I am not trendy.
I know, when it comes to social media, a lot of millennials love to hate it. It’s cool to bash Facebook and take “breaks” or swear it off altogether. (Yeah right, Karen. See you back here posting in a week.)
I get into Snapchat and Instagram, too- I’m not completely unhip. But I’m not as cool as my younger friends and family who don’t even need a Facebook page, who may barely ever check my hilarious Snaps of my cat (their loss!), who post one perfect selfie #ootd Insta a week, with an inspirational quote here and there to mix it up.
I still use emojis when I should be using a little person that looks like me and makes the proper expressions, according to my 13 year old step-daughter. (An avatar, maybe? I just imagine myself all blue having weird hair sex…)
Social media suits me. I’ve moved to six different states. I’ve lived the actor’s life of having a “show family” you love with all your heart that you may never, ever see again. I travel for work. I also “network” for work (UGH).
Here is my point- I need to, and enjoy, keeping in touch with great people I meet all over. I LOVE knowing what my family in Indiana is up to and how everyone is without making thirty phone calls a day. I like getting updates on college acceptances, post-op progress, and finally getting to see when your baby goes from “gross alien you love anyway” to “cute!”
I want to see videos of your dog.
I like social media. There. I said it.
That said- nay, proclaimed– I would also have to add that I don’t really think it’s that healthy for me as a person with depression. I think when we are prone to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc, we have to be especially careful with this stuff. It’s a really, really hard balance.
Here are the three main ways social media worsens my depressive episodes, or makes them come more frequently, that I’ve personally noticed.
1. It’s easy to treat it as a substitute for true human interaction.
One challenge for me is that I’m an introvert (yes, I can turn it on, but I’m exhausted after a lot of human interaction) who also has depression. My personal issues with that are twofold.
First, consistent social mingling is necessary- especially actual, deep human connection- to keep me from falling super far down a depression hole. Connecting with people I love lifts me up like crazy.
Secondly, I have to balance having enough “me” time and enough self-care with this need for social interaction. Just a little too far one way sends me to a full on spiral, leading to days on the couch, crying and watching reruns of The Office.
Social media confuses me. I think I’m being social, uplifting, having great talks about politics, supporting a friend who just lost her mother. I’m not. I’m typing from my phone, my home, whatever. I’m not connecting with these people. I’m one of a group of people clicking and tapping and poking near their general vicinity.
(I would never, ever poke.)
Be honest- you get 80 likes on a post. Do you go through and check to see every person who liked it? Almost never. You’re just happy to have support for your new *fill in blank*.
I think I’m showing up for people, and they very likely don’t even know I saw it or care.
This is not the kind of connection our souls and minds need to be mentally balanced to the best of our abilities. It’s shoddy smoke and mirrors crap.
“I talked to ten people today!”
You talked to NO ONE.
2. I can’t help but compare my life to other people’s and feel crappy.
But I only compare to the people with great lives full of accomplishments. Or, shall we say, who seem that way. It’s the worst.
I can spend three hours scrolling through Facebook or Instagram (yeah, it’s happened), reading post after post about how hard people have it, how they just had their fourth kid (no thank you!), how they still live in my hometown, even though they wish they didn’t. I can think- “Oh, poor Michael!” and “Good for you, not for me! Glad you’re happy, I don’t want any of that!”
The friend who is ALWAYS working on ten projects at once just sold a show to a network- more details to come!
The friend who you met once on a job and barely remember is trotting around Europe- again!
The friend you went to high school with has a new Youtube video of them creating some kind of craft- she MADE something with her own hands!
And suddenly I’m like, What am I doing with my life!! I’ve never made emoji pancakes for my husband! I don’t have a garden! I haven’t finished ONE script for a feature film!!!!
It’s straight up crazy, you guys.
Right down the rabbit hole I go. A day that might have been about some housecleaning, a walk in the evening, and a talk with a friend- a perfectly nice day!- suddenly seems like the kind of mundane, useless day a FAILURE LIKE ME would have!!! And, here we go.
The Office. Tissues. Takeout. Couch. WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER.
3. It eats up time I could be doing other, much healthier, things.
The social media trap is ugly. It’s addicting. That dopamine hit is real, and it is no joke. It’s the reason we can’t stop reaching for our phone while we are with other, flesh and blood humans, or supposed to be going to sleep, or DRIVING. It’s a problem.
It’s so easy to get into a Twitter war first thing in the morning, scroll through endless photos rather than be present out in the world, or take out our phone to take video or Snap what we are doing instead of experiencing it.
Today is a great example. I woke up after crappy sleep feeling very anxious. Right away- reach for my phone.
The healthy, smart things to do- the things I know I should do? Meditate. Do a yoga video. Take a long shower. Journal. Take a walk. Make a plan for my day, for my week, and write it down. Make a list of things I’m grateful for.
These are all things I know for a fact help me when I’m anxious or off-balance. I can’t always prevent my depression hitting me full force, or a panic attack, but I know there are things I can do to lessen the blow, generally.
Instead? Phone. In bed. Facebook notifications checked. Scrolling through posts.
Wait? She got a divorce? When?
Scroll back through her feed to establish a timeline. For twenty minutes.
Oh, a new show is up with a lot of my friends in it!
Check every one of their pages for videos of rehearsals, photos of costumes, cast drama…
Wow, that is a very astute post about the BS Henry Cavill spewed this week.
Get into a comment debate with a horrible mansplainer who wants me to understand I should try to see things from a man’s point of view right now.
Couch. Crying. Failing at life. No perspective. Awesome.
For me, a lot of managing my mental stuff is slowing down, being present, taking care of myself in a loving way, not comparing my life to anyone else’s, and stopping to be consistently grateful. *
Social media is engineered to create the opposite of that experience! It’s that simple.
The takeaway is this- I still love having access to friends and family with the tap of my phone. I will probably never take a cool “social media vacation.” This stuff can be a blessing.
But, like everything- moderation! If you feel worse after indulging in a social media binge, pay attention to that. Try to adjust.
Be present. That’s just good advice for literally everyone.
Remember, always remember, you are comparing your real, messy life to someone else’s highlight reel. They are not posting about their messy house and ordering pizza the third night in a row and how high their credit card debt has gotten, people.
I talk to my husband about it, so he can help me stop and put down my phone when I’m going too far. I also talk to him about the crappy feelings that come up, so he can remind me what’s real and give me back some perspective.
Have the real people in your life that you trust to talk about things. Call them, meet them for coffee. Lean on them.
I’ve researched a few things online to help with this. Setting timers. Giving your friends permission to gently prod you when you’re staring at your phone in their presence. Charging your phone outside the bedroom so you aren’t tempted to look at it right away when you wake up.
I’m going to try some things, and I’ll let you know what helps! How is this for you? Any systems that keep you balanced when it comes to social media or screen time? Have you found it impacts your anxiety or depression?
Please share if so!
And of course- most importantly- remember this: You are doing your best. Give yourself tons and tons of credit for that. You woke up today. You are doing it. You are living, breathing, trying.
Some days that is all we can do, and that is FINE. ❤
*VERY IMPORTANT NOTE- I am not saying that a little self-love and some gratitude cures my depression! Please, find what works for you! For some people, that means medication. For others, it’s a million other things. Please, never ever take me sharing what helps me the most as me telling you that “all you need to do to feel better is x, y, and z.” That shit doesn’t even work for me half the time. It helps. Mental disorders are very real and very serious and should be treated as such.