimes, it was a much needed break.